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The More You Do, the More You Can: The Cumulative Effect of Shadow Work
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An Article by Alyce BarryIt's not something I say to every client, but it's true: Shadow Work® has a cumulative effect. Each piece of work builds on what came before.
The more Shadow Work® you do, the more you can the more you can be, the more you can see, the more you can feel, the more you can do.
One reason I don't say it to every client is a fear that it will sound discouraging, as if I'm saying, "You've only just scratched the surface, you know there's a lifetime of work here for you to do!" (Read: "That you should do.")
Another reason, of course, is that since I make income doing Shadow Work, it might sound awfully self-serving as in, "You should pay me lots of money for years and years!"
Before experiential modalities like Shadow Work® came along, I think the whole idea of tackling your shadow sounded overwhelming to a lot of people.
Carl Jung had a tendency to compare the human unconscious to a lake, sometimes even to an ocean. The traditional way to explore that lake was Jungian analysis, meeting with your analyst for an hour a day, five days a week, for about five years.
I haven't done analysis, and what I know about it is primarily from reading June Singer's wonderful book, Boundaries of the Soul, The Practice of Jung's Psychology, first published in 1972, and from talking to friends about their experience in analysis.
The process sounds a little like straining the water in the lake through a sieve one bucketful at a time, to catch the symbols coming through from the unconscious. The symbols appear primarily in dreams, in conversation through techniques like active imagination and word association, and in the choice and arrangement of objects in a sand tray. But a skilled analyst can also detect symbols in the ordinary events of daily life.
Analysis requires a tremendous commitment of time and energy, not to mention money. My impression is that most people aren't ready to sign up for that kind of commitment.
CHUNKING THE SHADOW
Jungian analyst Robert Moore and his co-author, Doug Gillette, were the first to "chunk" the shadow into manageable pieces in their book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, and Shadow Work® follows in Moore and Gillette's footsteps. It was a really brilliant innovation, in my opinion, in two ways.
First, behaviors and beliefs fall into categories reflecting the archetype that's in shadow. So for example, issues around money, responsibility, and integrity mean that Warrior energy is in shadow because it is the Warrior in us that deals with "real world" things like money, that takes responsibility and has (or does not have) integrity.
Issues around control, manipulation, and trust point to Magician energy in shadow. Issues around self-esteem, passion, and mission point to Sovereign energy in shadow. Issues around feelings, the body, and relationships point to Lover energy in shadow.
The Shadow Work® Model goes a step further, to offer a tool to use in transforming the shadow, a different tool depending on the archetypal energy in shadow: boundaries for Warrior, viewing from a split for Magician, support from an ideal for Sovereign, and a metaphor in the body for Lover.
Second, in a session or a workshop, Shadow Work® chunks the shadow in the moment by starting with the question, "What would you like to have happen?"
It's a question that helps a person focus on one thing they really want, or on one behavior that's really bugging them, or on one shaming belief about themselves or other obstacle that's standing in their way.
I can say from personal experience that Shadow Work® can offer real change on an issue in a single session. I can count half a dozen Shadow Work® sessions that have changed my life, my behavior, or my beliefs about myself in a fundamental way, each in a matter of a few hours. Many of my colleagues and friends report similar experiences.
And, at the same time, I know that those sessions that changed my life built upon sessions that had come before.
RACING THE YACHT A PHOTO ESSAY
A yacht race is an apt metaphor for what I mean.
In honor of summer, here's a photo essay about the yacht race.
With each piece of work I've done, I've gained a new crewmember some part of me that helps me sail my yacht safely and swiftly across the water or become a better captain.
At first, of course, I didn't think of my boat as a yacht.
When I finally learned that help was available that, in fact, help had always been available for the asking I started asking.
When I did Magician work, I brought more of my Magician on board.
I did a lot of work with my Risk Manager, too.
My feelings, which at one time were strangers to me, have become active crewmembers as well.
Lover work also brought my creativity on board, as a sort of artist-in-residence.
Doing Warrior work has brought strong, capable crewmembers on board.
SAILING TO FARTHER SHORES
I've done a lot of Shadow Work® since 1995.
I can sail to far-off places where the currents and winds are treacherous, and still come home safely.