Shadow Work

“Shadow work is the path of the heart warrior.” ~ Carl Jung

I have spent large parts of the past years witnessing my shadow aspects as closely as I could while living my mundane life. You could say my awareness was permanently split in external and internal awareness for the duration of their arising and raging. Which was often.

There is an eerie duality of drives when facing the things you have painstakingly avoided all your life, as you are feeling pulled back and forth between wanting to run and getting the the core of an issue. My best practice for this kind of work has been to get close, feel and sense it until it gets too intense and then disengage, allowing for a break and calming down of my physical reactions to the mix of emotions and thoughts and then gently dive into it again when I am ready. This dance of Titration has been a wonderful tool in trauma as well as shadow work.

On a superficial rational level I understood and fully accepted that I have shadow aspects but on closer inspection of this “acceptance” I could sense the self-delusion and denial underneath it. Feeling into it I asked which aspects of myself do I shun, turn away from, judge or cannot bear to feel or acknowledge? Asking again and again and keeping my awareness focused on the edges where the shadows flitted past my mental grasp. In time and with persistence more of a shadow became visible and tangible, the more I could relax and meet it with open curiosity it would show itself more and speak to me.

There are shadow aspects I have known for many years, of course, yet the truly complex ones were those I kept denying by not allowing myself to even be aware of their existence let alone their part in my experience. The ego will do anything and everything to keep up the illusion of our idealized self image and deny there are shadow parts to us beyond the few we allow ourselves to acknowledge. Making ourselves face these and do this thoroughly without flinching away from their petty and hateful details is one of the most painful parts of inner work  have yet done. This pain can feel overwhelming if we haven’t built up our self love and self compassion, and even with both of these to anchor us it is an excruciating and crushing experience. 

“Since the nature of the idealized self-image is self-aggrandizing, it separates you from others. Since its nature is separateness, it isolates you and makes you, and those you deal with, lonely. Since its nature is falsity and pretense, it alienates you from yourself, from life, and from others. All of that s bound to bring you pain, hurt, frustration, unfulfillment.” ~ Eva Pierrakos

I observed the way these parts colored my perceptions and analyzed the stories they keep enacting and telling. Listening to what remains unsaid, discerning what drives them and how they create repetitive and unfulfilling outcomes. It was challenging to let them play out their scripts because of a fear in me of being overtaken by them and the fear of the consequences it might have. Yet every time I found a way of allowing space for them to act out their script internally I received helpful insights into what has been hidden from my mind and awareness for so long. Meditating on said insights, the rationalizations of their attitudes and actions and processing the pain of owning them and their effects unlocked a new way of seeing and knowing them.

And though this vantage point of perceiving them without a shred of judgement or any idea of them as being lower or unworthy is comparatively new to my being, I have already tasted some of the fruits and rewards of it. Which, as so often, makes me wish I had had the courage to do this work earlier. 

I embrace these attributes, patterns, behaviors as part of myself, I no longer allow myself to judge me for thinking or feeling this way or to deny their existence to myself.

Facing these parts of myself was hard as it shattered the illusion of my internal self perception by making it painfully clear how far I fall short of my ideals and internal self image. Acknowledging this, sitting with feelings of pain, unworthiness and unlovability triggered by embracing it, holding it all with loving awareness until the distortions of my past faded to make way for a more realistic and whole self image. 

To be clear, embracing my shadow aspects, not as some latent or hidden aspects of my being (not really me) but as intrinsic parts of my being, of equal value and validity as the traits I valued and identified myself with to their exclusion has been profoundly freeing. If only I had known how good it feels to simply accept everything  within me with awareness and the peace it brings to do away with any label or judgement and separation of good/ bad or positive/negative within my internal dialogs and subconscious.

“To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”~ Carl Jung, Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology

I am beginning to practice perceiving myself in my light and shadow simultaneously, mentally and emotionally. I sense that making this a feeling and sensing practice will help my integration to ground in my body and therefore into my subconscious. It is a slow process because I am new at it, stumble and fumble my way through it… a work in progress. As in all of my self work I am committed to working on resolving internal dissonances so they no longer need to manifest externally creating unnecessary pain for myself and others.

What I sense more clearly is I have reached an important milestone in my shadow work as well as trauma healing this year. A level of cumulative change which allowed for a domino effect of internal shifts in emotive and mental perceptions, a lessening of distortions and rise in internal harmony.

2018 – I honestly cannot thank you enough for your precious gifts of insights and transformations to my being!

Photography: “I’m not there” by Pol Úbeda Hervàs
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