Shadows and Pearls

Punxsutawney Phil/Phyllis, that rascal groundhog that reportedly saw his/her/their shadow on February 2nd, gave us the Pennsylvania Dutch superstitious edict that there will be 6 more weeks of wintery weather. Nevermind, Phil/Phyllis is only “right” in predicting emerging spring 40% of the time. How “right” are you in assessing yourself? Do you have springtime energy or winter blues? Are you fixated on the shadows in your life?

Psychotherapist Katherine Morgan Schafler (The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power, 2023) is a former on-site therapist at Google. She asked her Google clients, “What if there’s nothing wrong with you?” This simple shift from the “let-me-figure-out-what’s-wrong-with you” perception is a game-changer.

Mental wellness is about accepting what is “right” within each of us; healing personality wounding does involve naming past shadows, but not submerging one’s thoughts and behavior to shadowland. I believe that mental wellness and trauma relief call for a steady diet of self-compassion. Schafler unpacks circular reasoning: “The best way to be more of who you are is to understand it’s already inside you. It’s there. It’s just that in order to get there, you have to stop being who you’re not. Stop trying to eradicate what’s ‘wrong’ with you. That’s never the solution…ask yourself: ‘What do I want?’”

Lasting change is a bit more complicated, but the gist of Schafler’s approach is on target. When we place most of our focus on “what’s wrong,” it is a path to pathologize or reduce our potential for possibilities. Schafler views a perfectionistic viewpoint as believing, “I’m broken.”

When we connect with an inner awareness of an already and always calm energy of self, soul, spirit (your choice of wording), we understand that we are not “broken.”

An online photo of “broken” pearls with burn scar shadows (after surviving a house fire) looks ominous; however, these pearls were restored to their natural beauty after cleaning and restringing. You might say that the inner pearl had remained intact.

In addition to representing concepts like love and wisdom, pearls are tough. They may incur scuffs and scratches, but they are not broken easily. In fact, pearls are among the most resistant gemstones to stress and strain; they can withstand immense external pressures without breaking.

If you are having groundhog days of same-old, same-old thinking, it is time to restring your thoughts. Are you going to believe a 40-percenter groundhog about the advent of spring energy? The birds are singing already. Superstitions are broken ideas. You already possess an inner springtime. Like pearls, you can withstand external pressures without breaking.

Stay curious. Acknowledge change as your constant companion. Groundhogs understand rhythms of change. They do not eat while hibernating for 3 months in winter. I’m guessing that groundhogs soon will be frisky for food and other pleasures.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz

159. What aspects of your personality could benefit from change?

160. When you change even one thought you have about yourself, does it lead to other changes?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. As I have gotten into my 7th decade, I have often bemoaned the fact that I can’t do some of the same things that I used to do! But when I stop and think about it, I remind myself that there are a lot of things I can do. As well as learn new things that I have not done. Our lives have always been constantly changing!;-)


  2. Yes! Change is not our opponent…inaction is our real opponent at any stage of life. One of my (many) favorite quotes is this: “Whatever you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

    While the quote is frequently attributed to Goethe, according to, the words come from the work of William Hutchinson Murray from his 1951 book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.


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