Shadow work


You don’t need to know what a Kokuchi is – the link to darkness is true for even the most trivial of “possessions”.  Whenever we have to say “I don’t know what possessed me”, the shadow was there.

Let’s continue looking at my latest purchase, the book Integral Life Practice which I wrote about yesterday. The first of the four essential modules is the Shadow Module. I think this is an unfortunate placement, albeit understandable.  The authors have reason to be excited that they have included this module at all.  If you think “shadow work” is an alien phrase in mainstream literature, imagine the New Age movement where people start their day with positive affirmations of the type “I am God. I attract health, wealth and happiness.  I deserve to be happy.  I manifest everything I want by the power of my mind.

Long time readers will be familiar with my studies of automisanthropology, the science of why I, of all people, am up to no good. I have been at this since my youth, and consider it a major reason why I am generally happy in my near-hermit life. Living closely with oneself without having done shadow work is likely to be uncomfortable if not outright dangerous. So yeah, shadow work for the win!

However! In the book, this is the first of the four basic modules. And while the authors sensibly mention that a good therapist is the common way to go about it, they don’t let this stop them for long. After all, you may not be able to or willing to see a mental health practitioner. So they quickly move on to their quick, bare-bones gold star method for assimilating your shadow, the 3-2-1 method.  This name comes from the starting point of thinking of the shadow in the third person, as something remote and external; then talking to it in the second person, as a “you”, and finally assimilating it into the first person, I.

This probably works, with some practice. And the book is all about practice – it’s actually in its name. But perhaps you should wait a little longer before you set off to reclaim the parts of yourself that you have thrown down the stairs to the basement and locked the door after. Because there may just be a reason why one would go to such an extreme step with a part of oneself.

Shadow work is not a hobby, to be undertaken for the excitement of it. At the very least pick your shadows carefully, because you really don’t want them to take over your house and throw you down the stairs to the basement, then lock the door.

The authors have been practicing various self-strengthening techniques for many years. In order for you too to be able to face your own shadow, you should first make sure your body, mind and spirit are not a total wreck. If you worship a god, be sure to enlist its help too. I agree that shadow work should be done concurrently with the other three, but I would like to put it at number 4 rather than number 1. It should be approached with great caution, after careful preparation.  But approached it must be, eventually.

Overall, we aim to gradually increase awareness in our lives.  Awareness is the silver bullet, the panacea, the skeleton key, the cheat code to the game of life. (OK, actually it is more like the “sudo” command in Linux, in that you have to use it over and over, not once and for all. But you get the point.)  As we gradually raise our awareness in all parts of our lives, we cannot avoid becoming aware of our projections and our repressed parts. In which case we have to either take a good hard look at them, or give up this whole awareness thing and shrink back to a more constrained state of mind with fewer choices and more slavery.

As I said on September 16, 2001: If you want to see the rainbow, you have to face your own shadow.  I mean that literally:  This is the way light works in the natural world. But it also has some deeper meaning. The rainbow, in the ancient Hebrew myth of Noah’s Flood, was God’s promise that he would never utterly destroy the world.  But if we want that hope, we have to face our shadow.

More about the book later, Light willing.

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