I discovered Carl Jung when I was pregnant with my first child, which on reflection surprises me. As I lay in bed incapacitated with morning sickness, I read everything I could get my hands on. This was long before ebooks and I was living in St. Petersburg Russia, so after I reread my Dostoevsky, I borrowed my friends’ books. One friend had a library of everything mystical and metaphysical–Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Krishnamurti, Rudolph Steiner, T.S. EliotJoseph Campbell, Rumi, and Carl Jung.
Nothing can prepare you for motherhood. Heck, nothing can prepare you for life! But as a naive and well-meaning mom-to-be, I mistakenly thought that I could read myself out of trauma and read myself into emotional and psychological health and wholeness. Not possible. Just ask my kids…
It was when I discovered the concept of the shadow that I realized what was and would continue to be my life’s work. I am guessing that most people are aware of Jung’s concept of the shadow; basically it’s all that stuff you avoid and thus controls you. So, as I lay there for months, eating nothing but Russian black bread and honey, I dove right into the shadow.
It’s so cliche to say that it’s all about the journey and not the destination, but it’s true. Yet, we so want to be done. I think it’s because we just don’t want to feel the pain of our shadow. We don’t want to feel those unloved children still inside of us. We don’t want to feel the abandonment, the fear, the neglect, the shame, the existential terror. Who would? But, as Jung wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”
So what does this look like?
Instead of being blissed out on our yoga mats and doing our cleansing Kundalini breath work, we sit in our shit. We sit with our abandoned terrified child, fear of loneliness, desire to drink or eat or abuse ourselves. And we let that darkness teach us. We personify it. We talk to it and ask it why it is here. Gently. Slowly. Lovingly.
There is no metaphorical graduation from “Shadow School”. Our shadow work is not a reflection of our messiness; rather it’s a sign that we are courageous and powerful beings, willing to engage with the dragons and demons in our mind. It’s hard work, but it’s worthy. And you are worth it. And you’re not alone.