Shadow Work
Uncovering hidden aspects of the psyche

Classes & Private Sessions, Claremont, Cape Town

Finding treasure in the shadow:

Assertions about God are antinomies:

God is immutable, & instigator of all motion, eternal source & goal, Creator uniting in himself genesis & decay, supreme light & gloomiest abyss, infinite God, finite as personality, singular & plural, the unfolding & union of all opposites. 

CG Jung

Letter to Corti

2 May 1955

The unconscious mind, of which the "shadow" forms part of, constitutes roughly 90% of the psyche and consists of processes which occur automatically (thoughts, repressed memories and feelings, everything you feel ashamed of, perversions, interests, fears and desires, intuition and motivations). It also includes everything you have locked away, for whatever reason, but especially during childhood, when you have started moulding yourself to what your parents, culture and society dictated. However, any part we disown within us, turns against us, ultimately influencing our behaviour in destructive ways: your unconscious mind creates both your inner and outer reality.  So if you have been triggered by a person, an event, or a situation, with a disproportionate response, it is most likely a form of projection, stemming from the contents of your shadow. Research has revealed that more than 95% of what the brain does is below the threshold of consciousness and shapes conscious thought. With decision-making, the primitive (unconscious) parts of the brain are activated before the neocortex, which then registers, consciously, the decision which has already been made. You then rationalise why you made the decision, even though it was derived unconsciously.

 

Shadow work involves uncovering these hidden aspects of the psyche that give clues as to what needs to be healed and integrated with the personality. This introspective process is essential for reaching mature adulthood and your full potential. By doing shadow work, it increases the number of available choices and the range of behaviours we can employ in every moment, especially under emotionally charged circumstances. However, it is a hero’s journey to the underworld, not for the faint hearted, as it requires a process of ‘sitting with’ uncomfortable, difficult and painful emotions when you have been triggered.

 

Because one cannot tap into the unconscious mind using reasoning, and because the language of the unconscious mind is symbolism, we can use the people and events in our lives to mirror our shadow to us. For example, if we keep attracting the same type of romantic partner or relationship style, or if we are being triggered by another, this highlights that there is something lurking in the shadow that needs to be shed light upon and integrated. Instead of playing victim and viewing these scenarios to be a curse, these circumstances provide golden opportunities to discover hidden aspects (both healthy and unhealthy) of ourselves as well as rewriting dysfunctional mental patterns. An added bonus is that once we have made the unconscious conscious, the very people who triggered us, change their behaviour in favourable ways, in effect matching our new-found and integrated self. However, the problem with the unconscious is that it is unconscious. To make unconscious content conscious, mythology, and specifically archetypes, can be used to provide insight into unconscious pattern-recognition, with understanding on an instinctive level.

 

An archetype refers to an inherited, unconscious pattern of thought/behaviour, a symbol or a prototype image, that represents a meaning that is the same across all cultures, universally present in individual psyches. Many parallels run between mythology, fairy tales and gods and goddesses of for example, Greek, Roman, Vedic, Egyptian and African origin. This is because an individual’s unconscious mind is connected to the collective unconscious, which is said to be inherited, containing symbolic material of an entire species, therefore, archetypes are universal. We can then identify with the archetypes of gods and goddesses, superheroes and role models, where they become personified inner forces that shape our behaviour and influence emotions.

Quotes from Carl Jung:

"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate."

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. "

"Shadow work is the path of the heart warrior. "

"To the extent that I managed to translate the eomtions into images - that is to say, to find the images whch were concealed in the eomotions - I was inwardly calmed and reassured. Had I left those images hidden n the eomtions, I might have been torn to pieces by them. "

"No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its toors reach down to hell. "

 

 

Shadow work and Yoga 

When we perform a series of yoga asanas (yoga postures), combined with pranayama (breath control), the primitive part of the brain is “kept in check” by the neocortex, as yoga promotes activation of the prefrontal cortex. This scenario allows for unconscious material to surface and to be integrated with the conscious mind, in the absence of amygdala hijacking - the amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for fear processing and activation of the body’s stress response.  By combining yoga asana with the archetype-influenced "Life as mythical stage show practice" (TM) method, shadow work is greatly enhanced. In addition, through involving the body in a somatic experience, the emotional residue from the identified dysfunctional hardwired patterns can be released and the charge within those patterns can be lessened, as well as their projections and re-enactments the next time you are triggered, off the yoga mat.

For information on shadow work-infused yoga sessions in Cape Town, see Offerings at  YOGA SESSIONS.  

Shadow work and women's psyches

I am devoted to healing the womb space, both on individual and collective levels, by means of fusing various healing modalities. The purpose is to facilitate union between the divine feminine (Shakti) and masculine (Shiva) principles - to be both active and receptive, autonomous and intimate, to work and to love fiercely. I invite women on a quest for individuation and embodiment of the Great Goddess in all her expressions and faces, moving away from victimhood to your unique expression of sovereignty. This is the heroin’s path of finding, losing and rediscovering what gives meaning to her, and holding on to these values in all kinds of circumstances that test her. However, this quest inevitably requires doing the inner work, in particular shadow work….

This is because an individual’s unconscious mind is connected to the collective unconscious, which is said to be inherited, containing symbolic material of an entire species, therefore, archetypes are universal. We can then identify with the archetypes of gods and goddesses, superheroes and role models, where they become personified inner forces that shape our behaviour and influence our emotions. In order to work with archetypes most effectively, it requires a certain level of open-mindedness on behalf of both the client and the healer, perhaps even some level of abandonment of religious conditioning and dogma. The reason for this being that in childhood, due to religious, cultural and societal indoctrination, certain symbols may have been shoved into the unconscious mind, even though they form part of and is beneficial to a healthy personality as well as the collective unconscious. For example, if you were to see a picture of a woman wearing horns, does your mind automatically assume the Devil/Pan connotation…?

 

 

Alternatively, just as an illustration as to how ancient cultures welcomed all sorts of symbolism in their portrayal of deities, there are ones riding on lions (e.g. the Hindu goddess Durga). There is the Hindu goddess Kali wearing a garland of skulls around her neck and a skirt made of dismembered limbs. There is the horrendous looking Pagan crone, Baba Yaga, who lives in a house running around on huge chicken legs, flying around in an air craft shaped like a mortar, which , in turn, sweeps the ground with a broom made from a dead person’s hair. There is also the Greek Goddess Persephone, who is kidnapped by Hades, God of the underworld, where she remains hostage for half a year, each year. Then there is the Egyptian goddess Hathor with cow’s horns and the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet with a body of a woman and a head of a lion, to name only a few. All of these mythological attributes represent aspects and processes within the female psyche which can be put to good use, once you gain access to the Rosetta stone used in deciphering the hieroglyphs.

 

In conclusion, in all of my sessions, one or other form of shadow work will be required, whether it be yoga, yoni egg work, therapy, or working with diet and lifestyle according to the menstrual phases. If I have not yet succeeded in convincing you how beneficial shadow work is, come experience it for yourself…

For information on shadow work-infused sessions in Cape Town, for ladies see WOMEN'S SESSIONS.

 

Photo credit: Cheri Warrington at SILVERWOLF PHOTOGRAPHY.