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Removing a Blanket

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By Alyce Barry

In Shadow Work®, we sometimes use the term "core dynamic" to refer to the results of an event or situation that deeply hurt all four primary parts of us simultaneously.

By the four primary parts of us, I mean the four parts of the self on which the Shadow Work® model is founded: the Magician (the knowing part of us, our "head"), the Sovereign (the part of us that leads the way by wanting, our being), the Lover (the feeling part of us, our "heart"), and the Warrior (the doing part of us, our individual self).

One example of a core dynamic is neglect. When we experience neglect, our Magician detaches and concludes that someone or something — possibly life itself — can't be trusted. Because it can no longer trust, the Magician adopts control or manipulation — of the self, of others, or both — as a necessary safety measure.

The Sovereign decrees a new core belief that affects the entire realm, in this case, that we are not worthy of care, that we don't deserve to be taken care of, that we are neglected because we deserve to be neglected.

The Lover feels many things — sadness about the loss of connection, anger at the person responsible, fear that it means something terrible about us. At times there is denial that the neglect is real and at other times resignation and hopelessness that the neglect persists. And there is also the body trauma of being alone and at risk instead of nurtured and safe.

The Warrior experiences defeat and adopts some form of violence — towards the self, toward others, or both — as a way of letting out the anger.


One of many things I've learned about my relationship to my mother in the past few years is that I experienced neglect. I want to tell you a little about a Shadow Work process I did last October, a month after my mother's death, which is still integrating inside me.

I did a process often called a God-Split (people for whom the word "God" has negative associations use a different word). In this process, we lay out the parts of the dynamic we're struggling with and then view it through the eyes of our higher power.

When we first bring the higher power onto the carpet, it can act in an unexpected way: it may judge us harshly rather than loving and blessing us the way we would want our higher power to do. When we stand back and get a good look at this higher power judging us harshly, we begin to see (often at the prompting of the person facilitating us) that the judging voice is actually identical to the judging voice of a loved one — often a parent — and so not the voice of our higher power after all, but the voice of a false Sovereign who has usurped the throne. We can then bring the judging voice down from its exalted place and replace it with the positive, blessing voice of our genuine higher power, which issues a powerful new decree about us and the meaning in what we've suffered, and that decree affects our whole inner realm.

When I looked at the parts of my core dynamic about having been neglected by my mother – my word for neglected was "ignored" — the judging voice said, "You're hopeless."

Hearing this judging voice inside has influenced my life in uncounted ways. I've suffered from depression at times, as I described in my book Practically Shameless, and believed that getting help with it was hopeless. I neglected my daughter when she was young. I've neglected my body most of my life and thereby continued the pattern. I've neglected the most vulnerable parts of me, the child parts longing to be cared for, longing to be thought worthy of the tenderest care.


The word "hopeless" echoed many times in my mother's language in her last years of life. She often called herself hopeless, she said life was hopeless, getting help was hopeless, everything was hopeless.

I came to the belief that the judging voice I had enshrined inside in the place of my higher power, saying "You're hopeless," was a voice I had heard from my mother and that she herself heard inside. I'm guessing my mother heard a similar voice inside, learned probably from her own mother.


My mother was profoundly depressed in the final years of her life. I have come to the conclusion that her inner judging voice saying "You're hopeless" was the key to her depression. It fueled her depression, and it effectively prevented all efforts to treat the depression. It was a false Sovereign issuing the decree that she was hopeless.

I believe that decree had an impact on everything that happened in her later years. When people offered her help or support, she figured it was hopeless. That is, when her Sovereign wanted support, the decree ruled it out because support wouldn't do any good.

When she wanted to learn something that might improve her situation — when her Magician wanted guidance from outside sources — she thought it was hopeless and decided not to trust the process of learning.

She couldn't even feel her feelings without this decree getting in the way. When her Lover wanted to feel, the decree came down like a dark blanket. When something good happened, she instantly shut down any possibility of feeling joy or happiness. When she felt angry, she believed it was hopeless to express or even mention her anger. When she felt sadness about her state of health or about her life coming to an end, she sank into a well of hopelessness from which she never reemerged. Fear was the one feeling she most allowed herself, I think because she had no ability to control it. She feared death and feared any kind of change because it might make things even worse.

I came to see this "hopeless" decree as a dark blanket that smothered all parts of her and prevented any chance of the fresh air of change entering my mother's life and giving her relief from suffering.

The God-Split process I did lifted the blanket on my own realm, and I've been sensing fresh air ever since. Some of the changes I wanted have already taken place while others await further work. In order to be really past a core dynamic, I must work with it from the point of view of all four parts of me, and I don't think I've done that yet. But there is hope that when I do so, I'll no longer neglect myself or my body or experience hopelessness. There is definitely hope.

Alyce Barry is a Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator and Coach in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She is the author of Practically Shameless, available in paperback and on audio CD and as an e-book. Read more about Alyce.

This article originally appeared in our free email newsletter in August 2012. To subscribe, visit our subscription page.

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