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ASK A WITCH-Embracing Your Shadow

November 10, 2017

As a witch, I get a lot of opportunities to engage with the shadow aspects of myself and others. I find this aspect of ourselves to be rich and layered, and the more I explore it, the more I appreciate the infinite possibility it holds. I invite you to join me in the journey. 

 

 

I'm hearing a lot about my "shadow" side, but I don't really know what that means. How do I access this part of myself? It is really so important? Thanks, Other Side

Dear Other,

Most famously, Carl Jung addressed and defined the "Shadow" as a personal archetype, a part of ourselves that our ego represses because it is seen as negative or bad. This becomes problematic because when we ignore or reject a part of ourselves it doesn't go away, it just gets shoved further into the depths of our unconscious, where it can run amok. Our shadow stuff can end up directing our behaviors and patterns when we don't have an understanding of it, which can present in different ways. For instance: we see and react strongly to what we don't like in others because on some level we are ashamed of that part of ourselves; we ignore huge aspects of our personality and therefore are not living a fully expressed life, feeling unsatisfied with our very existence; we are troubled with nightmares and anxiety, as our shadow selves endeavor to come into the light. These are just a few examples, but as you can see, none of these are ideal ways to live.

Imagine you are on the surface of the ocean, and you know that there is a shark circling below you. What does your imagination create? An enormous Great White, all death and dead eyes, hungry for your blood. It's so scary you don't even want to face it; you just tread water, heart racing, waiting for the inevitable attack. What if instead of letting your imagination run wild, you look below the surface to see what you are up against. Your man-eating monster turns out to be a three-foot nurse shark, searching the ocean floor for mollusks. The powerful fear is gone, replaced by a clear understanding of your predicament. Armed with this knowledge, you can resume your swim, enjoying yourself and the ocean more fully. This is the power of facing your shadow- there is no way it's as scary as you think it is, but unless you are brave enough to look, you'll remain paralyzed, unable to get on with your life.

The tricky part is that it is called the shadow because it is literally in the dark; without light shed on it, how can we see something? This is where the challenge comes in- we have to lean into those things that feel uncomfortable, the aspects that frighten us. It takes courage to delve into the mysterious, and it is not an easy path. It will take time, but you'll find that the more you peer into the darkness, and the more you pull those shadows up into the light, the less scary they become. That's because once illuminated, they cease to be shadows. These once terrifying things simply become aspects of ourselves, and we can integrate them into a unified whole.

A good (though not necessarily easy) place to start is by examining your sexuality. Our over-arching society is rife with judgements around what is acceptable (vanilla hetero-monagamy) and disdainfully rejects anything "deviant" and outside of those narrow norms. Most of us have desires that fall outside of those parameters, but we feel a
culturally imposed shame about them, and therefore repress them, and, boom, shadow. Do some exploration into fantasy and see if you can tap into a turn-on that surprises or embarrasses you. Examine why you feel that way. Once you've begun to get acquainted with it, you'll recognize your shadow more readily as it shows up.

Our shadow side holds a wealth of information about who we are, our strengths and limitations, and as such it is profoundly powerful. This power can feel frightening, which is a primary reason that we prefer not to engage with it. The issue is that this power becomes untapped, releasing in misdirected and unproductive ways. Imagine if you could harness that power, what feats would you be capable of achieving? How deep would your relationship with yourself, and therefore others, reach?

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