Who has shadows and who not?
Everyone has shadows. Shadow building starts at a very early stage in our childhood. Every incident that happened to us and we were not able to fully meet this challenge became a shadow. When tough things happen to us human beings (neglect, loss, punishment, threat, blackmail, etc.) likelihood is high that our brain switches into survival mode, which means our capacity to be present and aware shuts down and the brain’s r-system takes over. This shut down of the neocortex and limbic system is a protection mechanism, but it also creates what is called “trauma”. A trauma is anything that we encountered and could not fully meet with our neocortex and limbic system being switched on, meaning: we could not meet the challenge consciously and emotionally. Therefore the leftovers are suppressed into the unconscious and dramatically define and control who we are.
How can I know if I have shadows or not?
You cannot – if you know that you have a shadow, then this would not be a shadow anymore. Assume that you do have shadows. The effects of shadows are often visible in our 3-dimensional reality. Shadows have effects on our body (psychosomatic) and the way life happens to us. If you experience attracting a negative reality (persons, losses, disasters, bad luck, etc.) you most likely encounter the effects of your own (inner) shadows.
Why do shadows have an impact on how life happens to me?
Today even science confirms that everything in the universe is connected (“Butterfly effect”); numerous philosophical, religious, spiritual and neurological sources confirm that our inner world is connected with our outer world. Our inner reality mirrors itself in our outer reality. The law of attraction is also based on that principle. Although we are not aware of our inner shadows they are a part of who we are internally. “As within so without” says Hermes Tristmegistos, and if we have learned to translate what is happening to us into shadow terms, we have a powerful tool to meet our shadows, liberate them and therefore change our outer reality.
What is shadow work?
Shadow work can be done in many ways, some less and some more efficient. All ways have one objective: to bring the light of awareness and presence to the shadow. The moment the shadow becomes conscious and is met with full presence (so no flight, fight or freeze) the shadow ends to be a shadow and gets integrated as energy and expansion. The most effective way (according to my research and experience) to provide for this to happen is by facilitating a ‘shadow theatre’. There is a stage, an audience (either the therapist or in a group all group members too), clear rules, ethical consent and a very safe space. The participant who performs a shadow scene takes stage and alone or with peers who perform certain characters (e.g. father, mother, teacher, ex, uncle, sibling, etc.) goes into the scene that caused the original trauma. The objective for the performing participant is to recreate the original trauma event as real as possible, so full presence can be experienced. The supporting characters in the scene help as to their best capacities. The session leader (therapist) holds the space and – if deemed necessary – skillfully intervenes for the purpose to create more presence of the action unfolding.
By the nature of the scenes the performing participant can expect to encounter intense feelings that come to the surface provoked by the presencing of the recreated traumatic events. To give these feelings their space to be (instead of meeting them with flight, fight or freeze) in the sacred space of the shadow theatre is one of the key elements for the shadow integration and healing to happen. The other key element is ignited by the session leader at the right time: to ask the performing participant to step into a powerful conscious position and express actively what never was expressed (in relation to the trauma events). This is the crucial shift from victim to victor for the performing participant.
E.g.: Robert was controlled and dominated by his father and became a pleaser with the shadow: rebel. The scene unfolds and his peer acting out his father pushes Robert into the presence of what was once a reality in the early years of Robert. After allowing the tears, the pain, the sadness and anger to emerge and to be there, the session leader invites Robert to now stand up for himself and have his own back (defending himself against his father’s domination). Robert is asked to actively step into this role and now act out, what was impossible back then. If Robert is doing it right he raises (energetically) above his father’s domination and powerfully stand for himself, not allowing any longer to be walk over, bullied around or being manipulated in any way.
From this position of freedom and power Robert will experience an unexpected phenomenon: a genuine compassion for his father arising from his heart. This is the moment Robert taps into the love a child has for their parents. It is the real love not the fake love powered by fear, obligation or wishful thinking.
Having arrived there, the healing has taken place and the shadow theatre for Robert is complete. This is just one example of countless other possibilities how a shadow theater scene can develop.
The 7 mile stones from trauma to freedom however are always the same:
A conscious decision to meet the shadow
Going into the encounter with 100% commitment
Allowing all feelings to rise and be felt
Turning the tables from victim to victor
Full self-expression of standing up for oneself
Allowing compassion to emerge
Surrendering to love