The Hidden Power of your Darkest Corners – Shadow Work
Do you ever behave in ways you don’t like? Do you explode in anger? Burst into tears? Or, do you ever feel that if anybody knew the ‘real you’ they wouldn’t like you? Do you ever have the feeling that you are a fraud? (You’re not alone).
Shadow work is considered to be vitally important to discovering our wholeness. Let me explain how it works.
Just imagine your mind is a house.
Imagine that you are only using three rooms in your house, but there are actually five.
You once used all of the rooms but over time you put all your junk in some of the rooms and locked them up. The curtains were pulled shut long ago and the rooms have filled up with cobwebs. Perhaps you’ve even forgotten (conveniently) that the rooms are even there. Now the only creatures in there are insects and spiders and you wouldn’t be able to walk in there without becoming covered in cobwebs. Ugh, horrible idea!
Now, of course, the rooms you use are kept presentable and that’s all you acknowledge. You have become used to these rooms being your whole house. Sometimes the spiders seem to creep out and remind you that the scary rooms are there, but mostly you ignore them completely, perhaps sometimes wondering where those spiders are coming from.
Other people keep pointing out to you that you have a few rooms that you could use, but you deny that it is even possible. In fact, you may even get very angry with them.
Not only that, imagine that you also condemn the slightest bit of dust in other people’s homes. Or you admire people who have houses that are light and bright and who use all their rooms. You may be envious that they have rooms you don’t seem to have.
Now you probably think that’s ridiculous. “That would never happen, I’m not that weird!” or “If that were me, I’d get therapy!” Right?
Well, what if I told you that this is what we are all inclined to do with our minds and our inner life? We don’t even know we are doing it!
Many psychiatrists and psychotherapists have written about the ‘hidden’ or ‘dark side’ of our inner selves – the part we deny, project on to others, refuse to look at. This is called the ‘Shadow’.
The thought of going in to those dark spaces freaks most people out. (Others can’t wait to uncover what is there and they queue up for shadow work – the ones who want to deal with their own ‘stuff’!)
Going back to the house analogy – it may seem that it would be awfully embarrasing to allow anybody to see what is really there, but what if you knew that everybody else also had their own hidden cobwebby rooms? What if somebody went in with a powerful vacuum cleaner, sucked out all the cobwebs, threw open the curtains and revealed some beautiful spaces? What if you knew they’d done the same for themselves and now understood how to help you with yours?
You see, it isn’t the cobwebs that are the problem. The problem is that when you were very young you learned to ‘hide’ parts of yourself that seemed unacceptable to others (parents, teachers, siblings). You learned to pretend those parts of you werent’ there. Your boisterous, noisy, inquisitive, enthusiastic self slowly diminished. You learnt to pretend that weren’t really that noisy. You hid that you liked discovering your own body. You learned that needing attention was a bad thing, so you pretended not to need it.
Your natural energy, enthusiasm, helplessness, anger, frustration, all became hidden away. You closed that room, and locked the door. The curtains were closed so that nobody could see the real you, because then they wouldn’t approve or like you any longer. Slowly you lost a great deal of your essence, your wholeness and your true personality. As a result, you began to feel like a fraud, knowing the person that you allowed people to see wasn’t who you really were.
I call that ‘hiding the frogs in your box’. (This is where I switch analogies – stay with me here…)
Every time you ‘hide’ a part of yourself it’s like putting that ‘frog’ in a box and sitting on it.
Except that the frogs jump out as soon as you let go your grip on the lid! You lose your temper, you burst into tears, you reject people and get hurt when they reject you.
You avoid conflict.
You avoid intimacy or you become too needy or too combative.
You judge others without seeing the ‘splinter’ in your own eye.
The frogs won’t stay in the box!
That’s because those ‘frogs’ are a part of you that need expression, that need to be heard. Those frogs are a little person who wants to be understood, loved, and accepted. It’s no wonder that little person, in a regressed and wild form, comes out every so often and demands to be taken into account.
Those frogs are waiting to be kissed, and to be integrated into your life so that you are fully yourself.
(Admit it – you thought of a frog turning into a prince, didn’t you?) Fairy Tales were originally designed to help us find and integrate the archetypes within ourselves so it’s no wonder there are so many wonderful analogies to be found in them.
Over the years I have come to realise that all the work that I have done to heal myself, and the work I do with others is fundamentally about ‘Shadow’. I love to see the wonder on people’s faces as they see their ‘frogs’ in a new light and realise how easy it actually is. It sets us free.
As we become fully accepting of our own humanity, we also get along with others so much better.
Who knows? If enough of us do the work, we may even end up with world peace! But for now let’s just work on being happier, more content, more peaceful and, let’s face it, nicer people!
P.S. The Personal Mastery Course contains Shadow Work all the way through, with the most intense bit at the end in Level 2.
If you can’t attend, but are interested in doing the work here are some books you could read: