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Exploring The Shadow Effects and How to Embrace Them

Patricia Keen (aka. Pat), a long- time member of Embracing Women’s Potential, opened the evening by sharing with us her amazing and unique life story to date and some of her learnings along the way.

As this is a journey I am only now embarking on, I feel I have a whole lot of catching up to do.

Not in the competitive realm of catching up with fellow travellers, but more the personal aspect of getting to know myself much better. And after hearing Pat’s story, and her transformative learnings, I believe understanding the Shadow Effect is a very good starting point.

Indeed, most spiritual teachers and researchers on the topic, say, ‘It is the shadow that holds the clues to knowing ourselves better’.

And that is not to say just recognising our dark side, and then either trying to do away with it, fix it, or suppress it, No, it is not how I imagined at all. I’ve always thought getting to know myself better involved seeing my good attributes, being self-loving enough to recognise them, and quietly working on overcoming and ridding myself of the unsavoury ones. Because my upbringing taught me that folks who thought they had good traits, were “up themselves”, and heaven forbid if anyone was fool enough to let slip they had “those other kind”. The darkly hidden ones!

The idea that I could extract gold from the parts of me I had always wanted to rid myself of, had never occurred to me.

Until, that is, being introduced to a book written by luminaries like Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson; all three of them highly respected authors and acclaimed international leaders in the field of new thought. And in their book, The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self, they state that one of the most crucial obstacles to happiness, is in fact, our Shadow. That part of us made up everything that annoys, horrifies, or disgusts us about others and/or ourselves. That part of us we have always had, and we have always tried to hide or deny as being part of us. As Carl Jung said, “our shadow is the person we would rather not be”. Which is such a waste, because our shadow has the power to be one of our greatest guides and teachers through life. If examined, it can lead us to immense strength, creativity, brilliance and happiness. But it must be recognised, not just shunned and left to rot in the darkness. Because although it can be used to greater good, unexamined and ignored, it also has the power to sabotage our life, destroying relationships, killing our spirit and denying us the ability to fulfil our dreams. It can eat away at us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

And sadly, whilst hell-bent on pushing down our so- called bad qualities, it can also end up pushing back our positive opposites. As Carl Jung put it, the process of doing the shadow work is actually making the unconscious conscious, and in doing so, we gain awareness of our unconscious impulses and can then choose whether or how to act on them.

Our Shadow can only weld power over us when we keep it in the dark. When we bring light to the darkness, we then find all the treasures it really holds. We find our greatness, our compassion, and our authenticity. We no longer need hide or deny our true selves. When we make peace with our shadow, our lives transform. We finally find the freedom to create the life we have always wanted.

Debbie Ford put it beautifully; “The shadow is not a problem to be solved or an enemy to be conquered, but a fertile field to be cultivated. When we dig our hands into its rich soil, we will discover the potent seeds of the people we most desire to be”.

I find this approach of shining a light on all the parts that make up our whole selves, a very healthy way of getting to know the sum of who we are. My whole, authentic self. And learning to embrace the whole spectrum of our characteristics seems like a win- win situation to me. Because even negative things have energy.

And if we can learn to harness the energy from all the parts of ourselves, negative and positive, surely, we are going to have a whole lot more wind, beneath our wings, and behind our sails than ever before. And I don’t know about you, but I want to fly as high as I can, and I’m all for a wholesome breeze that supports some smooth sailing along the way.

Bella H.

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