Journeying towards transformation, to becoming the truest most connected, fully-embodied, & authentic version of ourselves, involves a bit of work.
An important part of this work - almost required if you were going to be militant about it - is to send out that RSVP to You Know Who; Shadow.
Whether you like it or not, playing coy by ignoring your Shadow, or pretending it doesn’t exist, won’t get you very far. This journey involves welcoming your Shadow to the table - pulling a place setting right up next to you and pouring them a drink.
As much as that might make you cringe and shudder, we have to. Trust me. There’s no way we can take even one step forward without looking into the depths of the dark and befriending the part of us we more often than not wish weren't there.
Ok, this sounds like it’s going to get really heavy but stay with me.
Our Shadow self is a definition that stemmed from Jungian psychology as the ‘dark side’; the unconscious; the ‘id’ aspect of our personality.
I touched on parts of my Shadow surfacing in another blog post, which tends to arise out of a feeling of groundlessness. My point is, we have to do the dirty work to make any progress. And there in the mud & the mess lies the transformation.
It would be so much easier if we could all pretend we were perfect & that we didn’t struggle with jealousy, comparison, rage, shame, blame - whatever the symptom is. Right? Yet our Shadow - the deep buried away reason or experience for these symptoms - is actually a beautiful tool for us to find growth & humility.
‘Dealing with’ aka befriending our Shadow is an invitation to cultivate more compassion & self-love for ourselves. By accepting or working towards acceptance of the ‘darker’ parts of our personality, behaviour, or what’s lurking in our unconscious, is a huge leap towards healing.
We shouldn’t keep Shadow separate. It shouldn’t be ‘something that ails us’ — it’s within us & it’s a fundamental part of who we are. Just as there can’t be day without night, there can’t be light without the dark; without the Shadow.
By not repressing our Shadow self, by exploring it instead, by taking time to inquire about it, by developing a curiosity towards our symptoms and our reactions, maybe even giving it/her/he a name like Raging Rosie or Judgemental Judy, we can better acknowledge our Shadow and assimilate it into who we are.
“The greatest act of human courage isn’t climbing mountains, conquering countries, or fighting in wars; it is walking into the mysterious abyss of one’s own inner self and truthfully facing one’s own pain & tortured Shadows” - Unknown
If we forever suppress our Shadow self and pretend like it doesn’t exist, or continue fuelling the shame or frustration we feel by it when/if it surfaces, we will never make any progress towards transformation. We won’t make any headway along the journey of becoming our truest self because we’re in denial. We’re living in-authentically, living the lie that we don’t have anything to deal with.
I’m sorry, but no one has their shit together enough they aren’t still doing their own inner work. Maybe a swami, maybe a Buddha, but they will all tell you the same thing - that through deep & devoted introspection and self-reflection they found a loving relationship with all of their being, all of their thoughts, all of their past. After all, no one was born enlightened!
If we are striving to find bliss, to find peace within, to love ourselves unconditionally - through our own journey of transformation - we need to acknowledge it all. We need to recognise that we might have a tendency to prejudice, we may have a quick fiery tongue, we may suffer green eyed envy. And that’s ok!
We need to ‘name it to tame it’, an expression I heard the other day & I love it. What an amazing way to empower ourselves through our Shadow. If we can name what we are feeling, what we are struggling with, what is arising in the moment, we can lean into it, soften towards it, make friends with it, listen to what it has to say, and ultimately we can assimilate that Shadow into who we are, and move forward on our path of healing and transformation.
So, how can we start to befriend our Shadow & create a more loving relationship?
I invite you to take a moment when you can to find a quiet space & a comfortable seat, to drop into your body, to guide your awareness to your breath, and just sit for a few moments with yourself. See if you can cultivate a calmness within. Then, when you feel ready & you feel it is safe to do so, summon your Shadow. Call upon your ‘darker’ elements to step into the limelight. It’s ok if it’s uncomfortable, it’s not supposed to be easy. Rest in the discomfort and the vulnerability.
Ask your fears, your uncertainties, your shame to surface, in all of their full-bodied forms. Then through a lens of love, a lens of compassion, a lens of acceptance, and of welcoming, look at them closely; inspect them.
When you’ve got close enough to your Shadow, you can feel it & smell it, give your Shadow a warm embrace. Extend out an olive branch. Tell your Shadow that you’re done fighting and resisting it and that it’s welcome to the table.
Just sit with that feeling for a while. See what arises in you. Can you stay witness to what is going on as you and your Shadow are meeting within this positive container of acceptance that you have created. Infused with love.
If you feel called to journal about your Shadow, I encourage you to let the words flow & just see what has to come out. See what you might want to release or make sense of. And, it doesn’t even have to make sense.
But getting to know our darker side is only going to make our light shine brighter. So next time you feel Raging Rosie (or whoever) knocking at the door, rather than resist her appearance take a moment, take a breath, and reach out your hand to welcome her with love and you might notice that she doesn’t hang around for much longer afterwards...
Photo by Martino Pietropoli on Unsplash.