Your shadow self is made of everything you have repressed. Every traumatic memory and feeling of pain. Every fear, every perceived weakness, everything that you’ve convinced yourself is negative. For some it is the most terrifying part of our psyche. But it is not in and of itself negative. We see it that way because we are afraid to accept it. Accepting those parts of ourselves can give us great power over our conscious mind and our interactions with the world around us. Facing it may be one of the most powerful acts of healing we ever commit.
When we think of the shadow self we usually think of the examples I gave above. Suppressed memories of childhood abuse, abusive relationships, ptsd from traumatic events, and those personality traits that society deems undesirable. But in the process of exploring those parts of myself I learned of an entirely different aspect that, while related to all of those things, is a different beast unto itself.
That beast is Self Abuse. This is behavior, actions, or thoughts that you commit and have, which cause lasting harm to yourself.
The term “self abuse” may bring to mind acts of physical self harm, but just as often it is unseen. It is in the thoughts of insecurity. It is in the actions of those with low self esteem. It is in those codependent relationships we keep coming back to because we don’t know any other way to live.
While different life events lead people to committing self abuse, what is the same for everyone is that it is a cycle. And each time the cycle repeats itself it is fueled and grows. Before we realize it we are enabling the abusers who want to prey on us. It can be one of the most difficult forms of abuse to recover from, because first we have to recognize that it’s coming from within.
Like anything else, the first step is the hardest. And with each step we take the opposition grows because our abusers don’t want to let us go.
We think, maybe it’s just a misunderstanding. This enables them.
We say, maybes it was something I did. This enables them.
We try to avoid doing anything to upset them. This enables them.
Why the hell do we do this?
Because they have managed to convince us, managed to make us convince ourselves, that we can’t live without them. That there is no other way. That this is what we deserve.
It is not. No one, absolutely no one deserves to live with these thought patterns. And yet, many of us do without realizing it.
When I first started to change my thought patterns, I saw immediate changes in the world around me. At first my abusers fought harder for control. But I fought back. I found myself desperately clinging to the person that was emerging from my shadow. And after some time my abusers began to distance themselves from me. The process tooks years, is still ongoing, but for the first time in my 28 years of life I am experiencing emotional freedom and I will never sacrifice that for someone else’s ego ever again.
Shadow work is hard. And once you start you can’t stop. But the rewards are worth every tear and pint of ice cream.
I embrace my Shadow in both self-reflection and spirituality. For me the two are mutually inclusive. We cannot progress spiritually without first understanding who we are and how we need to grow.