Meeting your shadow on the road

 

hqdefault.jpg

Ever since I learned that I could see my shadow in the personality of others I’ve been overwhelmed with the number of personal faults I’ve had to confront. It’s so easy to see the faults of others and equally as easy to be clueless about my own. And to know this I’ve become acutely aware that others are seeing my faults in the everywhere and everyday of my life. It’s embarrassing! And if I’m reproached (as all too often happens for my comfort) I can spiral downward for days.

My dreams too show me those pesky little dark spots in my personality but it’s easier to see them and deal with them when they’re coming out of me. Dreams are part of the inner judge of my being. But as I do the “shadow work” with my darker dream images the number of issues begin to mount up and become overwhelming.

It’s like the myth of Hercules and the Augean Stables where one of his first tasks is to clean up in one day the cattle stables that have collected dung for decades. It can be downright discouraging.

I’ve also noticed that these shadow aspects show up most often when dealing with people of the same sex i.e. other men. For example, aggressive, domineering, pompous, and arrogant personalities will raise the short hairs on the back of my neck and I find myself rejecting these men before I’ve even gotten to know them. This same sex quality of the presence of the shadow is found within our dreams as well in that the shadows tend to be of the same sex as the dreamer.

Most recently the # me too movement has made me more sensitive to my own unconscious prejudices. All my life I’ve prided myself in my respectful treatment of women or all people really. Yet a man came up to me the other day as I was announcing the beginning of a lecture on the female aspect of religion and told me a sexual story about his adolescent years in high school that absolutely appalled me. His use of certain words and crude use of innuendo made me most uncomfortable. Not withstanding the inappropriateness of his communication I noticed that his comments mirrored some of my own hidden thoughts that I purposely keep to myself. His shadow was to some extent my own! Oh dear, another piece of dung to shovel.

The shadow also shows up in decisions I’ve made about my own qualities and talents. These come in the form of marveling over the talents and creativity I see in certain artists, poets, actors, writers, and entertainers of all kinds. It’s envy that I feel as in, “I wish I were that creative”. But if I can see their creativity and can appreciate it then at some level it exists within me. So why do I reject this and stuff it into my shadow world? More dung.

Because I judge that I have too much dung in the stables of my unconscious mind I have also decided that I don’t deserve pleasure and find that I deny myself even more and thus create more dung.

This constant confrontation with my shadow stuff is exhausting. And just because I’ve spotted where the crap lies doesn’t seem to help with the clean up. I mean, where do I shovel it to?

And that’s the point of shadow work. There’s no need to shovel it anywhere because if you do it’s still there i.e. shoveling is just rearranging the piles.

So how does one learn to accept their shadow let alone love it? Some of these shadows are grounded in beliefs that come from your childhood. They are constructions from decisions we’ve made about life and who we are. They are often the wounds suffered from childhood that can be healed if dealt with openly, compassionately, and lovingly. In short, what has been constructed can be deconstructed not through forceful shoveling or denial of the dung spread throughout but through loving action.

Mostly the shadow is an unrecognized inner dialog and belief system that’s negative in nature and the shifting of which to something more positive can help these aspects become more useful. Sometimes just writing a letter that will never be sent that includes your feelings about your darker aspects and negative feelings about yourself can help. Remember no feeling is ever wrong. Some of your beliefs and thoughts are just flat-out wrong but never your feelings.

Bringing these things out into the open through the process of identifying and writing them down can be a great first step in the cleaning up of the stink of your unconscious stables.

_______________________

For those of you who might want to do further shadow work these links may prove useful:

https://www.alwayswellwithin.com/blog/2014/07/06/embrace-your-shadow-side

http://suzanneheyn.com/shadow-work-embracing-the-dark-side/

Dealing with the emotional and psychological after-effects of violence

grief.jpg

On occasion I receive dreams from those who have had family members or boyfriends/girlfriends that have been murdered. Many share seeing them again in their dreams. In some cases the departed will morph into something else. In one case the visiting dead turned into a snake that when in an attempt to catch it the snake slithered away into a hole. In this case it may have been a metaphor for those who had perpetrated the murder having not been caught and the dreamer trying to deal with the betrayal of both the “perp” and the authorities.

Some dreamers experience great helplessness (feeling tied up or trapped) or overwhelm (tsunami waves and/or flooding) as part of the dream. Some escape the symbolic trauma by climbing stairs or mountains toward a higher perspective while others fly free across a meadow or run away from threatening people or monsters.

Others have wondered if the extreme grief they’ve suffered has in someway damaged the soul.

Mostly the dream material of such traumas is about the mind trying to make sense of the loss and to then deal with it i.e. to make peace with it.

I believe that our souls accept trauma long before our conscious minds are able to wrap themselves around it, though the pain can be experienced as being so deep and profound that it feels as though your very essence, your being, the soul of yourself has been irreparably damaged.

Though the mind is valiantly trying to grasp and deal with the trauma experienced by the violent death of a loved one it can rarely do this alone. What often happens is the mind enters a never-ending spiral with no escape or resolution. Some dreamers experience this never-ending spiral as a vortex in a storm-tossed sea with them or the ship they’re on being pulled down into the darkness below. Some see themselves at the edge of a bottomless abyss.

Such dreams may reflect the dreamer’s difficulty in trying to resolve a great inner conflict generated by loss. This can take the form of anxieties of losing themselves or in facing the hard emotional reality of their own death. These dreams are part of the healing process but sometimes one can get stuck in the process without moving to the next level of dealing with the grief.

The experience of losing someone through a violent death can be similar to the experience of someone with post-traumatic stress (PTSD) with the reliving of the event in dreams or flashbacks, repetitive nightmares, and anxiety symptoms. This can also happen with those who have been physically attacked, witnessed great violence, and/or have been raped. All of these experiences destroy the sense of safety and personal integrity of ones life. They are a violation of the soul.

If these dreams persist over time it might be useful to the dreamer to seek a helper, a guide in the healing process, someone trained in helping others deal with grief.

Organizations such as Goodtherapy.com * can sometimes be useful.

Learning to deal with ones grief in a productive way can be helpful as well and to that end this link to ActiveBeat * as well as the following article in Psychology Today: Grief-isnt-something-get-over* might also be useful.

___________________________________________________

* I am not an advocate of these sites and only offer them as examples of resources without endorsing them. You will have to determine whether or not they are useful to you.