Autumn is a time to embrace the darkness. As the nights draw in and light recedes, it’s a great time to give some thought to your shadow self. The shadow self is the aspects of yourself that you deny, keep hidden or reject, aspects of self that have not been healed and integrated into the whole self.
Why do we reject, deny, and hide away parts of ourselves?
We do this because, at some point in our lives, we decided they didn’t help us fit into our culture at that time, so we pushed that aspect of ourselves away. This culture could be your family; it could have been school, college, the culture where you live, even the culture within your employment.
One culture may hold a particular character trait in high esteem, whereas another may frown on that same trait. Therefore, the shadow self can be different from one person to the next.
The shadow self occurs when conditions in your life mean you can’t accept that part of yourself, usually occurring in early childhood, but it can happen as an adult too. Trauma can also trigger aspects of yourself to fall into shadow, to be repressed, denied or rejected.
Why do we need to work to heal and integrate our shadow?
The problem is that when we suppress these aspects of ourselves, they push back; they get louder. The more they feel left out, unheard, rejected, the more they take over, and it’s never pretty.
All aspects of ourselves have a role to play in the wholeness that we aim to create if we wish to be healthy, fully functioning role models within our society.
Shamans believe that the root of all dis-ease boils down to one of two things, a disconnection with nature and soul loss. The latter is that we have lost an aspect of our self.
We cannot genuinely be whole, healthy, and balanced if we push away those parts of us that cause us feelings of shame or fear. Trying to deny or repress aspects of ourselves can cause anxiety, depression, self-sabotage, and it is exhausting. Moreover, it can often limit our potential and ability to truly shine because we need all of ourselves to be whole, be healed, and be at our best. We cannot feel freedom and joy if our shadows feel like a constant threat to us.
Embracing your shadow takes courage, as does embracing your light. But have you ever considered that your brightest light might be connected to your darkest shadow?
What can we do about it?
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Young.“The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335
The key to integrating any shadow aspect is to understand it, know it, recognise its needs, and find a way to meet those needs whilst maintaining your overall values and beliefs.
As some of my readers may know, I’m a big fan of journaling. This is a great place to start working with those parts of you that you’ve disowned, denied, or rejected. It is a place where you can have a private dialogue between you and your shadow.
Shadow work is not easy and requires you to be honest with yourself. But! It is rewarding and when you think of these aspects of yourself, consider them as people with whom you want a happy and healthy relationship. Treat them with love, compassion, and respect.
Here are some journaling prompts to get you started:
#1 Consider a time you remember feeling wronged as a child? How did you react? Has this affected you as an adult? If so, how?
Start a dialogue with that child that was wronged, help the child to understand the situation. Get to know what that child needed and ways to help meet that child’s needs now.
#2 When have you been self-sabotaging or destructive in your life?
Examine how you were feeling at the time and what triggered your behaviour. Then, consider where those triggers may have come from. What might the behaviour be trying to protect you from? Do you need to be protected from that now? What might you do to help that part of you feel safe?
#3 What’s one trait you see in other people that you wish you had. Why do you not possess this characteristic yourself?
This may be an aspect of yourself that was sent away or discouraged. You may have to dig a little deeper to unravel what happened. Then take time to encourage this part of you, this trait, to grow in strength and to be able to trust that it is ok to be a part of who you are now.
Therapy is a good place for addressing parts of self that have become demonic, and I don’t mean in the biblical sense. It’s a term I’ve coined from Hal and Sidra Stone, authors of ‘Embracing Ourselves’. These parts act out the most, usually expressed as destructive or repetitive negative behaviour.
Much work can be achieved through self-reflection and journaling, but there may be a time when you need professional help. As a therapist, I work with Shamanism, Reiki, Hypnosis, and Parts Therapy to help clients fully integrate shadow aspects and work towards a sense of wholeness.
If you find that there are aspects of yourself, you are struggling with, get in touch to find out how I may help you.