Over the last couple of years, I’ve been delving into Shadow Work. Reading up on anything I can get my hands on. If you’re not familiar, it’s a concept created by Carl Jung, a psychologist from back in the day, who believed that we all have a light side and a dark, shadow side to us.
It’s referred to as the shadow because it’s those parts of us that we don’t want others to see. We don’t want folks to know about. Mainly because somewhere along the way we were told that those things were “bad,” “wrong,” “not ladylike,” etc… So what we do is stuff it away and act like those traits don’t exist. But they can stay suppressed only for so long before they show up when least expected.
In essence, core wounds are those things that make us feel less than, not enough, inadequate. The website Loner Wolf does a superb job explaining this. Most often than not, we received these wounds as kids. When we’re kids, we’re not able to accurately process it when our parent(s) yell at us, or call us out of our names, or hits us one too many times. So, we internalize that to make it mean something is wrong with us, that we’re defective, unlovable. We don’t have the language to articulate it for what it is, which is that our parents are dealing with their own trauma and are unable to process it appropriately, thus misdirecting all of their anger and sadness.
I grew up an only child, with just my mom and I in the household from when I was 11 years old until I turned 18. From birth until 10 years old, we lived with other folks, which I won’t get into in this blog post. But what I will say is, living with a house full of folks was a welcome distraction from the attention I wasn’t getting from my mother. I didn’t feel the brunt of that until it was just she and I living together, solo dolo.
I’ve written about this several times before that my mother was emotionally unavailable and my father was both physically and emotionally vacant. This created a host of issues for me, many that I’m still unpacking to this day, and I’m 46 years old.
Because I was ignored by mom, I developed this huge core wound of not feeling seen and heard. This led to me doing all sorts of things to get attention, from getting pregnant at 14 and again at 17 to becoming a promiscuous adult and giving up my body to anyone who I felt “saw” me.
And that’s not it. Trauma doesn’t just show up in one area; it spills into other areas of your life as well. It showed up at work in the form of challenging any and everybody who I felt was criticizing me. I yelled and would cuss folks out because I needed to be heard dammit. I had my hair died fuchsia in the 10th grade, I have over 20 tattoos, and I used to have a slew of piercings. I needed to be seen dammit.
Even though I’ve done some healing, I still get triggered by some things, for instance, when I feel like I’m not being heard and seen. It takes me back to that little girl who was vying for her mother’s attention. Because of the extensive work I’ve been doing on healing myself, I know that I have to dive headfirst into why this still affects me so.
Thais Gibson of The Personal Development School says that emotions are feedback. They’re there to help us ask the important questions like what are you here to teach me; what are you trying to tell me? I have this guy friend who, no matter what I say or how many times I say a thing he just doesn’t listen. And it pisses me the hell off!!!
He’ll ask me the same thing a gazillion times. When I repeat myself, he will turn around minutes later and ask again as if he didn’t just ask the same thing moments ago. When I call him out on it he says that I’m blowing things out of proportion and that it’s not a big deal or that I never gave him a straight answer.
According to shadow work, because this still triggers me, it is a clear sign that I still have work to do. We are all mirror images of each other, reflecting and projecting our traumas and perspectives on to another. The way I can heal this is by questioning the meaning that I’m giving to the story, the incident, or the event. What am I making it mean?
For instance, when said friend acts like he doesn’t remember what I said or ignores what I said, I make that to mean that I am unimportant, that he doesn’t HEAR me. Then I ask 3 questions:
- In what area(s) of my life am I ignoring myself?
- Who’s in my life that I’m ignoring?
- In what ways am I ignoring the person who triggered this event?
Because, like I said before, we’re all reflections of each other and can learn a lot about ourselves simply by the interactions we have.
If you want to learn more about shadow work, I’ve found Debbie Ford’s books The Dark side of the Light Chasers & The Secret of the Shadow to be quite helpful. They’ve definitely helped me on my journey.
Until next time…