Monday, November 10, 2014

Shadow Work: Accept, Integrate, And Move One

"Let yourself get carried away by the night from time to time. Look up to the stars and try to get drunk on the sense of infinity. The night, with all its charms, is also a path to enlightenment. Just as a dark well has thirst-quenching water at its bottom, the night, whose mystery brings us closer to the mystery of God, has a flame capable of enkindling our soul hidden in its shadows."
(Paulo Coelho, Adultery)

Rollo May shared an interesting approach to overcome a shadow problem based on on a practice he had seen for some tribespeople in Africa. When someone was struggling with something - one man experienced sexual impotence, while a woman couldn't assert herself - they had the entire community participating in a healing dance. In it, person with the shadow conflict wears a token of the symbolic struggle - the man who suffered with impotence wore his mother's outfit and danced like her; the woman danced with a hat of the British rulers at that time. So they both accepted their shadow image that they had rejected in themselves before; they accepted their struggles, they integrated their shadow personality and they - hopefully - moved on as a whole person afterwards.

The powerful event is that the entire clan participates in this healing dance. We struggle with incorporating the stuff we reject in ourselves because our system has a fit when it confronts the shadow. Yet, once the entire community participates, our super ego will take notice. While we may not have that luxury in the "civilized" community we are living in today, we may just have to accept the little growl in our stomach and may have to do what we need to do behind closed curtains. Rollo May writes:

Particular emphasis should be placed, indeed, on the importance of the backing of the neighbors, friends, and fellow townsmen of the individual as he faces his “demons.” It is hard to see how this man or girl would have been able to muster up the courage to encounter the daimonic if they had not had the participation and tacit encouragement of their group. The community gives a humanly trustworthy, interpersonal world in which one can struggle against the negative forces.

Well, you may not have the support and acceptance of all your neighbors, colleagues or community members, but you may be surprised to find unexpected support from your family and your friends. People who love you don't want you to struggle. So accept, integrate and move on. It is likely a lot more useful than running into imaginary walls for years on end.

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