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Shadow work Part 4

In the last post, we talked about going deeper into the emotions and asking ourselves why and seeing what we find. Today, we will be going to talk a little bit about what that might look like. And if you’re just joining us and have no idea what I’m talking about, head back to part one and start there. Trust us, it’s worth it.

So, we found ourselves knee deep in our emotional reactions and I had you asking what else is here and why. Maybe you got an answer, maybe you got more of that emotion. Both is fine. But what do they mean?

When I first started off doing this work, all I uncovered was more and more of the same emotion. I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t making progress, which just added more to that pile. What I figured out was that I had been neglecting these emotions for so long that they had no means of expressing themselves in a way that I could understand. My anger was a two-year-old mid tantrum in the super market while my consciousness was the kind stranger who stopped to help and found themselves well out of their depth. I didn’t know what the heck to do. That’s why I had you start by creating a physical symbol set for your emotions. Not only to be able to catch them in the moment, but to begin to develop a language for them.

Heavier emotions can manifest in the body in painful or harmful ways. Your stomach might start to ache, your muscles/joints/bones etc might begin to become tight and sore, your heart rate and breathing increases etc. But you have the ability to combat these physical manifestations. (I do?!) yes, I had you write them down in part one, remember? Gentle movements, like dancing or carefully activating muscle groups for support can alleviate stress and tension, while a nice cup of tea or a walk in the woods can relax and ground us. Having the ability to counter these physical reactions leads us into the next part of listening to our emotions. Having a set of self-care practices helps us to gain the space needed to really listen and to prevent ourselves from getting caught up in the reactive mind. These self-care exercises is the support for the work we will be doing later with re-wiring ourselves.

Now that we understand why and how we step back from the emotions; how do we listen and go deeper? How do we ask what else is there in a way that we can understand ourselves? My process turned my attention to the practice of re-parenting myself. Re-parenting is essentially offering yourself the love, care, and support that your childhood lacked. So, I began by becoming a genuinely curious adult listening to a small child tell a three-hour long story about how a bee ate from a flower. We also heard about how the neighbor tried to spray them with the hose and how that reminded them of the kid down the street and their super cool new bike and how fast it could go and how their ball flew so high in the air and almost went over the fence, but it landed in the bushes instead and how that reminded them of the bee! The bee saw the flower and zoom! It disappeared inside the flower!

Anger might tell you that it is frustrated. Why are you frustrated? Because. Because why? Because they are dumb. Why are they dumb? Well, they didn’t do it right. What told you they did it wrong? Because that’s not how you do that! This last statement might bring up a memory, often a recent one, of someone aggressively telling you That’s not how you do it! If you follow that memory, it might lead you back to a parental figure saying something similar. Or it may lead to someone shutting you down as a child. It could be totally unrelated to the situation, but the words and emotions are all the same. Having patience and a willingness to listen will help you uncover what’s actually there.

When you reach this point, I want you to embrace your inner child and surround them with love and comfort. Tell them (yourself) that you’re ok, and that you understand why you reacted that way. Say I see you. I understand.  Others shadows can and often will ignite our own. One of the common ways of identifying your own shadows is to pay attention to how you view another individual. They say that your shadow will be mirrored in the way that you perceive someone else’s behavior. For example, say you have an altercation with a co-worker. Your perception of them is that they are lazy and good for nothing. What others suggest is that you see yourself as lazy and good for nothing, which sometimes could be the case. But I believe it to be different then that.

Let’s take the lazy, good for nothing co-worker and think about that. My shadow in this situation wouldn’t be that I am lazy and good for nothing. Mine would be “I was held at too high of expectations as a child and now I work myself to death trying to please others. When I see someone else working within their means, I view them as weak and lazy and how I react to that is to get angry because that is how I was taught to react.” I may also feel shame and guilt for not working hard enough because of too high of expectations.  

This is what I would consider an uncovered shadow. I was held at too high of an expectation, so now I too hold myself to that standard and often experience burn out and emotional and mental exhaustion that leads to disassociation and depression. And if I were to take a day to myself, I would feel guilt and shame for putting myself above others. How I counter this is to return to my inner child as the supportive and comforting adult that tells myself to breath and that it’s ok to relax. I turn to humility to counter the shame by reminding myself that “you are only human and it’s ok to relax and take a breath. Do what you need for yourself and enjoy it.” I engage in something silly, like singing a song, or doing a little dance, or making a face to pull myself out of the reactive process before re-approaching the situation.

Let me change gears a little by talking about if all you get when you go deeper is “I don’t know”. I don’t know is a beautiful place to be. If you allow yourself to sit with and open up to the possibilities of “I don’t know” a whole new world can and will open its doors to you. Our western culture looks down on the phrase “I don’t know” like it’s a pariah or something nasty. But to me, I don’t know is a wonderfully exciting thing because you have a starting point of exploration. If I don’t know scares you, can you let go of that fear long enough to ask why am I afraid of this? With our technology and ridiculous connectivity, being afraid of I don’t know is sort of silly, right? We literally have entire scores of information at our fingertips, and we are afraid of not knowing?

The younger generations have got I don’t know literally by the balls. If they don’t know something, most of them will just google it. There’s actually a phrase for being able to find accurate information on the web called “google-fu”. So, why can’t you use that same energy or process to search within yourself? Don’t settle on the first page, dig deeper. See what you can find. Keep going. You will never know what connects where and why unless you search the shadow database within you. (I gotta admit, that was terrible…) Allow yourself to say I don’t know, but don’t back down because you don’t know. Use it as a diving board and get excited about the exploration that’s about to take place. Think of Bilbo and how he excitedly runs through the shire yelling “I’m going on an adventure!!”

Next week there will be no post, which is why you received two this week. I will be going on an adventure myself, but one that transcends both the physical and spiritual planes. We will be returning to the shores of my northern Apu, Lady Superior, and hopefully I will bring back some new insights for you along this path. It was her that opened (well, kicked) the door to shadow for me and helped me to understand how all this works. I wish you all well, and if you have made it this far, congratulations. I’m so proud of the work we are doing together.

Published by Lady Storm

I am a spiritual practitioner that has walked many different paths. Some could call me a jack of all trades when it comes to belief systems. While I don't hold all the answers, I hold many tools that will help unearth answers to questions anyone may have.

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