The concept of shadow self was made familiar through the work of Jung. It is also part of shamanism. Shamanic shadow is part of us, it is part of who we are. Part of deeper shamanic work is getting to know and developing a relationship with the shadow. This involves working with the shadow self – sometimes referred to as working with darkness. It is a fascinating aspect of shamanism that it is darkness and light. I find the terminology and labels used often raise fear and concern. Partly I think this is due to our society being vary orientated to light work and often religion has produced the dichotomy of dark being evil.
In my shamanic experience I don’t find the label evil useful (most labels aren’t). I may have an emotional response to something in the spiritual realm, such as fear or panic, based on my preconceived ideas. I have found that by using my spirit allies to remain safe I have been able to explore these feelings and experiences. I tend to use the mindset of an explorer who role is to describe and experience. It has been through exploration of the shamanic shadow that I have gained insights into some of the emotions that drive me from day-to-day. The shadow is the part of me that would like to cause others harm, especially those who have harmed me. It is the part of me that would like to cause pain, to cause disease. Understanding where this comes from has helped me to come to terms with who I am and what drives me. Let me give you an example.
When I was six, my mother sent me away. Up to this point I had a very close relationship with her, as her relationship with my father broke down when I was about 3. She was the person I held onto for support and who taught me how the world is shaped. The fracturing of this relationship was immense. I remember crying so much, at such an intensity that I wanted the world to end. No-one around me could help – we were all powerless. I wanted the hurt inside me to stop and the only way to do that seemed to be to kill myself. What I did over the next few days , weeks, months was to suppress these feelings. I flicked a switch to kill my feelings and then I just got on with what I was told to do. What remained with me was the feeling of wanting to kill myself, as well as the feelings of rejection and anger just below the surface.
In getting to know my shadow, I have started to understand where these feelings come from. This reduces the intensity of the feelings and has enabled me to catch the feelings at an earlier stage so I can release them before being engulfed by them. Needless to say this has been challenging work and I have been very grateful for the support network around me, that has been able to put up with swings in emotions and allowed me the space to just be able to talk when I need to.
For me this deep work is what makes shamanism so much more than just a simple spiritual practice. It has helped me comes to terms with who I am and become a fuller version of myself. There are many different things that drive us towards development, each of us is unique and each us of has our own journey.