Commusings: Your Shadow Self by Danielle LaPorteFeb 12, 2022
Dear Commune Community,
I never did like descending into the dank, dingy cellar. Who would? It’s full of cobwebs, igniting furnaces and unidentifiable rustlings. It’s literally hellish.
But here I am, on my hands and knees, penlight clenched between my teeth, rummaging through an old chest of thorny memories. Working in the shadows.
The ironic thing is that – after the anxiety settled – the basement is full of as many wonders as spiders.
The unconscious is not categorically gnarly. The Jungian shadow includes everything outside the light of consciousness. But, because we tend to remain willfully ignorant of the most undesirable aspects of our personality, the shadow is perceived to be unseemly.
Fear, guilt, inhibitions, psychoses, jealousy. There’s a dusty crate for each one of them. Unfortunately, our hang-ups can’t just be stored away because the unconscious projects furtively outwards.
Take envy: your unfulfilled potential projected onto someone else. Or consider your moral judgments of others. According to Jung, these assessments are often the psychological projections of your shadow in which a perceived personal inferiority is mapped onto another person.
Jung wrote, "Unfortunately, there is no doubt about the fact that man is, as a whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one has always a chance to correct it.”
Thankfully, there are guides like today’s author, Danielle LaPorte. Danielle nurtures us into floodlight consciousness. The narrow beam of our flashlight of attention widens to a broad accepting awareness of who we are – warts and all.
If your basement doesn't yet have a light switch, Danielle can help do the wiring.
In love (and the shadows), include me,
• • •
Your Shadow Self
By Danielle LaPorte
My interpretation was that “shadow self” was my dark side—my manipulative, arrogant, endlessly needy seductress. And actually… all of that is true. In my shadow (a term for the unconscious self that we all carry), I can also find a few neuroses and this Joan Jett kind of persona lurking. And she has authority issues.
What I had very wrong about shadow work is the notion that all of my fragmented selves and unconscious behaviors needed to be “managed” and sublimated. I thought that I should identify the problematic parts of my personality and give them a stern talking to so that I could then go on to be a more spiritual, loving person. You can see how ridiculous that is. You can’t holler yourself to inner peace.
Your shadow is the basement of your psyche. It’s where your wounds hide, waiting for the light of your attention. It’s the fear underneath our workaholism and anxiety and bravado. And what’s underneath all of that? The Light of our consciousness. Our Higher Self. And thus, the medicine that heals our suffering.
Our shadow self is not an evil twin personality that we have to berate and mollify. Our shadow self is our unhealed self. And criticizing her or dragging him to another motivational workshop to crush the fear… well, I hope that sounds less appealing than it used to.
I know if you’re here reading this via my friends at Commune, then you may already be doing shadow work and striving to align with your Higher Self… intentionally confronting illusions of unworthiness and worth, fears and freedom. And you might have some shadow fatigue. And you might want to cry out, “When does the hyper critical self-analysis ever effing end?”
I can tell you my friend! The hyper critical self analysis ends when you love your woundedness.
That’s shadow work.
Our fear doesn’t need a motivational pep talk. And there’s nothing within us that's going to improve by being shamed or incentivized with a life hack. Manipulation, arrogance, hostility, addictions—these are not irreversible soul defects. They are behaviors that temporarily override our inborn integrity. These negative actions are expressions of the wounds we haven’t healed. Crappy behavior is our unhealed self acting out, screaming for any kind of attention it can get.
Our fear and neurosis need compassion. Without loving kindness, the shadow self clamors louder. The fear grows, the anxiety flares, the setbacks pounce—all to say, Heyyy, I’m down here in the basement and I want into your heart. Pay attention to me.
And rightly so. The fears are of our creation. We crafted the mini monsters, and we can heal and mature them.
Nothing changes or goes away until you give it the love of your attention.
This sounds simple enough, but we tend to avoid our Shadow by…
- Overachieving—spiritual bypassing under the guise of self-improvement. We can’t tend to our pain if we’re shellacking it with positivity.
- Overworking to stay distracted from our perceived brokenness. If I just keep working hard, I’ll get what I want. I will be so industrious and devoted and good, that God will deliver me… because that’s how karma works, yeah? Nope.
- Overconsumption and addictive habits—from using mood-altering substances to buying stuff we don’t really need in order to feel and “look” better… temporarily.
- Hanging out in superficial relationships to avoid being truly seen-felt-heard or intimate.
So, rather than trying to overachieve, over-analyze, or paper over our shadow with more shadow work (yes, that’s possible!) — instead we make the unconscious conscious by being gentle and understanding with it. That’s the “light” in the "light of consciousness."
So we say to our abandonment issues (that are always derailing our relationships to get our attention), “Okay, I have compassion for you. And I have so much Love to give you, even though you’ve been derailing my relationships and causing me a lot of embarrassment. I’ll stop judging you and I’ll be curious and compassionate when you flare up.” And then your abandonment issues relax.
Shadow work is love, you see.
You could have a different conversation with your fear or shame or your punk authority issues. It might go like so:
“Ahhh… fear, there you are keeping me up at night… Okay, what do you want to tell me?” And you listen, curiously, like you would listen to a friend in pain. And then you carry on, with your fear in your heart, not relegated to the basement of your psyche. You take your fear with you instead of sending it back to the shadow. And then your fear actually starts to calm down. And you carry on, more whole and together.
When I finally shone some light onto my psyche, what I found was a bruised little girl who needed more love and care. I had been neglecting her anxiety and pain on the way to Enlightenment. My inner conversation went something like this…
I see you. I see your fear, shame, terror… and I’m not judging you anymore. I’m going to embrace you. In fact, I’m going to listen to everything you need to say.
I know I’ve neglected you. I’ve overworked when you needed rest. I’ve gone out with men who didn’t fucking get it. I know it might be hard to trust me, but you can trust me now because I’m here to do the work. I’m going to take care of you… and I have the Great Divine Mother helping mother me, so that I can mother you.
So, do you need me to stop overworking so that we can rest and be well? Okay.
Do you need me to get into nature more, so that you can feel nourished? Okay.
Need me to break up with situations that are insensitive to your very deep sensitivity? Okay.
I’m going to value your life with my compassion and love.
I’ve got you.
Go fetch what’s in your dark nature, the stuff you keep hidden from your “spiritual” overachiever self. (This is the work of our lives.) And let it sit next to the more obviously wonderful parts of yourself.
This is what it means to live a heart-centered life, to be inclusive of yourself—and of others. The shadow, the light, the fear, and the freedom.
In the heart, it all belongs. Your greatest power move is very, very gentle.
Always with Love,
• • •
Danielle LaPorte is a member of Oprah’s Super Soul 100, a group who, in Oprah Winfrey’s words, “is uniquely connecting the world together with a spiritual energy that matters.” She’s the former director of a future studies think tank in Washington, DC. She now speaks about the intelligence of Love.
Danielle is the creator of the Heart Centered Facilitator Program and Membership with 400+ leaders doing Heart Centered conversation circles and workshops in over 30 countries.
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