Have you ever had an ongoing pain in your body? Perhaps in your back, or a knee, or shoulder? Pain is a message from your body that something is hurt or out of alignment; something needs attention. You might try to ignore it, perhaps using medication to reduce or mask the pain. The body will do its best to adjust as well. Muscles will tense around the hurt, protecting it through immobilization. After a while though, these muscles are likely to get sore themselves, and perhaps throw other adjacent areas of the body out of alignment. The pain gets worse, harder to ignore; something is still calling for attention.
Over time we may react to that part of ourselves with anger or fear; for causing us so much pain, for limiting the things we can do physically, for resisting our efforts to make it go away. The tension and pain are becoming emotional and psychic now. They are still not the fundamental problem though. The initial injury, which has never been addressed lies at the core of things, all the rest is due to the body’s attempts to call for help, or to protect and compensate as best it can.
A similar thing can happen emotionally or psychically. Most of us are uncomfortable with certain emotions, usually fear, anger and grief, although some may have trouble with joy or happiness. When these come at us from outside, or arise naturally inside in reaction to life events, we may push them away, ignore or cover them up. Over time we wrap them in projective layers and reactions, or new levels of compensation and internal support.
This growing mix becomes a part of what is often referred to as our shadow self, which includes things we perceive as dark. Anything and everything that we can’t or don’t allow ourselves to have and acknowledge consciously. Sometimes the darkness is due to the heavy/dense nature of the emotions and energies involved, sometimes just that the wrappings have become too thick. When there are aspects of self judgement, tinged with guilt or shame, these shadows become especially toxic.
We may be quite successful in keeping things out of sight and out of mind, but just as there are physical consequences due to propagating imbalances, there will be distortions in who we are and how we show up in the world. More significant perhaps is that the inner call for help, for attention, never dies, and generally gets louder over time. The more we resist and push something away, the more we add to the bundle of emotional and psychic energy involved.
As with the physical case, we can become angered, protective and reactive to the secondary affects, until it has all become quite a stew of different emotions, judgments, beliefs and energies. All of it wanting to surface, to unpack, unravel; to be recognized and to heal.
When shadow elements are mainly other peoples’ energies, and you can exorcise them, cut them out and throw them away. But in most cases, either at the core, or along the way, some of your own energies are part of the mix. It might be a piece of your own light, a talent or power protected or suppressed, or a darker emotional reactive layer. But what is part of your life force you can not throw away.
Sometimes people use warrior languaging around working with the shadow self. How can you fight yourself though? isn’t this what you have been doing all along? the more you push part of yourself away the more strongly it calls out to return and be recognized and integrated. Some emotions you may want to transmute first, but you still need to acknowledge and reclaim them, as they were born as protection, and are still part of your life force.
Like a cat chasing its tail, you can’t out wrestle yourself, and while you might be able to cut a sore foot off and leave it behind, you can never permanently throw away a part of your own life force, which is what your emotions are. It will always follow you home again and come knocking at your door.
You may wind up stripping off 90% of the mess, if it came from other people, but you need to own and integrate the 10%. Sometimes its the other way around, there is a wounded core that needs to go, but 90% is your energy that has been trying to deal with it over time.
An antagonistic, resistant, attitude has always been a part of the problem, and is not helpful to the solution. Strength and courage are important attributes the warrior brings to inner work, necessary to be in acceptance and compassion for your shadow, but the whole trick is to shift the relationship from a battle to a dance; from opposition to cooperation. Releasing what is not yours, it will go easily once you stop fighting it; reclaiming what is yours with appreciation and compassion, you gain vital life force, which can be used any way you choose now.
As long as you are scared of your shadow it will chase you to the ends of the universe, or resist you to the end of time, but when you connect into your deep light and come to the shadow fearlessly, with acceptance and curiosity, it will unfold itself, make itself know to you, and you will know how to release it or reclaim it. Out of it will come many Self gifts, including peace of heart, clarity of mind and that great inner spaciousness full of creativity and blessings.