November has arrived and with it, the beauty of the changing leaves and soon the trees will be bereft of their colors, leaving us with a vivid and bare starkness. As we move into the dark time of the year, I have been seeing many articles, blogs and Instagram posts about our “Shadow Self;” – working with your shadow, identifying the shadow and doing shadow work to name a few. Not surprising, because this is definitely the time of year to do this type of sometimes difficult work. We are, more often than not, physically inside far more than during the spring and summer months (where we find ourselves branching out and reaching for the sun). And not unlike the trees whose sap is returning deep into the earth, we are finding ourselves more reflective and looking inward.
We all have a vague notion of our shadows, right? It’s those thoughts, memories and motivations that are hidden in the back of our minds so we don’t have to look at them. They can also be what tug at our heartstrings when we are not living our true, authentic self. Some feel that when the shadow self is not being tended to, depression can be at bay. But it’s not what is already within our conscious awareness – it is the buried motivations behind some of our behaviors.
The shadow, a concept brought to light by famed Swiss psychologist Carl Jung — is the part of ourselves we don’t want to look at — qualities we deem unattractive, try to push away, overlook, sugarcoat or hide under the surface.
In many spiritual paths, the emphasis is often on positivity and that everything should be love and light, but we are dismissing the other part of ourselves – that other part of life. And like Yin/Yang, you can’t have one without the other. Last month we mentioned the myth of Isis and Osiris – how she re-membered him after his brother killed him, dismembered him and then scattered his body parts. This is our journey – remembering all the sides of the self – to “own” those cut-off pieces of ourselves that we’d rather tuck away in a back closet. To proudly integrate all the good, bad and ugly parts of whom we are for this is where our strength and power resides. And acknowledging it makes us whole again.
The shadow self or subconscious does not know if it’s sabotaging us. It’s not something to be feared or wary of. It’s not a villain yet it is truly a teacher. If we don’t engage with it, we will find it can seep into our life, our beliefs, and everyday behavior in unexpected and often explosive ways. Bringing our shadows to the surface is the only way to heal them, understand how they came to be, and ultimately replace them with healthier beliefs.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” — Carl Jung
This quote of Jung’s is a good place to start our exploration. Start with this question – What irritates you most about others behaviors? In there lies a kernel of your shadow. Here’s an example for me – lack of consideration. When a neighbor hammers away at 6am on the wall to hang something, or a person stops on the subway stairs to text – this behavior drives me crazy! Why? Because of their lack of consideration for others; myself included! And despite that I would never do these things, others do, and in return, this triggers me. So what is that all about? It sends a message that despite that I would treat most with consideration, my shadow self is telling me that when people do these things, it’s because I don’t matter. This reminds me of where I sometimes need to explore when working with the shadow self.
Also, anything that we resist or repress will be compelled to show up in our lives and it will not always be pretty.
It is in our vulnerability; those sensitive, tender places where we have the most opportunity to crack open, and in so, find our greatest strengths, which in return, free us from negative thought patterns, depression and a feeling of disconnect. Consider how shadow traits were necessary in the past as a coping or defensive mechanism.
Speaking for myself, fear of abandonment is a big shadow and I’ve done a lot of work to get to this understanding. On the outside I was gregarious, outgoing and happy, as I informed everyone I was content being single. I truly started to believe this but this is because my shadow energy kept me from serious long term relationships. I would find myself either demanding too much from friendships or giving too much and this condition definitely had me master the art of the “artificial” romance. I would find myself falling in love with someone on another continent or someone who was married, which tricked me into believing in the illusion of a “relationship without the risk.” I felt I had control over any risk and could make people stay with me and see my value. These self-imposed walls may have kept me safe and helped me cope with being single, but it also kept me away and apart from a real relationship, from spontaneity, and from a true understanding of my self-worth. Once I really looked at what was behind the fear of abandonment – a significant amount of loss started with the early death of my mother and then a longtime boyfriend’s death by overdose – and saw what behaviors and thought patterns were hiding behind that, I was able to begin to heal it. And truthfully, it is very much an ongoing situation because shadow work goes within the depth of our sub-conscious. I’m still aware there is sensitivity in relationships of any kind for me. But through acknowledging this particular shadow and accepting it as part of what makes me me, I have found a much stronger sense of self-worth. I am working on happy, healthier relationships and am allowing for spontaneity and letting go of my need to control things. This has allowed for some pretty amazing surprises!
Many of us carry around the “not good enough” shadow. Addressing self-sabotaging beliefs could mean pouring through years of childhood conditioning, society and media expectations, as well as any harmful things said or done to you during your lifetime. This may seem like a tall mountain to climb, but it is totally do-able and well worth any effort because all you have to do is start with just one question.
There are so many modalities available to support you in your excavations! For example, counseling, self-hypnosis, meditation, affirmations, journaling , healing bodywork and Reiki or a combination of any or all of these, would yield some results.
The Scorpio New Moon on November 7 will drive us to seek for the truth in things that make us uncomfortable. It will create an energy that allows us to focus upon what it is that we may have pushed down in secrecy, whether it is experiences or behaviors we are ashamed of, or feelings connected with our passion and sexuality. It will support us with diving deep to unearth the hidden, while connecting to our buried feelings and desires. It will also inspire us to live more passionately and freely.
This is an excellent time to grab a journal and start to delve into the questions that might begin to unearth some of the ‘lead’ in your subconscious. Through time and understanding you will alchemically turn that ‘lead’ into the gold of your stronger integrated self!
Here are some questions to get your started on your exploration:
- What parts of myself or areas of my life do I instinctively avoid or reject?
- What triggers me to anger, jealousy, envy or any strong emotional state?
- Where am I most resistant to change?
- What makes me defensive?
- Is this behavior or reaction related to a self-image I’m trying to avoid, a way I would not want others to see me?
- How did I develop this shadow behavior or thought? Does it have roots in any of my past experiences or things people have told me?
Nurture yourself as you begin to uncover your shadow and give yourself permission to process emotions freely and without judgement with each journal entry. Make it part of your nightly ritual and before bedtime.
You may notice that it gets harder before it gets easier. While meditating or journaling you can grab crystal allies like obsidian (black or mahogany work best),nummite or black moonstone, or some essential oils like Frankincense, Helichrysum or Palo Santo – all protective and supportive and of course teas with mugwort or motherwort. Be kind and generous to yourself during this process and always remember that by integrating your shadow energy you now have access to your full range of power and energy flow.
As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. – Gandhi