Have you ever been critical of your own self? Felt sorry for yourself? Hated something about the way you are? Seen flaws when you look in the mirror? Disliked something about your body and seen that as a reason why you are not treated well by others? Does your narrative self often include sentiments of self-loathing? Do you feel guilt or shame? All of these are symptoms of deep-held beliefs and conditioning are bound to find expression. Whether they stem from karmic patterns, ancestral fixations, parental influences, childhood trauma, or a life of distress, these shadow energies accumulate and will find an outlet. Just as our light shines, the dark will manifest, there is no other way.
Of course, our normal reaction to these expressions is to confuse the way they manifest with the root cause, and then to suppress or bottle up the episodes. We do everything to avoid facing the truth – dose up, ignore, pretend, blame, distract, justify, bypass… And the more we don’t face the music, the louder it gets. If we are honest enough to look, we see our shadows in our behaviors, in our thoughts and emotions, and in our bodies. Our shadows will find expression until we show up genuinely and give space.
Step one is to recognize the expressions of our shadows as the effect, not a cause of our suffering. The tension in the body is not a cause to lament and medicate over. The outbursts are not a cause to regret later. Blaming others is not a cause to instigate self-survival. When we find ourselves in a pattern of a downward spiral, we need to stop the scorn and self-disdain long enough to ask, what is causing this vortex in the first place?
Once we are ready to address our inner issues in a loving and self-compassionate way, a whole world of possibility opens up. Limitations are lifted because we begin to release the pressure valve of all this built-up material in our bodies and psyche. We give space for the shadows to express, and we listen with curiosity to what they have to say – not in the symptom but in the deeper root cause. Fear may arise but we have the courage not to run away but to sit with these feelings. The point is, whatever is finding expression is seeded within – so it’s not going away unless we release it.
You may be astounded to find that your shadows are actually loving attributes that have been badly distorted. You will likely also find many layers of impediments that trigger suffering. For example, author of Awaken to Your True Self, Andrew Daniel describes how his self-doubts drove him to suppress his smile. When he did begin to smile openly, that instigated more self-judgement about the ensuing feelings not being masculine. He talks about discovering the fear of having his feminine side come forward. With renewed willingness to explore this seemingly uncomfortable inner landscape, he allowed space. To his astonishment, he found that underlying all of it was feminine energy trying to express as divine beauty. He saw how he had been misinterpreting and distorting this attribute and turned it into a shadow material all his life. The starkest shadows we run away from are badly deformed reflections of our most beautiful aspects.
There are so many ways to approach this inner opening up, facing in, and owning what we are – from somatic work to traditional therapy to energy healing to spiritual practices to releasing techniques… the ways are countless. We just have to explore and find out what works, which will change over time. But as we go on this wonderful journey of ourselves, one thing is certain – it is a voyage of amazing discovery and evolution. Shadow work leads to so much insight and wow moments, to dropping of habituations, to deconditioning, and to a flowering of the soul. All our human foibles are badly flawed and imperfect distortions of divine love, and by exposing on our misperceptions, shadow dissipates into light, and we go back to the source.
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