June 2015, by Jeff Baugher
Sometimes when men and women have a persistent issue, their conscious attempts to resolve it fail — repeatedly. They decide that in the future, they will “be more open,” or “set clearer boundaries,” or “lead instead of follow,” or “listen to my intuition.” Instead, however, these direct attempts to operate differently get overridden by a mysterious, unconscious mechanism. In Shadow Work®, we would say this hidden reaction pattern is in shadow.
To understand what’s going on, we use a simple map that divides the human psyche into four parts. Each part is called an archetype and represents one fundamental human dimension. In Shadow Work®, these are identified as the Sovereign, Lover, Warrior, and Magician. And for a given issue, a person has each of these four archetypes set at a relative strength or “volume” level.
For example, imagine that as a boy, I get shamed for showing vulnerability. Messages of “Men don’t cry” or “You’ll be taken advantage of if you’re weak” come in forcefully and from several directions. In order to cope, I make a conscious decision (a “vow”) to hide my sensitive side. By reducing my tendency toward openness and sharing, I have effectively turned down the volume level of my Lover archetype. At the same time, I also turn up the volume on my tendency to be emotionally detached and to respond from a mental place (my Magician archetype.) From that point forward, this archetypal balance of settings affects my relationships, decision making, and eventually career direction.
Years later, this coping mechanism of detaching and shutting down feelings has now become so ingrained that it occurs automatically with no conscious thought on my part. Although this works well for a career in computers, any endeavors that require more heart and less head become problematic. What is tragic is that the Magician on high volume and Lover on low volume pattern also occurs with the very people who love me and would honor my vulnerability. My relationships with my spouse, my child, and my own spontaneity are all casualties of this pattern. The coping mechanism has been successful in keeping me safe but at a cost of emotional isolation.
So, how can Shadow Work® be used to reset one’s archetypal volume settings? Via Shadow Work Coaching, or Centerwork in a group setting, we create a process where a person can experiment with what has become difficult (in this case, vulnerability). The facilitator helps him to actually experience and feel what it’s like to operate by being open. And by running this new pattern slowly and deliberately while in a shame-free setting, he builds a new pattern with the Lover volume cranked higher and the Magician volume reduced.
Afterwards, the payoff is that he now has choices about openness and connection. The depth and quality of his relationships grow, his world becomes bigger, and he feels more whole. And now he must turn his attention to the challenge of accurately discerning which situations and people merit his vulnerability and sensitive side.
Jeff Baugher is a certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator and Coach, and professional astrologer. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, he offers workshops and individual coaching as well as couples coaching, and often co-facilitates with his wife Becky Schupbach. Visit ArchetypalArts.com for more information about Jeff and Becky.
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