Shadow work sounds like it's a good idea. Yes, let me work on my shadow. But what does that really mean? What does it look like? I caution people when they say they want to do shadow work because often it means that we start seeing a lot of things we don't like in our lives. It can show up in other people or in situations. Sometimes we can recognize it in ourselves, but more likely, we start to become annoyed with other people.
Shadow aspects are parts of us that we have disowned. They were too messy, complicated, wounded, difficult, or bothersome to examine. It's not the sunshine and rainbows of healing work. It is the shame, fear, guilt, and not good enough feelings that we tend to avoid. The ones the ego wants to deny as actually existing in us.
So imagine what happens when offering a shadow work class to others. Wouldn't it be nice if I could be exempt from working on my shadow while developing and offering the class? Ah, but the shadow does not work that way. By setting the intention of illumination, I also get to drop into the dark dance of the shadow. The silver lining is that there is healing on the other side of that dance if I'm willing to stay conscious and do the work.
So it went like this... I'm over the moon because I get to co-facilitate a class with Noeli Lytton, a woman I deeply admire and who is admired by many. During the development of the class, shadows pop up and try to convince me that I'm not good enough, that I don't know what I'm doing. When asked a question that is challenging as we discuss the layout, an old wounded part left in the basement of my consciousness gets her feelings hurt and wants to collapse. She says, "Shut up and let the grown up decide the layout of the class. Who do you think you are?" But wait, there's more. There's another even harder part to acknowledge that comes up and says, "We know more than they do. Shut them down. Do they not know what you know?" Both are shadow aspects that are calling out for healing. But it is so hard to recognize that it truly is a call for healing and not another reason to be wounded and shut down.
It requires a lot of effort to stay present and do the healing work. After that meeting, I spent time with the feelings that came up: shame, not good enough, hurt. Because of the work I've already done with other shadow parts, I could bring them into the light and offer healing techniques. Lather, rinse, repeat. One time around with the shadow may not do the trick. It takes repetition and often more than one method. It takes patience, compassion, and acceptance which is the opposite response I often have right after a shadow aspect pops up.
And then it gets even more interesting. Noeli needs to go out of town for her nephew's funeral which is on the exact day of the class. She offers encouragement and tells me I can do it on my own. She has faith in me. I immediately feel the emotional reactions rising as I read the message. I practice listening to the internal responses that feel like absolute truth, to the feelings trying to hook me into falling into the darkness of unconsciousness and shadow response. And my shadow work begins once again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I am able to hold space for the healing work and navigate to stay conscious and healthy. I get clear that we made an agreement with the participants that both of us would be there so rescheduling would be ideal instead of only one of us being present. We begin the process of finding a new date, figuring out how to communicate about the reschedule, sending out the communication. But since this is a shadow class, can you imagine all the ways shadow may sneak in? That's a story for some other time.
We now have the new date and are confirming who can attend, doing refunds and filling the empty spots from the wait list. Simple, easy, things are moving forward. Right? But the shadow says, now just wait a minute. Let's see how you handle this.
My cousin passes away, the first one of us from my generation, the oldest daughter of my uncle, the only sibling living from my mom's generation. And guess when her Celebration of Life is. You guessed it, on the date of the rescheduled shadow class and the times are such that it is one or the other. There's no way to physically be at both.
Oh the mix of emotions and thoughts that come up are so classic shadow. My workaholic shadow says that my family will understand. My invisible child shadow says no one will miss me at either place so it doesn't matter what I choose. My perfectionist shadow part says, "you are wrong no matter what choice you make here." And so the work begins again.
The illumination this time around is new for me. I discover I am embarrassed to reschedule again. When I drop into those feelings and thoughts, I realize that I am feeling ashamed because I have a need, a need to grieve the loss of my family member, a need to be with family, a need to take care of myself. To be transparent, I realized shadow work was coming up because all I wanted more than anything was to numb out, check out, and distract myself. This is a "tell" for me. This is my avoidance response when there is something bubbling up for healing.
Needs shame is related to needs shock which is another topic completely. To summarize it briefly here, needs shock develops when we are growing up and we hear things like: I just bought you new shoes and you have already outgrown them? Translation in a kid's mind: I shouldn't be growing like this. Or maybe our caregiver would get angry when we soiled our diaper. Translation in a baby's mind: it is shameful to have body needs. Needs shame develops from needs shock.
So now here I am, sorting through the healing work, weighing what to do and questioning if that is the right decision. Because I work with people doing healing work, I understand the implications of another reschedule. I understand how important it is to show up. I realize the triggers that will get tripped when we don't show up on the date we agreed upon even if the reason is valid. This theme can bring up so much for us around bonding, nourishment, and safety. And where there are old wounds, we find the shadow.
As much as I want to make the choice to go to work and show up for other people, I realize that is part of my shadow dance. It allows me to avoid the harder work: showing up for myself, processing my feelings, illuminating and healing the shadow aspects. My family already knows and loves me, and my fear is that the participants will judge and shame me. The shadow tells me to at least try to be perfect.
Instead, I choose to embrace the harder work, the work of healing the wounds of the shadow. I was also reminded by a dear friend that I can trust that those souls who signed up for the class are also on a healing journey before the class even meets. The rescheduling is part of the class. It offers illumination to the hurts, fears, wounds, and thoughts of their shadows. I can trust that the healing work has started and that it is okay to not feel comfortable during the journey. Once again, I refocus on patience, compassion, and acceptance. Once again, I choose to walk the path of healing.