The human shadow carries with it the potential for global annihilation and the potential to regenerate and evolve our species. At the crossroads, which road shall we choose?
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference ~ Robert Frost
Down the path less traveled you meet the mysterious, unfamiliar, and at times horrifying parts of yourself. Long ago, for good reasons, you rejected and exiled specific behaviors, emotions, beliefs, memories, and capabilities. For example: If you were raised in a home where being the Good Child, the Pleaser was rewarded, and being more Selfish or Outspoken was punished, you may have determined that being the Pleaser was the wiser path. The Pleaser then became one of your many Primary Selves.
Primary Selves (i.e. Pleaser, Pusher/Achiever, Responsible, Perfectionist, Rational, Critic) were very creative adaptations to your environment. Because of them you survived, grew the skills for success, and received as much care and respect as possible.
Considered dangerous, even deadly, the Selfish, Outspoken, Expressive Selves (called Disowned Selves) were blocked, stuffed, and imprisoned in a dark cavern inside you. That cavern is your shadow. The shadow is not an abstract, academic concept. It is real. It is in you as it is in every individual. It is in family systems, groups, and nations.
It makes great sense to identify with the Primary Self system while you are developing, surviving childhood, and successfully stepping into adult life. Over time, however, your perceptions about who you are and subsequent decisions about how you should live every aspect of your life become extremely limiting. You are blind to entire spectrums of possibilities and options that exist within you; and are a part of you!
Shadow Work is the courageous path inward to respectfully discover that which is unknown or ignored; to carefully enter into relationship with your Disowned Selves; and to discern which of their essential gifts to bring into life. Thomas Moore says, “Shadow, pure and simple, is one of the greatest gifts of soul.” Shadow work can evoke a rebirth of vitality, wholeness, high energy levels, and the ability to resolve heretofore impossible conflicts. You discover lost talents, allow for buried emotions, and live from the totality of your being.
There are many methods used to guide Shadow Work. I have found Voice Dialogue to be profoundly effective at accessing the darker, mysterious realms within. Voice Dialogue offers a safe, structured path to direct communications with both your Primary and Disowned Selves. Voice Dialogue is based on some vital and effective rules: 1) Every Inner Self is to respected and honored for exactly who and what it is. 2) We never ask or expect a Self to change its essential nature. 3.) No Inner Self is expelled from the inner family of sub-personalities. Because of these rules the inner world begins to relax and become more available to you.
Voice Dialogue facilitation welcomes your highly developed Primary Selves, and the less known, repressed Disowned Selves to speak their truth. You learn to appreciate both sides of the many pairs of opposites that live within you (i.e. Pleaser – Selfish/Self-Caring, Rational Mind – Emotional/Intuitive, Perfectionist – “Good enough is good enough”, Pusher/Achiever – Laid Back/Being, etc.).
Consider that your inner world of selves is like an orchestra of different instruments; with only a few instruments playing. What is needed is a Conductor. Voice Dialogue develops your Inner Conductor with the capacity to bring out the best of all the instruments, thus fulfilling the potential of the whole.
To change the world, we must begin by changing ourselves. As you and other individuals do this work, it is more likely that families, groups, and then nations will look to their own natures – known and heretofore unknown. As this awakening, inclusive consciousness begins to operate at a more global level; wars cease, co-operation, collaboration, and conscious action emerge that appreciate our differences while supporting the well-being of the whole.
When you take the “road less traveled” you enter a life-long, life-altering course that leads to self-awareness, the ability to hold the tension of the opposites within you and in life, and a not inconsiderable sense of wonder at the ever unfolding mystery of who you are.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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