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.