“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The last several months have definitely been a time of challenge and controversy. I can honestly say that in the last seven months, I’ve had the most sadness than I have in any other time frame since my mother died. More sadness, more frustration, more smh (shaking my head.) I always keep Dr. King’s quote in my mind when I am facing challenges because it reminds me to check-in with my core and to remember who I AM. Am I a fair-weather spiritualist who claims “Namaste” when things are good but “Go to hell” when things are challenging? In other words, do all my spiritual principles fly out the window when my security is threatened or my principles or violated?
The answer for me is NO. I walk my talk. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll curse out a fool, but I always acknowledge that the fool is reflecting me back to me. And so while I’m cursing, I’m also shadow working to see the root cause of MY problem.
These last few months have been so challenging for me. But I’ll tell you what! I woke up this morning feeling determined. None of the new-normal fears could get me down. There was no concern about social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, business closures, travel bans, giving up my Italian flat, overwhelmed hospitals and staff, fear of bringing disease home to my Airbnb hosts (one of whom has COPD and the other is healthy as a horse, but over age 65)… all those things that had been wearing on my mind for months are now being put in perspective. Even after the most recent blow to my lifestyle didn’t shake me. I was in a state of acceptance and ready to move into my new circumstances.
As a Spiritual Life Coach, my job is to help my tribe improve their lives by getting them in touch with their inner being. For me, this means their Spirit Guides, their own energetic vibration and their true source of power. But it also means that I need to help them heal emotional wounds and overcome emotional trauma; particularly subconscious suppressed and repressed emotions that are hidden below their conscious awareness. These are the true killers of dreams, hopes and ambitions!
It is the job of Spiritual Life Coaches, as leaders of our tribes, to perpetuate a healthy lifestyle that inspires our people. But how do we ourselves stay positively focused when we are experiencing troubling times? Financial hardships, relationship challenges, changing business environments, negative reviews or client complaints, health scares, politics, world turmoil… how do we stay strong when faced with obstacles and challenges that weaken most mortals?
Prayer, good friends, time spent in nature and wine are at the top of my list. But really, the most important tool in my box is shadow work. Have you heard of it?
In this article, I’m going to talk to you about the importance of shadow work and I want to inspire you to explore it more thoroughly. I’m going to be leading a free masterclass called Healing the Healer: 3 Powerful Tools for Healing, Transformation and Self-Realization and I really want to get you onboard with the importance of working with your shadow self before it begins. You’re gonna want to take this class because it’s gonna help you be your best so you can serve your tribe from a place of creativity.
Transforming Your Life from the Inside Out
If what we experience outside ourselves is an outpicturing of what is happening inside our minds, then wouldn’t it be logical to deal with our problematic life experiences from the inside out– to start by healing the mind? That’s the job of shadow work.
Hey, if you’re reading this article, you probably already know this and work your life in this way. My Badass Butterflies get it!! You meditate and pray, do yoga and journal and you look at yourself first; and then, after dealing with your own emotional baggage, you make decisions and find solutions for your three-dimensional material world issues from a place of the healed Soul. I’m not saying you do this all the time perfectly. But you strive to do this and you practice it all to the best of your ability. Hahahaha! I’m radically self accepting and I adore practicing radical kindness with myself. I’m totally doing a shoutout to Tara Brach, whom I just love because in her book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, I learned the meaning of Unconditional Love. I totally recommend this book for getting yourself on track to healing and really, just evolving as a multidimensional love bug. And the fact is that as a Spiritual Life Coach, you do NOT have to be perfect. You just have to PRACTICE loving yourself and others unconditionally; remembering that it’s a PRACTICE, not a PERFECTION.
Your job as a Spiritual Life Coach is not to be problemless (because that would mean you aren’t growing, expanding and evolving) but to be committed to exploring your problems and dealing with the consequences from the place of Unconditional Love, trust in the nature of the Divine, and a relentless pursuit of emotional wellness.
Shadow work changed my entire life and really, it’s the thing that makes me a Badass Butterfly. Shadow work is the practice of consciously going into the deepest, darkest parts of yourself and shining a light on it with the intention to love it to death. Hahahaha! Did I just say that you’re going to love your shadow to death? I did. Ha! I’m cracking myself up right now because that’s exactly what ends up happening to your shadow when you do shadow work– it gets loved to death. Doing shadow work makes me a Badass Butterfly because it is the key tool that helped me break free from the cocoon of unworthiness. Looking at my shadow, confronting my fear, feeling my shame without turning away from it, embracing all the hard emotions like self-doubt, disappointment, unworthiness and lack… doing all that work and coming out of the challenges with a smile on my face, a gleam in my eye and tremendous optimism about my future is freaking BADASS. I’ve gotten my ass kicked, friend. I’ve experienced hunger, homelessness, physical debilitation, loss, rape, humiliation and terror. I’ve not only lived to tell the tale, but I actually came out of that shit with a deep knowing of my Divinity. Shadow work is the tool that helped me master it.
Who Are You, Really? Shadow Work Origins…
Do you truly know yourself? You’re probably saying, “Heck yeah, Crystal Lynn! I know myself!” However, according to Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, this is not the case. Sigmund Freud, Jung’s counterpart, defined the human psyche as having three levels: ID, EGO, and SUPEREGO. The ID is the instinctual part of the human psyche. It is primitive, and it stores sexual desires, aggression, hidden memories. EGO is the part that is influenced by the external world. It is a bridge between the external world and ID. It uses reason to make decisions. But it also seeks material pleasures and satisfaction. SUPEREGO, however, is driven by societal norms, rules, laws, regulations. It knows what is right and what is wrong. It controls our unconscious impulses and emotions. Taking this concept as the foundation of his research, Jung identified the ID part of the psyche as our SHADOW SELF.
Going back to the initial question of how well you know yourself, of course, you have an idea of who you are and what your basic desires are. Afterall, you have been all up in you for all your life! You know what you believe in and what you can and cannot accept. You have opinions about people and things. However, according to Jung, there is a part of your psyche that is unknown to you: It operates in a shadow, quietly. It has a profound impact on your actions and emotions. In other words, your personality has two sides: One that is known to you, and the one that is not. The latter is your shadow self.
Everything you think to be true about yourself might be, but it probably ain’t! The devil is hidden in the subconscious details. There is a time in everyone’s life when they have acted out of character, unexpectedly. Maybe you’ve shown too much anger that was out of proportion or that had no real basis. Perhaps you did something completely against your core beliefs. During those episodes, without you noticing, your shadow self took control and got behind the wheel of your being. Your suppressed emotions, your suppressed beliefs, your hidden feelings got unleashed and exposed. Look out, Jack!
It’s important to remember that this is the case for everyone. We all have a dark side and a dual personality.
So What Is Shadow Work Exactly?
In short, shadow work is the process of getting in touch with our subconscious mind. By diving into your subconscious, you hold a light to thoughts, emotions, fears, and beliefs that are hidden in the shadows of your conscious awareness. In doing so, you bring what was hidden up to the surface to be examined, dealt with and integrated into your conscious mind. The opportunity opens for you to create a mindset that has been freed of the negative beliefs, fears, thoughts and emotions that limit your perception and de-energize you. The result is simple: you without all the baggage. I call this you, the Authentic Self.
There are many different shadow work techniques people use for their personal growth. The purpose is to understand and accept ourselves better. There is no need to carry around shame or guilt for your past behaviors, even if you’ve made mistakes. Instead, we need to find the right way to get to the bottom of those feelings that hold us back so that we can repair the deep wounding and get to know the REAL us.
As a Spiritual Life Coach and healer, you will definitely benefit from developing a regular healing and shadow work practice that you use personally and without a doubt, you will pass on your strategies to your clients.
Here are some important keys that I want you to keep in mind as you begin and progress through your shadow journey:
Believe in Yourself
It is important to acknowledge that nothing in life is permanent. This is true for both life affirming events and challenging ones. Knowing that all things come to an end and there are highs and lows in life is an important concept to recognize. Especially during tough and trying times, it is important to keep a positive approach. Acknowledge that you are worthy, and you deserve good things, just like everyone else. Getting out of the victim’s psychology is essential to finding inner peace. We have a tendency to give up because it is the easiest thing to do. When we give up on something that we desire, we don’t have to deal with the fear of change, the anxiety of the unknown, and the humiliating feeling of defeat. As social beings, we are surrounded by societal norms. Everyone is expecting us to behave a certain way and to act a certain way. In the vicious circle of expectations, our lives spiral down the rabbit hole. We tend to lose hope that things will get better. It is an escape from reality. If you find yourself struggling with destructive feelings about yourself, try to sit in silence and/or meditate to experience the moment and reflect on your emotions. Even if you simply sit in peace and quiet and just let your thoughts and emotions run through your head, you will see that each time you practice this, you will have a better and deeper understanding of the root of your negative emotions and self-destructive thought patterns. You don’t have to try hard to meditate. Become aware of your thoughts and emotions. There is only you at that moment. There are no thoughts or emotions that are bad. It is OK to feel what you feel. Do your best in the moment to examine yourself deeply and get to the core of these thoughts and emotions. It is when you stop rationalizing and projecting things that you will truly find the right way to handle them and fix them. So be completely open and honest with yourself. Try to ask yourself questions about why you are feeling a certain way, or why you behaved a certain way. Then just wait for your subconscious to answer you. Because that’s where the answer is. It will come out when your protective egoic self stops attempting to block it.
Face Your Shadow
Most of the time, we have repeating thought patterns and behaviors. No matter what we do, we can’t stop them. It is because we don’t yet know how to face these shadows. It might be intimidating at first. for instance, you have a habit that you think is not socially appropriate, yet you like it. You try to find your ways to deal with the feelings of guilt and you come up with excuses each time to explain this behavior to yourself. It might be a sexual act or something that would make you look selfish and uncaring. You tell yourself you are not that person because you would never do it, let alone enjoy it. Then you come up with a long list of excuses, accompanied by a deep feeling of guilt. You get through the moment until it happens again. Each time you give in to this habit, you end up feeling worse about yourself. Why? To face your shadow, you have to ask yourself some bold questions and be ready for the answers. Be also ready to accept the answers. Some negative thought patterns include statements like: I’m not worthy enough; no one loves me because I have nothing to offer to anyone; I can never be like so and so (comparing yourself to someone else)… the list goes on and on. Then ask yourself why you are feeling these. What is it about you to make you doubt yourself so deeply? Do not force yourself to give the answers. The answers have to come out naturally. No matter how long it takes. Eventually, they will come out. You will know it because it will be a completely different experience. Something big like a revelation. At that exact moment, you will feel a big relief and you will feel victorious. There is no mistake about it. When you have the answer, you will face your shadow. It will be the biggest step towards your self-acceptance and recovery.
Your Shadow Is Your Strength
It may sound counter-intuitive to say this, but the sooner you embrace its truth, the faster your life will improve. Your dark side is also your potential to grow. You can’t defeat the enemy if you don’t know it thoroughly! Once you identify the source of any problem, you can clearly see how to change any disempowered behavior that stems from it. Then you can turn it into a triumph. Some shadows might be darker than others. Especially if they are connected to past trauma, extreme emotional distress, abuse, addiction, etc. But they all operate the same way. For instance, if you are struggling with altruism, and you always put others first, you might also struggle to accept the fact that taking care of your personal wants and needs is essential to your mental and emotional balance. YEP! I’m saying that you might learn that you give so much because you’re overcompensating for being unable to receive. And you then just might find that unworthiness drives your altruism. That’s not altruism. That’s slavery! As another example, you might have a hard time seeing that when you have no boundaries, people regularly take advantage of you. You will see that people who have strong boundaries and who know how to put themselves first are more respected and valued… and they’re probably getting paid more for doing the same work you do. I’m just sayin’! I see it all the time!! Embracing your shadow and diving deep into your work will help you learn that establishing firm boundaries, although hard at first, will give you a balanced mental state so you can better deal with others.
We all go through periods of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and depression. Before we can see the light, though, we all need to come to terms with the shadowy night and those periods of darkness. Shadow work techniques, which you can use for yourself, as well as, with your clients, will help you break through and reach the next chapter in your life and enable you to become a better and more successful human being. Shadow work helps us know ourselves and others better. It is empowering, relaxing, motivating. It can help us manage our anger, depression, anxiety, and stress. It can help us heal our traumatic experiences and deeper wounds.
If you are curious about shadow work and you want to learn more about how to use it, then join me for my free masterclass called Healing the Healer: 3 Powerful Tools for Healing, Transformation and Self-Realization. In it, you’re going to get my most powerful tools for breaking through shadow and transforming your life. It’s free to join!