Owning Our Shadows
Let’s be honest, doing the work is hard. Often, we search outside of ourselves for the answers. Yet when struggling with how to become our higher selves, the “experts” and online sources can prove frustrating. Posts on Pinterest and Instagram make it look easy—as though all we must do is follow these five simple steps or sit in silence for ten minutes a day to achieve a fulfilling and heart-centered life.
While these suggestions may be beneficial, the truth is no magical formula exists to make us happy or help us attain our aspirations. Grit, perseverance, and a belief in something higher are necessary in order to move forward on our life journey.
Showing up day after day, projecting our best self can be exhausting. Sure, meditation, affirmations, walks in nature, nourishing foods, and healthy movement assist in lifting our spirit. But sometimes we still feel empty even after employing all of the instruments in our toolbox. What’s up with that? What else should we be doing?
Relax. Nothing’s wrong. This is all perfectly normal, as we cannot expect to vibrate at our highest level at all times. Sometimes merely idling is OK.
I like to think of this as gliding in neutral. We’re certainly not in a high gear, but we haven’t started going backwards yet. As much as we want to be our best at all times, we are human and therefore cannot truly present as our highest selves twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
However, there are times when we feel the need to shift into reverse, look behind us, and see what is there so we don’t end up in a preventable collision. I’m talking about examining our repressed inner secrets so we can begin to own our dark side.
Often this journey begins with a small voice encouraging us to take a peek within. It’s then we begin to remember the uncomfortable attributes, behaviors, ideas, or memories we prefer to pretend no longer exist. But soon they become real, and we cannot help but witness what is. So, we do our best. Courageously, we take a big inhale, dig deep, and wait to see what arises.
This is shadow work. It’s when we honestly allow ourselves to stare into our deepest crevices and see the pieces we’ve tried to bury and keep hidden from others. Examining these undesirable thoughts and past actions are not for the feint at heart. Yet, as Brené Brown so beautifully states, “Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
What lurks in your inner caves? Are you willing to lift the rocks and see what lies beneath? Do you possess the fortitude to dwell amongst the shadows in order to know where you need to shine the light?
Most of us have experienced at least one sleepless night when we’ve tossed and turned, debating a future event or regretting a past occurrence. Rarely do we solve our problem during these endless hours of silent darkness. Instead, we are likely to emerge the next morning, exhausted and beaten down, still berating ourselves for something we once did or criticizing ourselves for not knowing how to take our next step.
While I don’t recommend ruminating in the dark for prolonged periods of time, it can be beneficial to stop by for a visit now and then. However, it’s best to go on our own volition, instead of being dragged there unwillingly, a victim to an unexpected detour in the middle of the night.
Consider exploring your shadows when you are feeling grounded and ready to face those pieces of yourself you’d prefer to keep hidden. Then witness what is with an open mind and heart. My guess is it will be worth the risk.
I recently did some deep shadow work. While it certainly wasn’t pretty, I learned a great deal. It helped me shift my perspective and see things from another point of view. And guess what, as tough as it was to own my part, I was able to let go of the pain, realize my next steps, and then proceed to begin again, fresh, renewed.
To be totally honest, it seemed like a cleanse of sort, kind of like prepping for a colonoscopy … but for your soul. In the beginning, expect to feel awful. Then what transpires next might disgust you, as you basically have to deal with “your shit.” But in the end, you feel free, unencumbered. It’s a rebirth of sorts.
Only after we face our shadows will we notice the rays of light piercing our dark side. When we’ve owned what’s ours and accepted what is, then we can truly see. Plus, once the switch is turned on, there’s no flipping it off again. Because after a truth has been acknowledged and released, we don’t forget it. It can’t return it to its hidden spot in the recesses of our being. Nope. It’s now out in the open. We’re free of the burden and weight.
But wait … here’s the really awesome part. Sometimes after intense shadow work our light shines so brightly, we need sunglasses to handle the beautiful glare. It’s as though that part of us has been waiting to be recognized, released, renewed. When this happens, we know we’ve hit the jackpot of shadows, the golden nugget waiting to be accepted. Experiencing this is more than peeling off a layer of the onion, it’s as if we’re slicing the onion in half, getting right to the core of the matter.
The world is filled with light and dark, as are we. Pretending this is untrue is only denying what is. However, if we are able to take the fear out of shadow work, then we can embrace the pieces of ourselves we’ve hidden, felt were unworthy, and caused us pain. By bringing these pieces into the light we cleanse ourselves of the trauma and shame.
Take your time. There is no rush. Your shadows aren’t going anywhere. But don’t linger and allow them to recess further, as they’ll only become harder to find. So, when you are ready, be brave … explore the darkness so you can shine your beautiful light and release what no longer serves you.