Conformity is how we have been conditioned to participate in a false sense of security which results in us being out of integrity with ourselves. On a deep, unconscious level we are aware of this and this awareness largely informs our suffering.
We abdicate 'the self' by continuing to show up in the world in accordance with the expectations of others which is reinforced by their projections and our reflexive need to defend ourselves in response to those projections. We become imprisoned through fear of what other people will think of us. In an effort to mitigate loss, we participate in the collective conditioning that has us constantly relying on our environment and those who inhabit it to reflect back to us that we exist and are safe, secure, loved and accepted.
The Shadow Self is an aspect of the self that is carefully hidden away and personifies everything that we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves. Carl Jung identified it as the “unknown dark side of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself.” The unconscious rejection of this aspect of the ‘self’ creates a fundamental ‘split’ that we are always defending against.
Our social conditioning has taught us that the best way to heal this ‘split’, and get our emotional needs met, is to rely primarily on those individuals we form relationships with to make us feel better about ourselves. This conditioning is the ‘springboard’ that propels us into forming co-dependent relationships throughout the course of our lifetime.
The very nature of co-dependency ends up reinforcing the ‘wall’ or ‘façade’ that we’ve created that guards us against acknowledging, embracing and integrating our shadow material. Because we are now completely reliant on the other to make us feel good about ourselves; we can’t risk the possibility that they will get a peek beyond the ‘wall’ that we’ve created that so carefully guards everything we judge about ourselves.
Fear of Abandonment
The belief is that if we allow the ‘façade’ to drop, then those, whose opinions matter so much to us, will be repulsed. And that is why most of our energies are spent every day ensuring that our shadows will never be exposed to the light of day out of fear of being abandoned by those we love.
One of the central themes in the healing I facilitate for my clients is to acknowledge our Shadow Self and to understand that the primary tension that we carry within us at all times is the denial and rejection of this shadow aspect in an unconscious attempt to minimize loss.
The key to healing everything is to begin to accept, embrace and integrate all those aspects of ourselves that we despise and loathe and keep carefully hidden away. In order to heal beyond the ‘split’ towards wholeness and well-being, it is imperative that we plumb these depths. There are no detours.
Summarizing the Shadow Self
The Shadow Self is an aspect of the self that is carefully hidden away and personifies everything that we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves. The unconscious rejection of this aspect of the self creates a fundamental ‘split’ that we are always defending against.
This conditioning is the ‘springboard’ that propels us into forming co-dependent relationships throughout the course of our lifetime. Our social conditioning has taught us that the best way to heal this ‘split’, and get our emotional needs met, is to rely primarily on those individuals we form relationships with to make us feel better about ourselves.
Most of our energies are spent every day ensuring that our shadows will never be exposed to the light of day out of fear of being abandoned by those we love.
The Journey to Self-Love and Acceptance
Our outer world is a continuous reflection of what we believe to be true about ourselves. If we deeply desire to be in a loving relationship with another; then we must first learn how to be in a loving relationship with ourselves. In order to do this, we must first begin to immerse ourselves in those shadow aspects which we’ve kept carefully hidden from ourselves and others. This is the journey to self-love and self-acceptance; without which, we will never have the capacity to truly love another:
THE SHADOW SELF
“ ... For fear threatens the self-image you have so
And it threatens the sexual role you have
And you dread shame or loss of control
And in relationships you vacillate between
fears of too much closeness or not enough
And you fear the suffering that others can inflict:
criticism and rejection, humiliation and invasion
And vulnerable and insecure, you fear the
aggravation of opening old wounds
And the sense of being overwhelmed by facets
of yourself which have been condemned in the
past, even by yourself as well as others
And your greatest fears may be threats to your
physical body or to your identity
And so you cling to the familiar parental voices
Lest you re-experience the traumas of
childhood which could plunge you headlong
into the black abyss of terror; the world of the
frightened, rejected child...abandoned and
And some inner guardian ardently defends the
gate that seals off the pain and anxiety of old
When shadows play at the edge of your mind...
Become your shadow-self
Woo the distrustful child out of the darkness
and back to life
For shadows tell us what we fear
And draw smudged pictures of dreads we are
afraid to feel
Face them and you will balance your inner self
and the persona you present to the outside
world: the mask
For within those smoky depths are stored
nightmares: the worst images we have of
Shadows are places of mysterious fears
There is no sun there
And they represent the lowest point; the nadir
of our existence where ghastly forms loom and
lurk in their dark corners, writhing and draping
veils over the light of our days...
For the shadow is the secret arena of the inner
And no one outside of ourselves can see it
And when we dare to enter therein, we
And all of our energies are directed inward
towards the dark unconscious
For its locked-up material must be brought into
the conscious mind if you are ever to feel
complete and whole and at peace
Still, some choose to live in those shadowy
worlds where dreams, nightmares and realities
are forever confused...
Constantly moving in and out of each other
So decisions are impossible to make
And facts are hopelessly distorted by
propaganda or fears
And outward lives reflect the pathetic inner
As the confused one flits around endlessly in
From task to task
From opinion to empty opinion
And he chatters on, pouring out streams of
words with no substance
And in encountering your shadow-self, you
may wonder how you can live with the
discovery of your own ugliness and potential
For you will glimpse terrifying energies within,
gaining pleasure from revenge or planning the
downfall of those who have hurt you
And you may even uncover a masochistic
craving for physical or emotional self-abuse
For discovering inner demons is a terrible blow
to your self-esteem
Know that the first experience of bringing those
bad energies out is always the worst
But once out of darkness, they lose power
and evaporate in the light
Learn to trust the beauty within, while
tolerating your darker side
For it is a paradox that the process of spiritual
growth involves lessening your attachment to
your ideal images of self and others and
embracing instead your lowest, most vile self
And if at first you feel threatened or repulsed
by your hidden facets
Know that you can only discover the buried
treasure within by being willing to embrace the
distrustful, uncooperative child
Love and understanding will eventually open
See the most evil parts of yourself as the
methods of survival for a terrified child whose
needs have been distorted by years of
emotional neglect and abuse
Seek out the child’s needs
Meet those needs and soothe his fears
Confront him, touch him
Tell him you are a friend from his future
And that you understand his pain
And you will create for yourself the nurturing
conditions that lead to transformation
Then open the channel of healing love and
compassion for others
For only then will the twisted, unredeemed
facets of yourself and the evil hiding within, be
countered and melted by warm feelings
Then you will at last feel compassion for
poem by Zambucka, Kristin. (1999).
The Classic Trilogy, Ano ‘Ano:
The Seed, The Mana Keepers, The Fire Lily.
Honolulu, Hawaii: Mutual Publishing. Pg. 119-124.
Article excerpted from Beyond the Imprint
©2016 by Kate O'Connell, LPC. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Beyond The Imprint: A New Modality for Mental Health Practitioners and Those Seeking Their Help
by Kate O'Connell
Beyond the Imprint (BTI) heralds a new paradigm of thinking within the field of mental health counseling that is beyond the duality of our unconscious conditioning. Quantum Physics is beginning to replace the mechanistic view of Newtonian Physics and is teaching us with every new discovery that we are intimately interconnected with our environment and everything in it. This includes the understanding that we can change what is outside of us by simply changing ourselves.
About the Author
KATE O’CONNELL is a Child and Family Therapist with a private practice in Charlottesville, VA, addressing the therapeutic needs of children, adolescents, adults and families. Her training in Intensive In-Home Services, Addiction, Family Systems Therapy and Energy Medicine enables her to facilitate positive outcomes for her clients, all the while advocating for them within the legal, academic, medical, and social systems. Her book provides the framework for the ministrations of The Healing Alliance of Central Virginia (www.hacva.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to uniting the skills, wisdom and expertise of health practitioners in the community. HACVA offers a variety of efficacy-based modalities to facilitate mental, emotional, and physical healing at the cellular level for individuals of all ages and all walks of life, regardless of ability to pay. Visit Kate's website at www.oconnellkate.com