Shadows in the Dark

A contradictory title? If, like me, you’re currently ‘exploring’ the Underworld it may make more sense. My journey into the Underworld began in February, on the day my brother flew back to America. It was like some energy that had been stirred within when he arrived was suddenly unleashed by his departure. You see, in our family my brother is the trailblazer, the independent spirit who tries to shake us up and convince us to leave our safe cocoons. The Gods seem to be in agreement.

During this Underworld journey I have been in the dark about so many things. One after another old constructs, things and people I once held dear, and my safety net have been ripped away. While painful and sometimes terrifying in the empty potential they leave behind it has been my Shadow Self that has repeatedly reared its head.

Just when I feel I can catch my breath yet another dark, unlovable part of my Self arises, hungry for attention. Because I’ve pushed them down for so long, ignored or denied them, they have chosen very visible ways to make themselves known to me – most notably in communication with others.

While I like to believe I’m a good, honourable, ‘light’ individual I have had to face up to the fact that I can also – on occasion – be a darker, selfish, judgemental person. Not often, but boy have those Selves made themselves known in the last few weeks.

Yes, my Shadow Selves are having a field day,  rearing their heads like those whack-a-mole games you see at fairs or the pier.

I feel utterly annihilated. This goes beyond any inner work that has come up before. It’s been combined with grief over lost health and the life I wanted when I was 17 and got ill, grief for loved ones and my beloved cat, loss of trust and respect in a friendship that has now ended, failures in checking my ‘channel’ to Them causing major upheaval and damage in my devotional life, and a sense that nothing will ever be the same. It’s also combined with the upheaval of my Saturn return, where everything that no longer serves or holds me back is ripped away and I have to start living as a ‘proper grownup’. My old life – and that’s what it feels like – is gone.

Like Theseus in the dark of the labyrinth I am hanging on to Ariadne’s tenuous thread. The more I seek answers and struggle the further I sink. I have realised I need to stop looking for answers and explanations, and that I just need to let the process happen. It isn’t easy, and with fresh Shadow work coming up its hard not to just give in completely. 

One thing that is helping is Shadow integration work. I didn’t know until around a week ago how to work with the Shadows to help integrate them. I found this article and blog very useful as a starting point, and thanks to the suggestions of another blogger I am working my way through a couple of books for further help. This post came at just the right time, when I was feeling really lost. And this well-timed daily card reading popped up in my news feed an hour before I finished writing this post.

The good news is that I know – to some extent – I’m starting to make progress. There are better days, there are days when I can feel happy again. There are moments where I can feel that loving connection to my Beloved Deities slowly returning. There are moments of inspiration and enjoyment coming back. I’ve also been having dreams every so often where I’m rescuing or bringing home a cat, or cats. I worked out that these are parts of my Self coming back. So I know there’s progress, even if it feels so fleeting and can be hard to remember when I’m knocked flat by all of the emotional and soul-searching work I’m having to get through.
For anyone going through this here are a few things I have personally found helpful:

  • Try to accept these Shadows as a  part of who you can be, even if it’s only a very small part, and they’re not all of who you are.
  • Try to hold yourself in a place of compassion for the decisions you have made that led you to this point.
  • Take personal responsibility for your actions during this phase, but don’t use it as a stick to beat yourself with.
  • Try not to constantly struggle to find answers. Surrender to the process and let the answers come to you in time.
  • Keep a journal to write down your thoughts, fears and revelations. The Underworld journey can be a very personal one and it may not be right to share all of it.
  • Ask for support when you need it but don’t let others take over. This is your healing process.
  • Talk to your Deities, even if the ‘channel’ goes quiet or you can’t trust it. Pour your heart out to Them.
  • Engage in activities that nourish you, and make sure you take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself!
  • Do things that make you feel good; just don’t fall back into old coping habits that might slow down the healing process.
  • Engage in a relaxation therapy or techniques – massage, yoga, tai chi, meditation or breathing exercises.
  • Cut out activities, TV programs and reading that drains you and makes you feel stressed.
  • Don’t make rash decisions – wait before making that phone call or making an important purchase, save that email as a draft instead of sending it straight away, and try not to react instantly to other peoples’ words.

Most of all recognise that no one is perfect, and that while those dark parts of you are within you they are not all of who you are. You have the choice to find a more positive way to ‘own’ and integrate these parts of your Self. You have the choice to decide who you want to be going forward.

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