“Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.”
– Dan Millman
Experience is precious. Let’s investigate it! We explored curiosity in Part One. Why is it so important in shadow work? Curiosity occurs in freedom… freedom meaning here a space uncluttered by assumptions, judgments, suppositions and filled with a dynamic desire to learn, to know. When we are truly curious, rather than compelled by some formulaic methodology, we allow our intuition into the room. And, when we aren’t curious, a compelling question to ask ourselves is, “What shadow element am I supporting by keeping this door shut?” What we avoid being curious about is a powerful clue to some element of our shadow.
In our families, we learned that being curious about certain subjects was taboo. Yet certain topics brought not only recognition but rewards. The messages about the subjects to avoid were often further complicated by indirect signals (like facial expressions, shallow breathing or changing the topic). Bypassing our own verbal markers, we “metabolized” these messages without actually deconstructing them. They became shadowy, but strongly informed future patterns in us.
Some families disallowed the sad emotions – grief, despair, disappointment, for example, weren’t accepted. In others, topics like money, mental health or sex were taboo.
Here’s a useful exploration.Where we were free to be curious, around what topics and where we we restricted? What arises ( sensations, emotions and ideas) when we touch into those unacceptable subjects, the ones that we were discouraged from pursuing. Observing ourselves as we explore our curiosity helps identify areas where we have dark shadows.
The next step, after identifying these areas is to see what strategies you employ in keeping parts of yourself hidden. Try this self-observation ( SO).
As you do this SO, try to get closer and closer to the experience of each moment of Presence and note more and more exactly what the experience is like emotionally and somatically (contractions, heat, numbness, energy, breathing, pulsing, heaviness, lightness – whatever).
Then, each day for ONE WEEK ONLY, YET IN DETAIL, take a few moments to note how these showed up in you: Be specific. Be rigorous.
Fear: (projection about the future)
Attachment: (inability to let go of a thought, idea, thing that doesn’t serve you)
Control: (choice that keeps you in the manager’s seat)
Entitlement: (a sense that something – space, action, response is owed you)
Manipulation: (indirect behavior involving an other to get something you want)
Anxiety: (projection onto the present based on the past)
What am I discovering about myself? What patterns emerge? What new questions do I have?
As the pattern surfaces, name it gently and welcome it. Then exaggerate the emotional and physical sensations that arise with the thoughts (like turning up the brightness knob on the TV). Stay with the discomfort. Check it out fully – what texture does it take, what color, what scent, what size, what taste. Staying with the experience offers up fresh insights… what the intelligence of this experience ( protection, avoidance, distraction for example). Once this pattern served a younger, less resourceful me. Does it serve me now? If not, I invite it to loosen (and eventually to leave) its grip.
By shining the light of awareness on our pattern, we use less energy to keep the pattern in place and the place dark. We free some of our energy for other parts of living for our creativity and we take back our power.