The dark places are not something I've consciously chosen - in fact, I've always considered myself something of a light-seeker. And yes, I realize that my postgraduate degree in gothic literature highlights the irony of that statement! But then something has been stirring recently, and I've felt a curiosity, a desire to (consciously) explore those recesses in which we hide all our 'worst' traits.
In the archetype readings that I do for clients we explore the light aspects of the god and goddess archetypes they draw most heavily upon, and then I shine a light on the shadow aspects.
Now, I need to do this sensitively, because it's never easy to hear about those parts of ourselves that remain unintegrated by our psyche. It's important to deliver this information with as much compassion and understanding as I'm capable of.
And, so I generally start by saying that within each of us is a full kaleidoscope of traits that humanity expresses as a whole. There is no trait that you are unable to express given the right conditions and context. Read that sentence again. There is no trait that you are unable to express given the right conditions and context. You're likely to feel resistance to that statement - I know I do! However, when we accept its truth we see that the shadow is not, in fact, negative; it merely shelters the aspects of ourselves that we've been conditioned to believe are not ok.
The shadow is where we repress the parts of ourselves that we believe render us essentially unacceptable, undesirable, unlovable.
But the real truth is that the darkness hides not that which is negative, but that which is unseen, that which stays sheltered by our lack of awareness. Our traits which reside in our shadow exist there solely because we have chosen, consciously or otherwise, not to bring them out into the light, claim them as our own and integrate them into our way of being.
However, this is precisely where we encounter difficulties, because it's when we don't acknowledge these hidden traits, they act out. They're calling out for our attention and they do so by revealing themselves in ways which compromise our coherent sense of self.
And yet, these traits have many gifts to give us if only we are willing to bring them out into the light. When we recognize and claim, say, selfishness, we can see that this trait offers us the gifts of
- determining clear boundaries on our own time, energy and other resources.
- keeping a weather-eye on our self-care practices.
- and, paradoxically, it allows us to extend generosity, because when we have attended to our own needs and established our own boundaries, we find ourselves in a much better position to give to others.
Awareness allows us to live our lives from a place of compassion rather than judgment.
So, when I explore my own personal shadow, or I facilitate another to explore their own shadow through an archetype reading, I do so to help bring an awareness to an otherwise hidden trait, and then I can go looking for the gifts. The light that we bring to this endeavour comes from the twin-flames of loving kindness and compassionate acceptance, and when we embrace this light, we allow ourselves to shine brightly and brilliantly.
A true lover of stories, Amy Palko spends her days reading, writing, knitting and dreaming… well, that is when she's not being kept busy home-educating her three kids! She is the creatrix of the series Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Goddess, exploring goddess myths and moon cycles through story, journalling, visualisation and creative exercise.