written by Sherae Adwoa Moore
Disclaimer: Inner child Work and Shadow work should always be performed by a licensed therapist.
Lately, I have caught myself staring into the mirror. I have been examining the person in the mirror as if I was looking at a total stranger. As if I was trying to determine if I liked the reflection staring back at me. Somehow, this person was familiar yet unknown. Now, in all fairness, I did ask her to reveal herself to me, but I didn't realize this journey would be utterly life-changing. I have yet to be the same, and that's a good thing. So far, she and I have been in this newfound relationship for a little over six months. She and I have been joined at the hip ever since and people have taken notice of my work, home, friends and family. Sis is giving me life! Our relationship isn't easy, but it's beneficial for both parties. She doesn't hide, and I am no longer afraid of my own shadow.
What is the shadow?
We all have shadows (or what many have referred to as our lower self or alter ego) and have become accustomed to being bag ladies. Our shadows, if left unchecked become a problem for all of us. Your shadow doesn't merely cause overcast on the sidewalk. It can cause an overcast over your daily life and has most likely been the reason why you haven't reached your highest potential or meaningful, successful relationships and careers. Our suppressed selves reveal in the most unique ways, mainly presenting themselves in others. The unappealing qualities we can't stand or criticize in others usually dwell within us. Can't stand your combative sister who always appears to be defensive? Do you avoid your coworker because she is extremely bossy? Did you say you cannot stand procrastinators or unambitious people? Or, are you convinced that most women are just jealous of you? Well, sis, it may just be you. We project many of our most hidden qualities on others, which is why it bothers us so much. Our subconscious recognizes kinfolk.
The concept of the shadow isn't anything new— in fact, our ancestors in ancient Egypt (Kemet) understood the importance of polarity and the power in the merging of all components of the spirit. Our ancestors did not see a difference between magic (the unseen), science, or spirituality. All were part of the basic understanding of society. The ancient Kemites believed that the body, the Ka (life force), and the Ba (soul), and shut, swt (pronounced shoo), which is the shadow, all work in harmony to create a practical human being. Each energy in the physical world must be nurtured so that it can operate freely and efficiently. If either energy were imbalanced or not in harmony, these conflicts would manifest in the material world, which may present themselves as dysfunctional behaviors in human beings. The shadow, when in dysfunction, acts as the moon. The shadow hides the true essence of imbalance, which is typically rooted in past trauma, either emotional, physical, or mental. Our ancestors understood we are divine beings and that our energy can manipulate and control the material world around us, whether catastrophic or cosmic (positive).
The ego is akin to the shadow as our biological urges are usually suppressed based on familial or society's view. Over time this develops the persona we present to the world, a mere veil. This process creates unwanted experiences that are buried and accumulated over time. The more unpleasant experiences that are not faced, the suffocating there will be. Therefore, behaviors deemed unsavory are folded neatly and locked away in our internal suitcase only to rear its existence through our opinions of others and ourselves when we really aren't looking. Our shadows make grand entrances through our coping strategies, or any bad situations we deemed as unavoidable. Let's face it— many of these situations are avoidable. We have more power than we like to admit. We have been conditioned for most of our lives to seek power outside of ourselves which leads us to rely on the blame game. It isn't Cheryl's fault you didn't get that promotion. It may have been your inability to show your worth caused by the overcast of self-doubt. Let's talk about it.
How do we deconstruct the shadow?
As they say, the moment we seek answers, the teacher appears. And by the teacher, I mean you. We, ourselves, must look at our past indiscretions, our relationships with people in our personal and professional lives, and analyze our connections with them. Having issues with your supervisor? Do you think she is overly critical and demanding? Dig deeper to uncover whether you formed this opinion due to your own perceived shortcoming(s). If so, where does it stem from? Or maybe you have discovered that you, too, share the very same qualities. Asking yourself these questions help shed light on your behaviors and your place in the world. Once you have proper shadow work done you don't feel the need to constantly condemn others or yourself and you are able to finally let go of baggage thats hindering you from success, whether in your career or relationships. There is no formula for shadow work. It is tailored to the individual and the baggage they carry. The only requirement is honesty and the desire to discover who you indeed are.
As I was doing my shadow work, I discovered that I had the same problem with every supervisor I ever had, except for one. I wrote down in my journal all their annoying habits and our disagreements. I wrote down the environment they created and how I felt. I felt small, unappreciated, overworked, incompetent, and fake. I wrote down why I felt this way, and I concluded it was ME who co-created that environment in which I felt my worse. I went against my intuition and went to school for a degree I didn't want to get a job I didn't care for, but it paid the bills. I didn't utilize my natural talents, which always led me to feel incompetent compared to my peers. Had I not written it all down, I would have continued to blame my former supervisors for my lack of career direction and overall unhappiness because I wasn't doing something that I loved or aligned with my life's purpose. It appears so simple on paper, but the process of elimination on who fucked your life up seriously takes some steps. What happens in our external and internal environments are up to us. What our spirits emit is what we attract.
Have you ever been surrounded by trees with no shade? It's a rare phenomenon if it has ever occurred. We cannot free ourselves from our shadows, but we can unify and become one. Our shadows will forever remain with us as it IS us. It takes work to be great and to stay there. It has (and still is) a process for me. It feels like an initiation into an entirely new world view. It's funny, now when I hear Badu's Bag Lady song, I instantly think of my shadow and me. My eyes cannot unsee the proverbial bag lady everywhere I go. It's like when you get a new car, and now you see it everywhere on the road. I see a sista get upset and I instantly see myself and the internal tug of war I go through. I no longer (or rarely) condemn or criticize her but am reminded of my own conflict. That's what this process does. It makes you more self-aware, always, and although reading this, you may feel like it would be too exhausting even to attempt shadow work, but just think about all the opportunities and relationships lost. Think about all the time spent in anger, jealousy, and all the negative karmic cycles. Think about the exhaustion after a full night's sleep. Think about the lack of patience and focus after endless sessions of meditation. Think about the time and opportunities gained, having shed the pounds of destructive behavior for accurate control over one's self. Think about uncovering hidden gems/talents and bounds of creativity! There is beauty in facing the pain, becoming the true alchemist and co-creator you were meant to be.
Finally, as Carl Jung says, "A long process of negotiation is unavoidable." You will always feel the innate urge to suppress the shadow, but sis will strike back as she needs to breathe. She needs to be acknowledged because regardless, she, the shadow exists. This partnership is true until death do us part, but it is genuinely one we cannot afford to live without. Ase'.