A few weeks ago, I was inspired to re-read Debbie Ford’s engrossing and insightful book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. Accompanying this was a compelling urge from within to have a closer look, once again, at the more remote landscapes of my psyche.
As I started my trek inward, I was directed to circle back over some well-known territory, where I discovered new layers of familiar themes presenting themselves (a phenomenon that’s often discussed in the spiritual/self-growth arena). In the past, I would have been too embarrassed or ashamed to admit to myself – let alone to you – that these particular themes have been part of my experience. They’re aspects of my “shadow”, after all, and rather than seeing this as simply the “unknown” or “unconscious” part of myself, I would have experienced my shadow and its contents as shame-inducing flaws I’d want to hide. There’s a reason Jungian analysts call shame “the swampland of the soul”!
Yet, I’ve had deeply healing experiences from exposing those unconscious parts of myself, compassionately, to the light of day. The ongoing practice of bringing awareness to and owning the seemingly infinite layers of my shadow has had a profoundly liberating effect on my business and life. You may relate to some or, perhaps, all of the themes I present here. My hope is that sharing them with you will support your own inner process and open you to more freedom and flow.
Dominant Patterns That Lurk in the Healer’s Shadow
As is often the case, the patterns or themes I’ve been witnessing and accepting in myself are what I’ve been helping many of the wellness professionals I work with to acknowledge in themselves, as well. Without intending to generalize, these seem to be the most common ones:
1. Spiritual bypassing
I became aware that I was using spiritual concepts, affirmations, truths and practices as a form of mood alteration or “metaphysical valium” to anaesthetize and avoid painful, uncomfortable feelings. What I’ve now trained myself to do is to relate to what’s living inside me, first, in a grounded, embodied way, allowing the feelings to be felt, seen and heard and the hidden thought patterns to emerge. Then, with awareness and discernment, I use the wise, unconditionally loving parts of myself to accept those thoughts and feelings, so I can embrace all of who I am. When I do this, those feelings and thoughts just flow through me and I don’t overly associate with them … or resist them. I feel balanced and whole.
2. Avoiding/suppressing feelings
The feelings I tend to avoid fully experiencing through spiritual bypassing are feelings of shame, aloneness and anger. Examples: feeling insufficient, flawed, not enough; feelings of being separate, alone and not belonging; and of course, anger, because of the program I’ve carried that “nice” girls/women and “spiritual people” don’t get angry.
3. Feeling/believing I have to be perfect, know it all, have all the answers and have it all together — or at least, come across this way (wear a mask, in other words)
I jokingly call this my “I have arrived” mask, and I know that it comes from scarcity programs and my shame swampland (which I’ve come to befriend and love…swampland is seriously undervalued real estate).
4. Feeling/believing that if I have weaknesses, imperfections and vulnerabilities and others see these, no one will like me or approve of me, and clients will think I have nothing of value to offer them and will “fire” me
Of course, this is the flip side of #3 and also comes from shame. The false premise is that to have something of value to bring to others, I have to be at that illusory, fairy tale “I have arrived, I’m perfect, I’m master of the universe” place. The wise woman in me knows this to be patently untrue, because the most valuable external support and wisdom I’ve received myself has, repeatedly, come from people who are refreshingly real, open and self-accepting about their weaknesses, “imperfections” and vulnerability.
5. Feeling overly-responsible for clients’ and loved ones’ challenges, well-being, progress and outcomes
Having some codependent patterns, the transformation for me has been accepting the gift of this impulse — the genuine desire to be of service — while recognizing, without self-judgement, when I’m veering into being overly-responsible. As Byron Katie would say, “staying in my own business” has been key: having healthy inner and outer boundaries around my role as a “helper” and continuing to lovingly support others, in a balanced way, while being detached about their journeys and outcomes.
6. Caretaking and people pleasing
These tendencies can be enmeshed with many of the above patterns. What I discovered is that for me, caretaking is a behaviour to compensate for feeling unworthy and to gain others’ approval. People pleasing alleviates my fear of being shamed, rejected and left alone for displeasing others. The transformation has been building the knowing of my innate worthiness, regardless of what I do or don’t do for others, what I say or don’t say or how others react to me.
7. Weak/unclear boundaries
Whenever I have weak or unclear boundaries, it’s usually an indication that #5 and/or #6 have been activated for me. The antidote is always to check in with what I’m really feeling and needing, own my own needs, communicate them to others in a loving way, without guilt or apology, and say “no”, when necessary.
8. Martyrdom – setting aside my own needs in the name of compassion or the service of others
Like all of the above, this can definitely be a symptom of spiritual bypassing for me, and it’s intimately connected with #7. I’ve learned, through direct experience, that this is an unbalanced dynamic that serves no one and is a recipe for burn-out.
9. Need for recognition and approval from outside of myself
This is another response to feelings that come up in me of shame and aloneness. What helps immensely, once I’ve allowed myself to feel the feelings and identify the thoughts, is doing processing work around the polarities of approval and disapproval. This exposes the unconscious “stuff” behind those polarities and enables the reconciliation of those patterns.
10. Need for control and security
This is a typical response when I’m feeling fearful about some external “situation” that’s triggering feelings of insecurity and anxiety. What works well for me is feeling the fear fully in my body, acknowledging my insecure thoughts about the situation, using The Sedona Method® to release wanting control and security and/or practicing the art of surrender, with tools like The One Command®.
The greatest gifts the continuous practice of witnessing and acknowledging my shadow has brought me is a deepening of self-love and self-acceptance and an increased empathy for others. It has taught me that no amount of meditation, yoga, affirmations or other spiritual practices can provide inner freedom and prosperity, if not consciously coupled with exploring and embracing the hidden topography of my inner world.
In my work as a Business & Prosperity Coach, I help clients create and implement effective marketing and client enrollment strategies, while also exploring, accepting and integrating their shadow, so they can build their businesses with more ease and joy, from a place of authenticity and wholeness. For a complimentary discovery session, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2013 Mary C. Davis, ANAM TURAS. All rights reserved.
If you like this post, please click the “like” button below and share it with your friends. Thank you.
Also, feel free to submit your thoughts about this topic in the form below. I’d love to hear them!