- It is rather amazing how when you send a thought out there… “what is this shadow work stuff?” they are talking about – my answer came in my email…
- Your Shadow Self
by Danielle LaPorte
I struggled with the concept of “shadow work” for so long. The term made me wince.
My interpretation was that “shadow self” was my dark side—my manipulative, arrogant, endlessly needy seductress. And actually… all of that is true. In my shadow (a term for the unconscious self that we all carry), I can also find a few neuroses and this Joan Jett kind of persona lurking. And she has authority issues.
What I had very wrong about shadow work is the notion that all of my fragmented selves and unconscious behaviors needed to be “managed” and sublimated. I thought that I should identify the problematic parts of my personality and give them a stern talking to so that I could then go on to be a more spiritual, loving person. You can see how ridiculous that is. You can’t holler yourself to inner peace.
Your shadow is the basement of your psyche. It’s where your wounds hide, waiting for the light of your attention. It’s the fear underneath our workaholism and anxiety and bravado. And what’s underneath all of that? The Light of our consciousness. Our Higher Self. And thus, the medicine that heals our suffering.
Our shadow self is not an evil twin personality that we have to berate and mollify. Our shadow self is our unhealed self. And criticizing her or dragging him to another motivational workshop to crush the fear… well, I hope that sounds less appealing than it used to.
I know if you’re here reading this via my friends at Commune, then you may already be doing shadow work and striving to align with your Higher Self… intentionally confronting illusions of unworthiness and worth, fears and freedom. And you might have some shadow fatigue. And you might want to cry out, “When does the hyper critical self-analysis ever effing end?”
I can tell you my friend! The hyper critical self analysis ends when you love your woundedness.
That’s shadow work.
Our fear doesn’t need a motivational pep talk. And there’s nothing within us that’s going to improve by being shamed or incentivized with a life hack. Manipulation, arrogance, hostility, addictions—these are not irreversible soul defects. They are behaviors that temporarily override our inborn integrity. These negative actions are expressions of the wounds we haven’t healed. Crappy behavior is our unhealed self acting out, screaming for any kind of attention it can get.
Our fear and neurosis need compassion. Without loving kindness, the shadow self clamors louder. The fear grows, the anxiety flares, the setbacks pounce—all to say, Heyyy, I’m down here in the basement and I want into your heart. Pay attention to me.
And rightly so. The fears are of our creation. We crafted the mini monsters, and we can heal and mature them.
Nothing changes or goes away until you give it the love of your attention.
This sounds simple enough, but we tend to avoid our Shadow by…
Overachieving—spiritual bypassing under the guise of self-improvement. We can’t tend to our pain if we’re shellacking it with positivity.
Overworking to stay distracted from our perceived brokenness. If I just keep working hard, I’ll get what I want. I will be so industrious and devoted and good, that God will deliver me… because that’s how karma works, yeah? Nope.
Overconsumption and addictive habits—from using mood-altering substances to buying stuff we don’t really need in order to feel and “look” better… temporarily.
Hanging out in superficial relationships to avoid being truly seen-felt-heard or intimate.
So, rather than trying to overachieve, over-analyze, or paper over our shadow with more shadow work (yes, that’s possible!) — instead we make the unconscious conscious by being gentle and understanding with it. That’s the “light” in the “light of consciousness.”
So we say to our abandonment issues (that are always derailing our relationships to get our attention), “Okay, I have compassion for you. And I have so much Love to give you, even though you’ve been derailing my relationships and causing me a lot of embarrassment. I’ll stop judging you and I’ll be curious and compassionate when you flare up.” And then your abandonment issues relax.
Shadow work is love, you see.
You could have a different conversation with your fear or shame or your punk authority issues. It might go like so:
“Ahhh… fear, there you are keeping me up at night… Okay, what do you want to tell me?” And you listen, curiously, like you would listen to a friend in pain. And then you carry on, with your fear in your heart, not relegated to the basement of your psyche. You take your fear with you instead of sending it back to the shadow. And then your fear actually starts to calm down. And you carry on, more whole and together.
When I finally shone some light onto my psyche, what I found was a bruised little girl who needed more love and care. I had been neglecting her anxiety and pain on the way to Enlightenment. My inner conversation went something like this…
I see you. I see your fear, shame, terror… and I’m not judging you anymore. I’m going to embrace you. In fact, I’m going to listen to everything you need to say.
I know I’ve neglected you. I’ve overworked when you needed rest. I’ve gone out with men who didn’t fucking get it. I know it might be hard to trust me, but you can trust me now because I’m here to do the work. I’m going to take care of you… and I have the Great Divine Mother helping mother me, so that I can mother you.
So, do you need me to stop overworking so that we can rest and be well? Okay.
Do you need me to get into nature more, so that you can feel nourished? Okay.
Need me to break up with situations that are insensitive to your very deep sensitivity? Okay.
I’m going to value your life with my compassion and love.
I’ve got you.
Go fetch what’s in your dark nature, the stuff you keep hidden from your “spiritual” overachiever self. (This is the work of our lives.) And let it sit next to the more obviously wonderful parts of yourself.
This is what it means to live a heart centered life, to be inclusive of yourself—and of others. The shadow, the light, the fear, and the freedom.
In the heart, it all belongs. Your greatest power move is very, very gentle.
Always with Love,
P.S. I think that if we practice being more kind to ourselves, then we can melt the pain of these times. We need to have a kinder relationship with our actual feelings.
Here is something very special if you made it this far in the post…
https://designerofreality.com/VISIONS/Soul%20Retreival%20with%20Jill%20Kuykendall.mp3 – hope you enjoy and are nourished by what you find. I will look forward to discussing with you when that opportunity arises. Cheers!