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Shadow Dance

Dear Shadow,

Though you are tethered to my ankle,

you are neither house arrest bracelet nor shackle.

You are simply the part of me

that I threw off, stepped on,

tried to kick to the side.

Still, you clung to me for dear life.

I kicked and stomped to no avail.

I was burdened by your intangible depth,

your weightless gravity.

I feared that I would be

consumed by your endlessness.

But I have since discovered

that you have held onto me,

not to devour me,

but to save me.

You are part of me, as I am part of you.

Please forgive me for my betrayal.

Let me pick you up and embrace you.

All these years you held on so tight.

Allow me to hold you now

so you may feel love for the first time.

I like this explanation of the shadow from Scott Jeffrey's: A Definitive Guide to Jungian Shadow Work: How to Get to Know and Integrate Your Dark Side:

"All we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—become part of the shadow. Anything incompatible with our chosen conscious attitude about ourselves relegates to this dark side. The personal shadow is the disowned self. These unexamined or disowned parts of our personality don’t go anywhere. Although we deny them in our attempt to cast them out, we don’t get rid of them".

Throughout my life, I have certainly disowned many parts of myself. Oftentimes, I'd experience intense emotional reactions to situations or people that I couldn't quite explain. Or I'd be strongly annoyed with someone in a way that seemed overblown. When I examined these reactions more closely, I begun to realize that I was projecting a lot of my shadow self onto these people and situations. The projections were my mind's way of showing me myself.

This made sense to me, especially because I believe that everything in the universe is connected and separation is an illusion. If I notice something about others that provokes a negative response in me, it is because there is something within myself that I have refused to acknowledge. Being aware of the ways the shadow attempts to make itself known can be excruciating at times, but it's been one of the biggest sources of healing for me. It has given me much more compassion and tolerance for other people and myself.

Carl Jung says that it's impossible to get rid of the shadow and in order to experience "wholeness", we need to integrate our shadow self. This is often referred to as shadow work.

I named the last edition of Flow Friday, Shadow Dance, in reference to this process. Our shadows are always moving in time with us, making them the perfect dance partners! Instead of looking at shadow work as a chore, maybe we can start seeing it as a fun experience and turn it into a celebration!

Affirmation: I embrace my whole self.


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