In part one of this little blog series, I covered off on a crucial key to facing our inner demons. Shadow work, which is all about owning and integrating the repressed parts of ourselves we’ve deemed as ‘not safe to be’, and disowned for fear of not being accepted by others and the world at large.
When we begin to feel the spectre of repressed emotion starting to envelope us, the temptation to run away from it at a million miles per hour, or suppress it incessantly, is SUPER strong. Why? Cos y’know it’s not the funnest thing in the world facing down this stuff, and we’re often inadvertently socialised in to thinking that distracting ourselves by drowning our sorrows in alcohol / food / drugs / online shopping is the answer.
But can I let you in on a secret? I’ve noticed that the people in my life who are most spiritually developed, or who are advanced along their path, are the ones will not ignore that niggling anxiety or feeling of discomfort, by numbing it with myriad distractions.
Instead as they feel it slowly approach them from behind, they’ll turn around and face the shadow head on, ploughing straight in to the heart of it.
They tune in to themselves, allow themselves to sink in to the shadow no matter how much it hurts, and rifle through it to see what the shadow has to teach. AND they move through it pretty swiftly to boot. Truly.
Alchemising our shadow – turning it in to gold.
When we accept our wholeness and capacity to possess and exhibit each and every characteristic of human beings – the FULL spectrum, good and bad – we begin to free ourselves from the negative effects of our shadow. This means we have to lovingly integrate all of these shadow aspects in to us, and not hold them at arm’s length, screaming ‘But that’s NOT ME!’.
Let’s look at them for the gold they have within, and this will begin to ‘light up the room’ we’ve long had welded shut within our psyche.
How do we do this? One pretty simple way is to ask ourselves how this trait truly serves us in our lives. It’s when we turn our shadow parts in to GOLD. This is what it means to be a true alchemist.
One exercise I’ve found to be extremely useful is to grab a notebook and write at the top of the page a description of a trait of mine I haven’t fully accepted or integrated yet, then begin writing below it the many and varied ways this trait has served me well.
I’m going to use a dark shadow example for this one, but as I mentioned in part one, we also have light shadows that may not be integrated either. You can use the same exercise for these too.
Picking up the thread from part one of this post, I’ll use anger as an example:
I am fearful of integrating anger as a trait of mine. I’m scared people will judge me for it and think I’m an angry person.
How Anger serves me
- Anger helps to burn through the detritus in my psyche (much like fire does the same for a scrubby forest).
- Anger is a clarifying agent, and helps me to clearly see what I do want, by showing me what I don’t want.
- Feeling anger move through me is a portal to my presence – it brings me very profoundly in to the now.
- Expressing anger helps me to release excess gnarly hormones in my body, flushing my system.
- Anger is an amazing tool within my emotional guidance system, it helps motivate me to create change in my life or a situation I’m in.
- Anger shows me what matters to me.
- Anger over injustice in our world has forged me a career in international development and helped fuel much of my activism too.
- I am an angry person from time to time and this means I am a human.
- Anger is great and has served me in a myriad of ways!
Continue this list for as long as you can – and watch yourself begin to feel lighter and lighter as you do. A new appreciation for this trait will begin to take shape.
Once we begin to bring our shadow parts in to the light, they no longer have power over us. The same people who triggered us before, will pass us by. Where behaviours used to catch on to a thorn within us, they no longer can. Because the thorn is gone – integrated in to the totality of us.
Of course there are often layers to our shadow traits, and we may need to revisit lovingly integrating them on even deeper levels from time to time. But once we become comfortable with the process, it’s not nearly as much of an issue facing off with it.
It just becomes part of living a conscious life. I often incorporate it in to my evening journalling – I’ll take a trait from my list of shadows and just start a rampage of reframing in my notebook.
The results I’ve felt since beginning my shadow integration work in earnest are nothing short of astonishing. I feel more in balance, integrated, perfectly imperfect. Whole. I feel like I inhabit who I truly am more and more. My shadow work has let more light in to my life than ever before.
I’m far less apologetic about who I am, because I know that I am everything. And so are you.
Try it and see how you go. I’d love to know if you’ve done any shadow work, or if this has piqued your interest – please share your thoughts (and any questions) in the comments below!
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Photo credit Emma Kate Codrington