Doing shadow work can really help us to heal and move forward in our lives by helping us to get in touch with our true essence and who we really are “behind the scenes.” What is shadow work, and how can we use it in a very practical way to get unstuck after we feel lost and trapped in a difficult life situation, like divorce and loss.
Mark your calendar the next Heal Your Heart event, in which we will take a look at how you can come back home to yourself and heal from past trauma.
Definition Of Shadow Work
I was first introduced to something called Parts Therapy back in 2007 when I was becoming certified in Emotional Freedom Techniques or tapping. Gary Craig, the founder of tapping, taught me how we have these various parts of us within our own mind. For example, all adults have a rebellious 13 year old within them. My inner teen certainly clashed with my step daughter when she was a young teen. We both wanted to have our way.
Some people call shadow work inner child work. My definition of Shadow Work: Through journaling, tapping, deep introspection, personal inquiry of any kind (the work) we come to know the various parts or aspects of our personality so we can better understand and have more compassion, respect and love for ourselves. In other words, Know Thyself.
Why Do Shadow Work
Why do we care about expanding our self-compassion, self-respect and self-love that comes about from doing shadow work?
- We become liberated to the extent we know our true nature. In other words, we are much more centered and stable when we truly know who we are.
- Truly loving ourselves is a pre-requisite to having empathy for others.
- We can give much greater service to others when we know who we are because there is no longer the need to self-protect and inauthentically people-please.
We Become Liberated
Life has felt very chaotic these last 2.5 years, and perhaps it always has been this way but we’ve become more aware. But what if you could access a part of you who wasn’t worried at all about anything going on right now? I believe that who we truly are “behind the scenes” is a chill dude (dudette) who never gets down on themselves or others. This Higher Self knows that Life is always happening FOR us, not TO us.
I have certainly been swept into the tidal wave of fear like everyone else. Who cares if our fears are related to a virus, other people, running out of money, big government, our rights being stripped of us, etc. Fear is fear and it’s part of being human.
I have a strong desire to overcome the fear and anxiety and see myself through the lens of this Higher Power, what I call God.
Back in 2015, I had one of the most beautiul, memorable experiences going on a road trip with my two daughters, Chelsea and Maddie. We went to a 5 day “Ultimate Key to Freedom Experience” at Robert Scheinfeld’s home. You could say our “minds were blown” with the spiritual teachings.
Example Of Shadow Work Scene From Movie, Revolver
We watched a scene from the 2005 movie, Revolver, in which Jake, the main character, gets stuck in an elevator and has a conversation with a part of himself, some might call the EGO. We might also call it the Judge, the saboteur mind, inner child, etc. Watch the clip here and see what it brings up for you. NOTE: this is a pretty intense scene: View Discretion Advised.
I remember getting very emotional watching this. For me, it evokes this feeling of “Fight with me! You are not going to ignore me. I control you and you do as I say.” It’s such a strong part of us that has this huge pull on our emotions. It feels very accurate and real for me. It brings to the surface of our awareness that there is a part of us who absolutely wants to grab our attention and pull us away from our “center,” who we really are.
Once that awareness settles deep into our heart, it’s much harder to pull us away from our grounded centeredness, our Essence. The “trick” has been revealed and we no longer have to associate US, our true Self, with our many parts vying for our attention. This is very liberating because we can stop with the self-bashing and resistantce to life on life’s terms.
We have much less fear, “OK so I have these parts of me. They tell me lies all of the time. They aren’t bad and I don’t want to get rid of them. I also don’t let them rule me anymore. Like an annoying fly, I swat away the messages my parts would have me believe about myself. I don’t kill them because they won’t go away as long as I’m alive. The flys just come at me at a slower pace, much less distracting.”
Truly Loving Ourselves Is A Pre-Requisite To Having More Empathy for Others
Getting to know the parts of ourselves, including the ones we want to get rid, can give us more empathy towards others. How, you may wonder, will it make us more empathetic if we discover that we have an unruly, entitled teen, a childish 3 year old, a bratty 10 year old who wants her way, a victim self who always feels sorry for herself, etc.?
“Seeing” these self-absorbed parts as in the Revolver scene, where Jake says, “I can hear you. I’m onto you,” pattern interrupts them. You see how Jake’s part hesitates and looks a bit confused, taken aback, when Jake speaks directly to him. He gets defensive and tells Jake all of the reasons he needs to keep him around, just how useful he is, how he can be trusted and others can’t.
You Don’t Control Me–I Control You
Jake stays strong and centered in his true Self, his Essence, while his part tells him, “I AM you!!!” and Jake calmly counters, “You ain’t me.” The part ups the ante and begins throwing a tantrum, hitting the walls, screaming “You best F*cking Fight!” It’s at this time, Jake drops the revolver from his hand, “You don’t control me. I control you.” The ligths come back on and the elevator operates again.
This is a beautiful scene of Jake surrendering to His Higher Self and reclaiming his power. We can do the same. And when we do, we tend to be more loving, kind, gentle towards ourselves. Having this self-empathy allows us to expand it to others.
When we understand that all of us have multiple scared, obnoxious, inner parts like this, we increase our ability to understand and share the feelings of others. This is a really big deal. We inflict less harm on others because we better understand their perspective. Remember we can’t give to others what we can’t give to ourselves first.
We Can Give Much Greater Service To Others
When we are filled up with self-love, we have this energy about us that is very giving, flowing and generous with our time and true essence. When in this expanded space of energy, our attention truly becomes a gift for another. On the other hand, when life feels scary and unknown, it’s easy to constrict our heart and give from a place of obligation and even resentment, called people-pleasing.
No amount of words or actions can convince others that the energy we exude is not what it is. In other words, they feel our fear, or they feel our love. We can’t lie about it because they will sense our heart, our energy.
When we align with our authentic self who feels safe, grounded and centered, we will get our needs met in a way that feels good to us, and it won’t matter what others say. Chances are they won’t even call us selfish or judge us in any way because we aren’t energetically inviting them to criticize or hurt us. Instead we are inviting others to connect with our Essence.
Dr. Edith Ebuntu Chan on Being our Own Guru
When we approach life from our Essence, everyone wins because our energy raises those people’s energy around us. I heard Dr. Edith Ubuntu Chan being interviewed, and she really explains it well:
“When people are centered within themselves, owning self-love and doing their own work, energetically they are in their bodies again. Balanced and solid. Everyone locks into a higher state of being, and there is this collaborative energy flow.
We Need to Come Back to Ourselves
When not centered, we leave our body, which leaves holes in our energy field, leaving us vulnerable to someone taking over that space. It’s not kind to be up in someone else’s business, and so some energy will try to take over our system. We need to come back to our body and purge those energies that aren’t truly us. Our focus becomes so outward on others; we need to come back to ourselves.
We are our own guru. As a centered and balanced human being that owns our full power, we understand that there are gifts and lessons to be learned. We need to stop putting people on a pedestal. Our work is to come back to our center. Teach through our example of how to step into our power.
How can we come back from fear? Take a deep breath and check in with our head, heart, belly, hands and feet. From the heart center draw in energy. We mind our own business energetically and it forces others to come back to themselves. Healing and possibilities are endless. Very potent tool. We perceive reality clearly.”
How To Do Shadow Work
I highly recommend we do shadow work with a trained life coach, hypnotist or therapist. We can do it on our own, as our answers do lie within us. However, we have blind spots, and our parts can be very tricky and evasive; they will try to hide from us so we don’t recognize them.
I’ve been doing this type of shadow work from the beginning of my coaching practice in 2008. One of my gifts is to be very intuitive and tuned in to energy patterns. My private and group coaching programs delve into shadow work.
If you want to explore more about coming home to yourself, having more empathy and compassion, check out my upcoming Heal Your Heart Retreat and register below.
Holistic Divorce/Loss Coach