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July 2016, by Giles CarwynI discovered Shadow Work® five years ago. Since then I have done dozens of processes and profoundly transformed my inner landscape and outer circumstances. Each process has been unique and intense. They either rock my world or REALLY rock my world. Every time I do one, I'm very glad I did.
But inevitably, I find myself avoiding doing the NEXT process for as long as I can. Somehow I convince myself that I used to struggle in life, way back then, but NOW I've got things under control. The "New and Improved Giles" will have no problem overcoming today's obstacles by sometime tomorrow morning, mid-afternoon at the latest. Then tomorrow becomes next week, next month, and next year. Yet somehow, I still think I have it all under control.
Are you rolling your eyes at me, yet? Good. I deserve it. But I suspect I'm not alone in my ability to fall into my own traps.
If my plight is familiar, then I've got a story to share with you. It's a tragic little tale of what happened the last time I ran away from my own work. (Don't worry, it has a happy ending. I promise.)
When I first decided to become a Shadow Work coach and facilitator, I reached out to some colleagues looking for business advice and resources. A friend suggested a business coach she really liked. I went the woman's website and requested her free Client Attraction CD. When the CD came in the mail I tossed it in a drawer and promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward a year. My latest Shadow Work weekend was two weeks away and... No one had signed up. Not one person. Apparently the Client Attraction CD languishing in my drawer hadn't managed to attract very many clients.
My co-facilitator had already bought her plane ticket from Canada. Wonderful woman that she is, she was confident that everything would work out wonderfully. I was not so optimistic. I was painfully aware that day after day passed when I "didn't get around to" sending out my next promotional email. I was three weeks behind on my plan to call a hundred people and extend personal invitations to the weekend. The launch of my website was a year behind schedule. My savings were six months away from running out and I needed to get my income up soon or I was going to be in serious financial trouble.
How did I respond to this dire situation? I started staying up till four in the morning watching Netflix every night. (Breaking Bad and Sherlock are great shows, by the way. You should really check them out.)
I was deep, deep in my shadows. I was depressed, ashamed, enraged at myself, and doing nothing about it. My mind was caught in endless loops of negative thoughts. "This will never work." "I haven't got what it takes." "No one wants what I have to offer." "No one sees the beauty I see." They were all running through my head in an endless loop.
The worst part was; I knew exactly what was happening. I recognized my core wounds. I'd worked with each of these voices before. I knew the healthy response to each one. All I needed to do was talk about it, reach out for help. I knew a dozen people I could call up and schedule a Shadow Work coaching session with. I could even help myself by doing some Shadow Work self-processing.
What did I choose to do about it? More Netflix. (FYI: Sense8 and Firefly are also excellent.)
It came to a head one night when I didn't sleep at all. It got so bad I couldn't even watch Netflix. I just lay on the couch, my mind racing like a hamster in a wheel, a pressure cooker of impotent rage and self-loathing. I had become completely non-functional.
Finally at dawn I went to my computer and looked at my overflowing inbox. I saw an email from the client attraction woman and decided to check out her CD. I popped it in and started to listen. It was good. What she was saying wasn't the obvious no-brainer stuff. What she said made sense. It's what I needed to hear months ago. And…
The more I listened the more horrible I felt. Within ten minutes I had developed an overwhelming urge to throw up. The more I tried to ignore it, the worse it got until I finally stopped the CD and went back to the couch. I was finally at a breaking point. Things had gotten so bad that it hurt more to run away than to turn and face what I was feeling.
I knew what had to happen. I had known it all along. I needed to talk to the part of me that was making me feel so horrible. It was trying to tell me something and it wasn't going away until I listened.
I went inside my body and allowed myself to truly feel that part of me that wanted to throw up. I experienced it as pure energy, just a sensation in my body, separate from any story I might have about it. I asked it what it wanted to say.
It said, "Please, please, please don't to this to us again. Don't make us put ourselves out there just to get shot down again."
Memories flooded through me. I remembered every rejection letter I ever got as an aspiring author. I remembered every amazing idea I shared with someone only to have them reject it out of hand. I remembered every old lover that wanted nothing to do with me, every friend who had written me off. I remembered every social event I ever went to where I didn't find a single person that I was able to connect with. I remembered being the little kid on the playground watching the girls chase the other boys wondering why none of them ever chased me.
"Please, please, please don't do this to us again," the voice said. "No one wants to buy what you're selling. No one wants the gifts you have to give. They never have. They never will. Please stop trying to change that. It hurts too much."
With the words came the emotions and I started pounding on the floor and screaming into pillows. I went back to being that little boy alone and scared in his room vividly feeling the pain that filled the house when my parents were fighting. That little boy wanted someone to come into his room and tell him that everything would be OK. He wanted to run away and never stop. But no one came and there was no place to go.
The trapped emotions, the old pain came flooding out of me. Five minutes of unrestrained feeling and it was done. Everything I'd been holding back for weeks, months, years roared through me and was gone.
And in the silence that followed, a realization emerged.
I was the one that didn't want me. I was the one who wouldn't listen to what I had to say. I was the one who had left that scared little boy alone in his room. I wanted nothing to do with the parts of me that were small, scared, awkward, ignorant and meek. I wanted nothing to do with the raw, painful, authentic, vulnerable feelings those parts of me were feeling.
I was the one who wouldn't buy what I was selling. I was the one who wouldn't do my work. And I was projecting all of my self-rejection on the rest of the world.
I went down the hall. I woke up my fiancée and I told her everything I hadn't been telling her. I broke down and let her hold me. I showed her the parts of me that were small, scared, awkward, ignorant and meek and let her love them until I could love them too. That was all I needed. The clouds lifted. And it was over.
After a good long nap, I woke up, and stated making phone calls and sending emails. Seven people stepped forward to join the weekend. It went wonderfully. I can still picture each of them at the ends of their processes, so full of power, joy, love, peace, acceptance, or unapologetic sexy swagger.
When I look back on this experience, I can't help wondering why I needed to create a crisis before I would do my work. Why did I wait so long? Why did I have to let it get that bad before I was willing to turn and face myself?
In the end, everything turned out as it needed to, but at what cost? I lost time. I lost energy. I lost money. Precious moments with my partner were gone forever. How many additional nights did I leave my children alone in their rooms feeling pain in the house wondering why no one was showing up to tell them everything will be OK.
I know there is no such thing as wisdom on demand or mail order enlightenment with free overnight delivery. We can't speed up our spiritual path, but we can certainly slow it down. I could have found my way out of my downward spiral a lot sooner if I had just picked up the phone, called someone I trust, and said, "Hey, I'm doing the Netflix thing again. I need some help."
My calling in life is to be one of the people who can offer that help when it is needed. Shadow Work has given me some amazing tools, the best I have ever found. Over and over I have helped clients uncover painful stories that have held them back for decades. I have helped them rewrite those stories into something beautiful.
It's hard to see people who I know are struggling, reach out and offer them an opportunity I know will help, and time after time hear them say, "That sounds great. But…. I think I'm going to hold off till next time."
I can't blame anyone. I do the exact same thing. I know how hard it is to step out of my familiar misery and take a shot at finding something better. Every time I've done it, I was scared to death. And… Every time I took that risk, I was SO grateful that I did. One of these days I'll start remembering that before I get into crisis mode instead of after.
How would your life change if you took a risk and did that next Shadow Work process you've been waiting to do?
Giles Carwyn is a Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator and Coach in Asheville, North Carolina. Read more about Giles.
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