A year with my Shadow Self
A month and a half ago I was at a well-being expo, one of many that I'll be attending this year. As I walked around the hall taking in the various stall holders in attendance, I was drawn to the table of one of the readers.
The reader saw me approach and started reading me and I sat down at his table and shuffled the cards to see what they had to say.
As I shuffled the cards, he asked me my date of birth and he gave me a numerology reading, and I was caught by surprise as it turns out I was in the last few months of a seven year and a seven year is the year of the inward journey.
I looked up at the reader and started laughing, the reader asked me why I was laughing and I told him, I had just spent the last year doing exactly that.
Hello my shadow self.
As we entered into lock-down last year, I had decided that I was never going to be afforded the opportunity to be able to learn about and practice shadow work in such an uninterpreted way again.
At first, I started with an Arts Therapy course, where I learnt about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, how doodling can help to recall information, we did an activity involving, what is in our hearts, our true home, our self as an animal and a tree, something that scares us, and perhaps my favourite activity our life mandala.
The life mandala was the one that really opened me up to the patterns I had been repeating in life. The activity involved drawing a circle than dividing it into eights, the first eight representing the first eight years of life the second years 9 to 17 years and so on, and from there in each section using imagery, symbols, words whatever we were inspired to use draw a representation of those years.
It took a few days but bit by bit I drew, doodled, and symbolised the years of my life, and through the process, started to see myself in a clearer light. There were a lot of repeating patterns throughout my life, and a lot of these stemmed from my early childhood years.
Wanting to go in deeper to learn more about the root causes of this I signed up for a shadow mastery course, and so the journey into my shadow self truly began.
Before I go on, I should put a disclaimer in here about shadow work.
While there are many benefits of shadow work, such as emotional maturity, personal responsibility and honesty, greater compassion for self and others, better relationships and a more fulfilling life. There are some draw backs to consider before undertaking shadow work.
There will be upheaval in your life, as shadow work makes you see things differently, including your life, and it may possibly lead you to wanting a different kind of life.
As shadow work brings up many repressed emotions, these can be intensely strong, and it can take a while to process these emotions, and integrate them making shadow work emotional labour and a daunting experience.
We all tell ourselves many narratives and stories to make sense of our lives, shadow work can change these narratives dramatically, this may not sound all that hard, but in reality, this is very intense work, as you are literally rewriting the stories you tell yourself.
Having said that we can go on with the work, at first the course didn't seem that difficult, we learnt about Jung and Freud, how the shadow was formed, the archetypes, compassion, self-love and self-awareness.
Then from there we started learning the techniques, as this was during lock-down I was my only guinea pig as I went through the course, which at times left me emotionally raw, at other times, incredibly light, and at other times a crying mess.
As a part of the course, I had to observe my negative self-talk, then ask myself why I keep saying these things, the hardest part was listening for the answer and underlying reason why, then let myself react to it than probe into my reaction in order to ask it to step back and then show that part of myself compassion for trying to protect me.
Another technique learnt and conducted saw me put all the chairs in a circle and each chair was used as a representative of a different aspect of self, around the circle I would go asking each aspect its name, what it looks like, how it feels, when we first met, the job they preform for me, how they feel about me, the relationship it has with the other aspects, and what would happen if they weren't there. Basically, giving each aspect a voice to express themselves.
One of the most confronting techniques for me personally was when I had to flip the script, taking an event where I had been deeply hurt, I had to flip the script from being the victim to being the villain, this let me incredibly raw for a while, as I processed the hurt once more from this event.
From this point in the course, I had to start looking deeper into my triggers, those caused by trauma, stress, reminders, and stimuli. The next part was having to take responsibility, and owning my flaws and faults, mourning the losses and difficulties these events brought to my life, and realising how the shadow was working in me and accepting the responsibility of my own actions in events throughout my life.
I delved into how I projected and rationalised various behaviours in life, and how to recognise these projections, to counteract them in day-to-day life, and how these projections can cause that behaviour to become irrational and destructive in life.
One of the last things I did in the course was ask myself the questions am I evil and am I a bad person?
This was to locate the cognitive dissonance within me and to locate the flaw within me that I had labelled as bad or evil, and shown them contempt and condemnation throughout the years, in order to show them acceptance and compassionate understanding to re-frame those undesirable traits as desirable ones.
As I went through the course, I found myself at times, having to distance myself from people as I was too raw emotionally to take on other people’s emotions, and at other times reaching out to those closest to me to bring me back from the darkness.
It was an intense journey, but coming out of it, I have found my communication with my inner circle is a lot clearer and more concise as I am better able to communicate my needs to them and as such, they are able to hear me better, making those relationships better and more compassionate.
While I haven't travelled in this last year to exotic locations for a retreat, I ended up gifting myself a far more important gift, of meeting and knowing my shadow self and integrating her into my life making me a more centred person, and for that I am a stronger more compassionate being.