In my previous post, I talked about some of the many ways that my shadow has shown up in my life. Has it gone away? Absolutely not. Because it isn’t meant to be driven away. And doing so will cause even more harm and destruction.
Doing shadow work isn’t aimed at getting rid of the shadow. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
I’ve learned that in order to uncover its gifts, the key is to acknowledge, accept, welcome and embrace my shadow. That I have “ugly” parts of me. Like the rest of us. My task is to find the beauty behind the beast. To see beyond the mask.
To this day, I continue to encounter all my pent-up, toxic emotions. I continue to have my moments when I find myself being surprised by how I’ve overreacted. I still have my moments when I’d be short and quick-tempered. I still feel angry. My wounded inner child still acts out.
The difference is, and this is from doing shadow and inner child work, I’ve become more aware when I’m behaving in unhealthy or inappropriate ways. I’m also learning how and when to give my “taray” self a voice, when the situation calls for me to assert myself. (As I wrote in my earlier post, there is no direct translation for the Filipino word “taray.“ But it’s a Filipino slang with a very negative connotation, which is used to describe someone, usually a woman, with a very strong personality, and who is outspoken, fearless, opinionated, bitchy.) I am learning assertion, rather than aggression.
Doing shadow work is not about getting rid of the shadow or the anger, or any other misaligned, disharmonized, toxic emotions. After all, experiencing these emotions is a normal part of the human experience.
Emotion per se is not unhealthy. Anger is a normal human emotion. It is what I do with the emotion that makes it healthy or not. It is how I express my anger that makes it appropriate or not. It’s about finding out where is that anger coming from. Which part of me is wanting and needing to express itself? Am I managing my [toxic] emotions, or am I letting them take the better of me? What unmet need of my inner child is being brought to my awareness?
In 1998, Debbie Ford published her bestselling book on the shadow, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance and Dreams. She outlines the steps that we can take to get in touch with our shadow and tap into its gifts.
More than a decade later, in 2010, Debbie collaborated with Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, and co-authored The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self. A docudrama was also released based on the book, which showcases stories of those who have healed their wounds, and learned to ”embrace their higher, heroic selves to overcome the shadow effect.”
Shadow in motion: Rejection, Projection, Integration
The shadow represents parts of us that we reject, those that we do not allow to be expressed in our life.
Because we fail and refuse to acknowledge and accept them as parts of ourselves, we easily see them in others. We’re so quick at criticizing them for their so-called misbehavior. We overreact. We have an intense emotional response to someone’s behavior.
What’s actually happening is we are projecting onto others what we don’t want to admit are the very same traits and qualities that are within us, those which we find abhorring in others. We’re not aware or conscious of this. Projection becomes our defense mechanism. It allows us to hide behind the masks and pretenses.
Shadow work is the process of uncovering the hidden parts of the self. We become aware of our masks. We remove them and stop our pretenses. We welcome all parts of ourselves, even the undesirable ones, and integrate them. The shadow is no longer relegated to the background, and we make the unconscious conscious.
Shadow work is not about reaching perfection but is aimed towards integration. In order for the integration process to begin, we need to be aware that there are aspects of ourselves that we have disowned and not recognized. In Integral Spirituality, author Ken Wilber refers to it as the process of transcendence.
In The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Debbie wrote that while the concept of the shadow was not taught in school, it has in fact been in existence and talked about in most religious traditions. Taoism emphasizes the balance of the yin and yang, and Buddhism calls it the “Middle Way”.
And shadow work is aimed at exactly that – balancing one’s light and dark sides and energies, in order to attain wholeness.
# # #