Thinking about a theme for this blog post on a blustering early March day I decided not to go looking too far, but to elaborate on a recent experience that focussed my thoughts in a laser like fashion on what it is that Jung called the shadow.
As part of 'looking after myself' I recently saw a therapist. I will not mention what therapy nor who the practitioner is, but I think it is worth sharing with you that when I left I was feeling both confused and bewildered. True to what I often suggest to my clients (it was time to talk the talk and walk the walk), I chose to stay with how I felt, no matter how uncomfortable. It became progressively clearer to me that the confusion was hiding anger, consternation and a sense of betrayal...this was on the surface, or if you wish, on top of another underlying emotional state that had expressed itself with that fighting back/biting reaction. A deeper and more tender feeling had been triggered during the session: a fear of rejection, a primordial sense of doom originating in childhood had been awoken by a few questions which I thought to be unnecessary in the therapy...or where they?
It was as if, all of a sudden, an internal landscape that I had forgotten or I didn't even know existed had emerged, first in bodily sensations, then in thoughts and reactions, and finally in a coherent memory, connecting the dots. Nothing I can think of in the questions could have been consciously connected with what emerged, but my psyche (the unconscious) knows differently. Somewhere a trigger had found a way to stir something up and that left me shaken and battling with unknown enemies...like a Don Quixote against the Windmills, terrifying in his eyes, a mere glitch in the landscape in the eyes of onlookers. This is the power of triggers...they, in themselves, mean nothing; yet they can make the difference between a pleasant experience and a nightmare.
I learned several things from this experience.
First of all one needs to F E E L S A F E to be able to start exploring deep material. It was not my set intention for the session (it is important to have clarity about what one is seeking out of a treatment) and there was no established relationship with the therapist. To me the whole thing felt a breach of the sacred non-violence principle of therapy. I felt resistance and this is what happens when the therapist has a motive other than to be present and bear witness.
Secondly, to F A C E the S H A D O W that creeps up is the only way not to become a recurrent victim of it. Evoked experiences, whether images, thoughts, feelings, sensations or memories are flashlights onto a 'forgotten' past (personal or intragenerational). The experience comes first, then the need for understanding emerges quite organically if one is driven by curiosity. Had I chosen to distract myself rather than be in the experience, I would have once more buried the memories away, ready for them to pounce on me when least expected, causing similar or stronger reactions which have no connection to the present, but are nonetheless loaded with meaning. To know that one can safely explore that meaning is the beginning of healing.
Lastly I realised that the way I feel and my ability to recognise what meaning any experiences hold is a result of where I am in my personal healing journey. Only a year ago I would have probably blamed the therapist for making me feel awkward, or a few years previous I would have despised myself for exposing my vulnerability. At each stage of the evolution of our Soul we face our shadow in a different way, until we can finally bear to bring it into the light and clear what pain is holding it firmly in the darkest recesses of one's psyche.
It is at the darkest point
that we can begin to sense the light...
It is at this time when the darkest and longest night is upon us that I had chosen to pause for a moment and feel into the deeply symbolic meaning of the Winter Solstice and share my insight with all of you...but, alas, although I pine to be more aware of the wisdom intrinsic to the lunar and solar calendars, I often find that 'life' encroaches into the mindful awareness required to tune into oneself and the world around us...this is why I ended up doing the thinking (rather than the feeling) in the car on my way to picking up one of the children from whichever sporting activity they were doing; so much for mindful awareness!!! To my defence I should add that often it is during those activities that do not require my brain to engage that I come up with some powerful insights.
As I was driving I suddenly realised the similarity between descending into the darkest part of the year and the healing journey so many of us are bravely undertaking. It is often at the darkest part of the journey, when we are met by our demons, that we can sense a turning point and begin to hope for the light to come back. At this stage and for a while thereafter there appear to be no real change in the actual amount of light that reaches us, but one cannot help but noticing that perhaps it is easier to stay with the discomfort of a strong negative emotion, or that instead of paralysis and hopelessness a deep sadness has appeared, or that it is easier not to believe the voices which have kept repeating inside our heads that we are not good enough and that we will never amount to much.
Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), in which he discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero shared by world mythologies, points out that there is only one hero and one adventure (what he called the "monomyth") no matter in how many guises he or she may appear across cultures and time. The hero is the human being who dares descend into the darkest depth of the unconscious -to the very source of all creative power- and there confronts the monsters thrown up by the fright-stricken infant psyche. As the hero pursues the journey, the phantoms and dragons all vanish or lose power and at times even become allies (this reminds me of "Where the Wild Things are"). Along the way the hero requires immense courage; but the reward, the treasure the hero has been seeking at the journey's end is connection to his/her own essential human nature, healed and full of vitality, strength and joy: the same joy that circumstances took away from us.
My Winter Solstice wishes for you all is this:
May you live your myth till the light shines bright through the depth of darkness to show you the direction home to the healed Self.
Each carries within himself the all,
therefore it may be sought and discovered within.
Slowly but surely we are sliding into Autumn with its longer nights and shorter days. As the light draws in so do our feelings and thoughts. I can clearly notice in myself a natural tendency towards moving inward, wanting to make sense of where I have arrived and learn from past experiences. This year especially I realise that I cannot carry everything forth with me, that I need to let go of what I do not need (putting the garden to sleep is a great teacher) so that I can sow the seeds which will bear new growth in the Spring...a good wish for vitality.
Lately, looking at relationship and behavioural patterns in my life I have realised something quite striking, and yet very simple that I had not been able to see before. When your experience of love has been that of conditionality upon a certain behaviour or achievement, it is very likely that the love you are able to give is equally tied to a system of values external to the subject of your love, rather than to his/her inherent lovability. As such the manifestations of this conditional love can easily be retracted if he/she does not comply with the lover's expectations and internal set of values (usually inherited from childhood along with a sense of not being worthy of love). This applies to romantic love, motherly/fatherly love, friendship, any kind of love. When you have had to 'fight' to feel loved, the very moment Love flows free of burden or condition, the disbelief is such that you even doubt the truthfulness of it. This, I have come to understand, is the true tragedy of not having known unconditional Love: the fact that no matter how hard you try, you will never feel good enough, worthy enough or lovable enough to be - and feel - truly loved...there is always a 'what if' lurking in the background of your head.
Once I understood this of myself I began looking at relationships and patterns within them which reflect just how difficult it is to come out of this kind system of limiting beliefs. The ramifications are multiple, from experiencing Love as a trap, because you have to live up to a certain standard to deserve Love (read constant performance anxiety); to feeling in an instant the inner contraction which prevents you from outwardly manifesting love once you feel the subject of your love is letting you down (whatever this means). Old patterns are always difficult to bypass. I still find I have to work at feeling worthy of Love and being able to love unconditionally, but through mindful observation of my own thoughts and most of all of my internal sensations, I have become aware of when I am about to go back to my default. It is only through constant watchfulness that you can begin to release old behavioural patterns, each time catching yourself a little earlier, until a new way is found; for this is the only way to break the patterns of conditional love.
I have found that using Sagebrush essential oil has helped me to cut through the narrative I used to hide behind (a good crystal for this part of the process would be sheen obsidian), while thanks to oils like Sandalwood, Frankincense and up to a point Myrrh and Spikenard (all of them grounding and able to free the mind of obsessive worry) I could sit with the uncomfortable sensation of being about to discover potentially painful and unpleasant things about myself and recognise that I did not have to be defined by those. Once you can see clearly you can choose what to let go and what is worth to sow as an intention for a new behaviour to surface in the Spring and carry forward after the long sleep.
Wishing you all a peaceful Equinox and as many walks in nature as possible in the next few weeks to take in the changing light and the colours of Autumn. Be mindful and compassionate with yourselves.
I am an energy and spiritual healer and through this blog I want to share with you some of the ideas and techniques that I find to be powerful tools for personal healing. I will also share some of the experiences of my clients where they feel relevant to every Soul's journey towards individuation and wellbeing.
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