Relationships of any kind help you face parts of your 'shadow' – buried parts that may otherwise remain hidden and unconscious, light or dark. You may project these parts on to other people, or attract people that act out these subconscious selves; aspects that are coming up for acknowledgement or healing at any given time in your life.
I came across the concept of the shadow in my late teens, and it was then I first realised I may have some repressed anger. I had gotten the message strongly from my mother that anger was not OK to feel or express, as much in the way she behaved herself (never overtly expressing it) as anything she actually said about it.
My anger had been so stuffed down and disowned but was showing up in my first love relationship with someone who had a lot of pain, and covering that, anger, both of which he attempted to numb with drugs. I too had that anger, though was largely dissociated from it.
Some of my most healing experiences have been ones where I travelled down to meet the darkest places within and experience what was there – the anger, pain, worthlessness, despair, fear, hopelessness, etc.
These experiences were extremely healing for me, for in travelling down to parts that felt so pained and bereft, I opened to receive love where I most needed it. Facing the dark within and my core wounds led to greater light.
From wounds can come wings, from depths can come heights, all can be opportunity for your life to take flight!
I found in diving into my pain or whatever dark emotions were there, and the layers that existed above or below them, I eventually 'bottomed out' into a higher space, lighter emotions, expansion and more love; a turning of the tide in which I experienced more of the truth of who you I am, more of my love, essence, and value, and the love that was there for me.
It is a time of individual and collective purification. We are being drawn now more than ever to take responsibility and bring to light our unconscious patterns, cycles, and past wounds for healing and addressing any continuing impact they have on our lives as we more fully wake up to being source, not subject, of our reality.
On this journey of healing and awakening layers may surface. These may not be pretty. They may include old wounds, repressed shadow aspects, limiting beliefs, stories, and negative agendas. In the light of awareness alone these can dissipate.
You are not your darkness, though in meeting it with love, compassion, and forgiveness, it can heal and transform. In the process you become more intimate with yourself, more whole, free and self-loving, and through that more loving and compassionate of others too.
I have given myself permission to dive into my emotions throughout much of my life. Through that I have experienced some very dark states.
Paradoxically I have also experienced such ineffable states of bliss I have been virtually unable to move – what I describe as 'divine union'. In these peak ecstatic experiences every fibre of my being is flooded with an immeasurable love-beyond-words. What feels like 10 minutes in this rapturous bliss can turn out to be hours as time no longer exists in these states. I'll share more on these experiences another time.
I believe that in processing depths of darkness and base levels in my unconscious I created a reservoir for more light to enter – a deeper 'container,' if you like.
Embracing and loving your shadow sides enables you to love yourself more fully and authentically. It also enables you to be more real with others, as well as more compassionate and loving as you are less likely to project your shadows onto others and judge or condemn them for that. When you judge you project your shadows onto others, when you love you project your light.
The problem comes when you identify with your shadow as being who you are, which leads to more repression because you then push away what you want to avoid about yourself, secretly believing it is you, which it is not.
You are having a human experience and here to live that fully as you are – the beautifully flawed, imperfect, miraculous you!
It's not about being perfect, it's about being YOU.
I find it fascinating watching what parts of my shadow are coming up at any given time to own, forgive, accept, etc. It's intriguing how it happens in phases too, sometimes with a theme emerging and a repeated trait coming to the surface in different people I meet, light or dark.
Is there a distinct behaviour that is repeatedly showing its face in your life at this time to own, forgive, heal or integrate?
Very often with the shadow what is coming to light through the behaviour of another may not be something you personally identify with. You may have difficulty associating with it, and it may show up in a more exaggerated form. It may be hard to identify since it is buried, but if you dig deeper you may locate it within. I have found some shadow work to reach as far back as unconscious patterns from previous life-times even.
Look for the quality that is pressing on a button or having a negative impact in your life. The person whom you perceive has the trait you dislike in your world may be magnifying the quality that you are denying in yourself, and bringing it to light to acknowledge, forgive and let go.
As you seek to own a shadow quality, memories or situations may come to mind of times when you have, either to yourself or another, acted or thought in a way that corresponds with the trait you are judging.
I don't believe the 'people are mirrors' concept is simple or black-and-white. It can be complex. Your experiencing something or someone 'negative' may be reflecting beliefs you have about yourself, others or the world, a story or pattern that is running in your consciousness, a soul-level challenge or a shadow being reflected.
You also have a "Light Shadow" – positive aspects of self you may disown, deny and project out onto others. Who and what do you admire? Are you idealising someone or putting them on a pedal-stool? What of your gifts, strengths, talents, love, power and qualities are you projecting 'out there' onto another?
Aine Belton is founder of the GlobalLoveProject.com