Without the darkness we wouldn't have the light. Without light we cannot have darkness. Have you ever felt a darkness inside of yourself that you don't like to acknowledge? We all have a different, darker side of ourselves that we hide from the world around us. We also attempt to hide this side from ourselves. But what if we accepted and absorbed that side through a process to reveal something different? To open our lives to being more authentic…
Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst and pioneer in many philosophies, developed the idea of the shadow self but that part of the human has always been there even before we studied it. We all have shadow work to do. We tend to recognize the shadow self in different forms like anger, resentment, violence, judgement, depression, hatred, shame. The darker parts of ourselves are usually pushed aside and cloaked over and over again. Sometimes we do this unconsciously or we can be aware of it. This shadow, the dark side of us is usually suppressed so much that eventually it finds a way to manifest. It appears in many forms through stress and behavioral changes or through relationship changes in fear and pain. We may even inflict pain on others through this shadow side to suppress the pain we feel ourselves. The more we neglect this level of ourselves the longer we are detached and build up emotions and thoughts that harden us. If we explore it however, we can lead ourselves to more positive energy, greater creativity, love and compassion, and self awareness.
The shadow self exploration is intense, deep, sometimes dark, and scary. This is a part of every person that can be terrifying to journey through but once we can open ourselves to the awareness of this aspect we all carry, we can authentically discover our true selves. This shadow can take years to recognize for some and may be considered normal for much of the world. Simply accepting that there has to be so much pain. But that isn't true. What if we re evaluated the parts of ourselves that are messy, scary, cruel, filled with trauma and pain, or hate? Once that level is explored it opens the door to the real person capable of so much more through true feeling and compassion for ourselves and others. I have explored my own shadow work many times over and feel that my personal work is a continuing process of adjustments and forgiveness. I often realize how that deeper part can be reflected and influence my life. Shadow work involves digging deep into the abyss of you, with an open heart and without fear and judgement. This is scary, uncomfortable and raw but so beautiful at the same time. Shadow work is authentic in of itself. Many unfortunately may neglect to ever tap into that level of their life.
Perhaps this is where the "end" comes into play...have we accepted and forgave the darkness or have we ignored and neglected it? Will we have lost the chance to be who we are if we never explored and accepted this part of ourselves? I fear that I would regret if I never accepted that I have dark, deep and sometimes chilling parts of me. I wouldn't be able to reach my highest potential of the authentic me without this truth. I have a personality that feels a need to be constantly leveled, perfect, healthy, even sane. These are aspects that come with self judgement and guilt. The fact is we all must practice what we preach. For me that means I must remember I am human too, with my own struggles and the perfectly imperfect inability to constantly triumph in this life; even when I try and help others be their best self. Perhaps the real triumph is the ability to let go and be authentic through even the hardest of times and remind others its alright to fail, to be angry, to make mistakes, to feel sadness and shame. All of our souls deserve to be understood and cared for with compassion and love, especially in the darker days. An acupuncturist I worked with gave me a wonderful mantra I would love to share that helps me remember this acceptance. "I am you, you are me. Thank you for being here. Please forgive me, as I forgive myself and fill my heart with light and love." Shadow work sees the darkness to reveal the light.
“We spend so much time seeking strategies to change our state- to feel better, to not feel so much. What about simply being with whatever feeling is present in you now...could you welcome it? Could you tend to that feeling with love, the way you would a small child or a precious thing? Could you love your sadness and your grief in that way? We label our feelings and limit ourselves from full expression. Good, bad, positive, negative, too intense feelings...which do we welcome and which do we deny? This is all a reflection of our capacity to voyage into the unknown. If we are willing to let go of the labels, all that is left is energy. There are no wrong feelings. Feelings come and they go. It is in denial of our feelings that we become lost and disconnected from the truth. And it is in feeling deeply that we come to love new parts of ourselves. It is in journeying to our own depths that we become more compassionate, more loving. More awake to the ways we hurt and hold ourselves back. Let the alchemy happen. Let your sadness and grief transform you.”-Rising Woman
Written By Alex Taylor
Yoga 2 Barre Teacher