Part 2. Exploring the Shadow side of Self Love!

In summary of part 1’s Exploring the shadow side of self-love I talked about the shadow aspect of the personality and referenced my own personal journey around shadow parts referring  to not feeling loved and how these parts continually showing up in my life through my relationships with myself and others. I mentioned the problems with the shadow aspect of the personality, which has a habit of continually showing up in thoughts, behaviors and actions and even more so if a conscious effort is not made to address the underlying issues.

We know light expels the shadow and the light in this case is the light generated through bringing the shadow part into the conscious mind for identification, observation, self-expression and reintegration.

Is the Shadow our Greatest Friend or Biggest Enemy?

OK, looking at the shadow aspect of ourselves and how it was possibly created may be able to answer this question and shed some well needed light on this delicate subject. During birth humans go through both a traumatic and very beautiful experience, for the mother it is well documented that giving birth to a child is extremely painful, arduous and much vulnerability is experienced during this time with doctors, midwives and partners sharing in what can only be described as a intimate experience. The baby is born and great euphoria is then experienced by all involved as the child is passed into the hands of the mother and the whole loving, nurturing journey begins.

In recent research coming out of the UK’s University college Hospital the study talks about a baby being able to feel pain which is general bursts of electrical activity in the brain. After 35 to 37 weeks of development, the babies’ responses changed to localized activity in specific areas of the brain. This suggests they were beginning to perceive painful stimulation as separate from touch.

Without becoming too scientific about the whole early developmental process, I want to maintain a focus on emotional pain and in particular relating it to the lack of or experience of love. Most of us can recall the experiment that was carried out in a Russian orphanage where 20 babies were kept in a sterile environment which reduced the risk of getting sick and were restricted the love of their carers, so no touch, eye contact or love given to them. The experiment was stopped after half the babies died, showing the overwhelming need that humans have for love.

So the shadow part of ourselves we could say is like one of those babies that has been neglected, suppressed and void of our love, condemning it to the darkest unreachable places of ourselves. The shadow doesn’t remain in those darkened places for long and has a habit of showing up in our relational interactions, in my case my shadow has been around not feeling loved and I have observed my shadow within intimate relationships, If I felt my needs for being shown  love were not being met I would become reactive to the point of lashing out with hurtful words, for a moment this may make me feel better as the mind chooses a strategy for my protection through the reactive fight or flight response.

Observing these patterns of resourceful behaviours can have great benefit for our our growth and evolution towards becoming the greatest version of ourselves as we learn strategies that allow us to reconnect with our shadow parts. Here are some tips on getting to know your shadow and how to show it some love:

  1. Firstly start to develop an awareness of your thoughts and behaviours within your relationships, journal ling is a great way of doing this.
  1. Start a conversation with your partner outlining how you feel, make them aware of your feelings in relation to a specific situations, particular words, events or language that triggers your thoughts and emotions. Only then can you begin to bring the shadow into the light of consciousness.
  1. Learn to identify your feelings, this can be tricky at first because the mind likes to create a story about the feeling in order to give it meaning. A good strategy is to follow your feelings with breath, feel into them and label the emotion with simple names such as sadness, happiness etc. Become the observer and ask questions ” what does this sadness feel like in my body” keep following the feelings with your breath and you will notice shifts in the intensity, gradually reducing in severity.
  1. Follow your addictions, what I mean by this is your avoidance strategies that you go to when your in pain or suffering emotionally. It might be sugar, internet porn , alcohol, violence or overeating, these behaviors will help you identify when your shadow aspect is showing up.
  1. There are many great therapists or practitioners that regular work with clients in developing strategies to reintegrate the shadow part of ourselves. Ken Wilber’s Intergral shadow work Coaching methodology looks a lot at healthy ways to reintegrate the shadow.

Remember self-love starts with you; learning to give to ourselves first in order to have the capacity to give to others is a valuable lesson to learn. The shadow aspect showing up may very well be a gift to you, helping you to become aware of where you are neglecting your heart’s desires, a great saying I was told a few years ago is this ” Whatever you resist persists”

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