“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
and what can be the use of him is more than I can see.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson
October is upon us. This is a beautiful time of the year in which the leaves have turned golden, yellow, and red as the weather turns cooler and fires begin to burn in the hearth once again.
For some, October culminates in a celebration called All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, which I look at as a symbol of our shadow sides. Once could say it is a celebration of our dark sides. Think about it. During the month of October, we become enveloped in . beautiful colors as the leaves change from green to orange, red, then to brown.
I like to think of late autumn as a time to celebrate the beauty found within our dark sides which is why I have dedicated an entire month to exploring the power of doing ‘shadow work’ and why I have identified this process as one of the secret keys to health, wholeness, and vitality.
Ironically it can be our dark side or shadow places which show us our best qualities and point us on the path to personal growth. It is our very triggers which look like anger, angst, frustration, loss, fear, greed, etc. which can show us our deep issues and traumas so we can then transform them to love and forgiveness and acceptance. These deep, dark places, when we can use them and learn from them, become our very strengths. This is why the power of our shadow sides is one of the keys to living a life of passion and wholeness.
When we can’t claim parts of ourselves, we give away our energy to an underground river which during the storms of life ultimately floods, causing physical and psychic distress. The raging river of unresolved issues then has control over us. When our psychic landscape becomes flooded we are no longer able to engage our shadow side from a place of health, proactivity, and grace.
In an earlier blog I had shown how to work with our triggers with a six step program which takes us from reaction to understanding. These steps help us to use our shadow sides to learn, grow and become fuller and happier. They go like this:
- When something or someone triggers you, go inside and see how this makes you feel. This could be something like your stomach hurts, you have a headache, or you feel anxious, angry, etc. This interrupts the reacting parts of us and helps us to separate from the trigger.
- Ask yourself if there is an unconscious fear associated with this feeling. This could go like this: when someone treats me like….., I am afraid he will or I will……what? Finish this sentence and see what comes up. It may not make logical sense.
- Take a look at what you have realized about yourself and see that this is about you and not about the other person. You have no control over the other person or event; you can only work with what this brings up in you.
- If you can, go back in time and see when this feeling first came up or began for you. Let yourself know that you might have needed to feel this way at one time, but now it is no longer needed or appropriate. This begins a process in which you begin giving yourself permission to let something go that no longer serves you.
- Ask yourself if this is true, or if any of it is true at all. Own what is true, and let go of what is not.
- Allow yourself to move forward in a new direction and not go back to your default place. This place is uncomfortable because it is unknown and also may feel like it separates you from your family’s beliefs, and even your early survival mechanisms. See clearly where you are moving towards. You might have to go over these steps many times as this is a new process for you.
These steps are very powerful tools in helping us to see our triggers and shadow areas while also giving us a means to work with them. Our weaknesses can then become strengths. What has lurked in the shadows comes out into the light where we can access it, bless it, and transform it.
Shift Your Story, Shift Your Life: Guided Visualization
Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Connect to a place inside where you feel dark, empty, or where you are triggered by someone or some event. As you are in this place, just notice what thoughts come to you, and what you see. Is it dark, what color is it, who or what do you see? Feel the connections you feel to certain places and people in this triggered place inside. Also feel where you feel this in your body, and just take notice.
Now, take a couple more deep breaths. See the people or events that you are connected to in a reactive or triggered way behind you. Look at them in your mind’s eye. Imagine and see them waving you forward and wishing you well. Feel your reactions to their wishing you well and to move forward. Next, in your mind’s eye, see yourself turning away from them and facing away and taking a few steps in a new direction.
Take a moment to see how this feels in your body and in your thoughts and emotions. Next, see where you are going. What is in front of you? What do you really want for yourself and your life? See that opening up in front of you. Move another step in that direction and take notice of what you see, the colors, the feelings, the people, the trees, and everything. Flesh out what is in front of you as fully as you can.
Stay in this new place until it feels better, right, good, or even just a sense of yes, this is where I want to go and where I am going. After you are in this place long enough to feel it in your body and your senses, begin to notice your breath. Take a few long deep breaths, and open your eyes.
This meditative exercise is helpful to augment and anchor the six step program.
Enjoy this exercise as often as possible and feel your vitality, health and wholeness increase.