Healing Your Life
Below you will find the text for Step Two of the Healing Your Life Course. You will also find a link to the video of Paul Ferrini teaching this step. Please read through the text and then watch the corresponding video.. Then, when you are ready, answer the homework questions in the journal that follows. When you have finished, save your answers so that you can refer back to them in the future.
See Your Shadow
Goal: Accept and Integrate Dark and Light in Your Psyche
Strategy: Look with Compassion. Be gentle with yourself.
Look without judging or beating yourself up.
The shadow is the dark side of self. The persona (or mask) is the bright side of self. Like most people, you try to show people your bright side and hide your dark side. Yet this is not completely honest or authentic. Part of you is discounted, ignored and kept hidden or unconscious.
To be authentic and real, you have to embrace all of who you are — dark and light, strengths and weaknesses, what you like and what you do not like. When shadow and persona integrate, wholeness comes to the psyche, and real happiness is possible.
The shadow is the seat of your pain. It is where your fear and your shame live. You try to hide your shadow behind your mask, but it doesn’t work. That’s because you project your unconscious shadowy material outward onto others. They react to your unconscious wound-driven words and behavior and you react to theirs. So your shadow (and theirs) does not stay hidden, but is mirrored back to you by others. Others show you the primitive, unhealed aspects of yourself that you are not conscious of and need to learn to recognize, love and accept.
Projection and Triggers
Inevitably, you see in others what you do not want to see or acknowledge in yourself. If you are not willing to encounter the shadow by looking within, you will see it outside yourself. It will be reflected back to you by others.
You don’t want to look at the shadow, but you have no choice. Anything that is unhealed about you will be externalized, and you will see it in the words and actions of other people who trigger you.
As a result, your pain consists not only of your fear and shame, learned in childhood, but also of your ongoing
judgments of others (projected shame) and anger at others (projected fear). That is why every judgment you have and
every expression of anger must be forgiven. You can’t heal if you can’t forgive.
When Jesus told us “judge not lest you be judged,” he was telling us an important truth. For every time we find fault
with another person, we are making ourselves guilty. Each one of us is judge, jury and executioner.
The Spiritual Law of Equality (see my book The Laws of Love) tells you that you cannot hurt another without hurting
yourself. This is true not just figuratively, but literally. You always treat yourself as you treat others. If you offer love, love
returns to you. But if you offer criticism or rejection, it will return to you as well. As you give, so do you receive. This is
the law of life.
It is a mistake to think that you or anyone can prosper by lying, cheating, criticizing or taking unfair advantage of
another. What comes around, goes around. The chickens return to their roost. That is just the way it is. If you don’t
know that yet, sooner or later you will find out. But why wait to put spiritual principle to work in your life? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Give as you would like to receive. Serve as you would like
to be served. Love as you would like to be loved, freely and without conditions.
Why it is so Hard to Love Others
Many of us have the best of intentions. We really try to love others. And we are often successful in loving the people who share our values and are nice to us. But as soon as someone comes into our energy field and challenges us, judges us, looks at us disapprovingly, we go ballistic. The rage that comes out when we are triggered shocks us. Where does this anger come from?
The answer is not difficult. It comes from fear and shame, the bedrock of our shadow. Bottom line: we are afraid that someone might hurt us (fear) or make us wrong/bad (shame). Fear and shame are rooted in our childhood wounds. We were all afraid of our parents and other authority figures. They were bigger and stronger than us. And they too were filled with fear. When they went into fear, we followed with a vengeance. When they judged us or criticized us, we internalized the message.
There are layers upon layers of fear and shame that we are all carrying around. When that fear and shame get triggered by a parental or authority figure, we lose it big time. All of the anger and self-hatred we have stored inside since child hood comes rising up. Or, if we have been taught to repress and deny our anger, we shut down emotionally or sink into depression.
So we learn soon enough that loving other people isn’t easy. In fact, it sometimes seems like an impossible task. We may be able to love some people, but there are others whom we hate or judge. We feel compelled to attack, reject or abandon them. We aren’t proud of this, but we don’t know how to turn it around. We don’t know how to love others unconditionally.
Loving and Accepting the Shadow
The truth is that we will never be able to love anyone else unconditionally unless and until we are able to love ourselves without conditions. That means that we need to learn to accept our own dark side and learn to hold it compassionately. We need to look at our fear, our shame, our anger, our judgments, our addictions and compulsions, our trespasses against others with understanding and acceptance. We need to look with compassion at our own wounds and the wounds of our parents. We need to see how the chain of abuse is passed on from generation to generation.
We do this not to wallow in our pain, but to understand its source. Once we can feel compassion for the hurt child
within, once we can learn to take the child into our arms and give him the love and acceptance he so desperately wants, we begin to transform our lives from the inside out. The shadow self begins to integrate with the persona and the division in the psyche begins to heal.
As we make peace with our own shadow, we are not so easily triggered by the shadow side of others. We don’t react to their judgment, criticism, shame or blame. We know this is coming from their own wounds. This is their pain, not ours. We don’t have to take it on. But we can understand it and can hold the space for them, because we have learned to hold the space for ourselves.
Loving and accepting our own shadow is the doorway to loving others without conditions. It does not happen overnight. It requires great patience and courage. It takes us years of spiritual practice to learn to show up for ourselves in a loving way. But once we have begun to do that, it is not hard to show up for others.
The point is that we cannot put the cart before the horse. We cannot try to love others before we learn to love ourselves. Self love is the engine of transformation. And shadow work is the curriculum. To project our fear and shame onto others takes us into the drama of the world. There all of our energy goes into survival and self-protection. There our fear and anxiety are intensified.
Yet, no matter how many defenses we erect, we can never feel safe. Real safety is found only when we make peace with our own shadow. Then we do not attract the shadow energy of others. We stay in our hearts. We learn to love others even when they do not love us. When others attempt to shame and blame us, we turn the other cheek. We invite them to see us as we truly are, as an equal brother or sister.
Learning from the Shadow
When you encounter the shadow of another person with its wound driven energy of shame and blame, you have an
opportunity to do intense spiritual practice. Can you see their innocence behind the Shadow? Can you see and know your own innocence even though they would make you guilty?
When people shame you and blame you, do you see that they are just showing you their own self-h atred and guilt? Would they attack you if they loved themselves and knew that they were innocent? Probably not! No one blames another unless he feels less than and unworthy (shame). No one attacks another unless he is afraid
of being hurt physically, emotionally or mentally (fear). Do you see his attack as an attempt to hurt you or as a call for
love? Is he telling you that he does not feel loved and that he needs your love?
The people who push your buttons are your best teachers. They mirror back to you the unhealed parts of yourself. If you can look behind the shadow to the light they have within, you can reinforce your own innocence even as you behold theirs. You can know that in every moment both you and your brother or sister are worthy of love.
If you think otherwise, then you have fear or shame coming up. In that case, it is time to do your spiritual work.
You cannot justify not accepting or loving others. There is no one here who does not deserve your love and acceptance.
Some people may be difficult to love. They may challenge you. They may have qualities that reflect your own unconscious negative beliefs. But that just provides you with an opportunity to make your own shadow conscious. It enables you to bring love to a part of yourself you have never liked or accepted.
When someone who is difficult is in your energy field demanding your attention, you can be sure that s/he is there
for you to learn something important. Find a way to see her with love, and you bring that love to the deepest and most
wounded aspects of yourself.
As you make friends with the shadow, you no longer have to project it onto others. Then you can heal your relationships with the people who used to trigger you. Then, your whole life begins to transform.
Looking with Compassion
The key to the process of integrating your shadow is to see it with compassion. That means that you need to look at your judgments of yourself and others without beating yourself up. You need to see the dark, unhealed aspects of self, withoutmaking them bad or evil.
When you see with acceptance and compassion, you bring the light to the dark places in your psyche. This illuminates them and creates the potential for their integration. On the other hand, when you see with judgment, you
push the shadow back into the darkness. You make it bad, evil, unacceptable, and yes, you hide it from sight once again.
The reason that many people do not heal is that they deny their pain and shame and push the shadow down underneath their mask, showing people their bright side and hiding their dark side. As a result, they never acknowledge or heal their shame and negativity.
They do not like or accept their shadow. Their fear and shame keep their mask on and their shadow hidden. Yet, deep inside they may feel insecure and afraid. They may feel a deep, dark, unworthiness and be terrified that it will be uncovered or exposed.
Behind their fear of exposure is the belief that if their shadow were seen, they would be humiliated, rejected or even punished. This fear is so great that some people would rather die than have their dark secrets exposed.
Integrating Shadow and Persona
Healing requires the integration of shadow and mask, light and dark, conscious and unconscious within your psyche.
This results in wholeness. Neither the shadow nor the persona tells the whole truth about you. To find the truth you must integrate dark and light within your psyche. That is how you become real. You look at your strengths and weaknesses. You see both the confident adult and the scared little kid. By integrating dark and light, conscious and unconscious, good and bad, you begin to heal your divided psyche.
The division of the psyche into shadow and persona creates a kind of schizophrenia or split within your consciousness, which is then projected outward in your relationships. Healing requires that you heal that split/division within. When you are at peace with your shadow, peace in your relationships and in your world becomes a real possibility. Inner wholeness — the redemption of the shadow from the darkness of the unconscious — thus becomes the prerequisite for the healing of our individual and collective human consciousness.
Opening Pandora’s Box
Meeting your shadow is like opening Pandora’s box. All kinds of unexpected things come tumbling out. It is really the beginning of the descent into the underworld to reclaim and redeem the rejected aspects of yourself. In this process, your unconscious is made conscious. Light is brought to the darkness.
This work is not about trying to get rid of fear and shame — because what you resist persists and intensifies — but about bringing your fear and shame into your conscious awareness. When you bring light to the darkness, the darkness is illumined. When you become conscious of your fear and shame, their destructive power is diffused. When you learn to see and hold your fear and shame compassionately, you begin to embrace the angry little kid inside who does not feel loved.
Once you have awareness (light), you can bring compassion (love). That is what this work asks of you — to bring
light and love, awareness and compassion — first to yourself and then to others.
Becoming aware of your shadow requires courage and compassion. You need courage to look at the parts of yourself that you don’t like. You also need compassion. Otherwise you will look with judgment and that will just deepen your shame. Your goal here is to see without judgment. So, as your fears and judgments arise, learn to hold them gently, without buying into them. Bring acceptance and love to all of the unhealed aspects of your consciousness.
Realize that beneath all the negativity in your psyche is a wound that needs to be healed and know that you are taking the first step in healing it. Notice when others trigger you and ask yourself if you are seeing in them some shadow qualities that you don’t want to accept in yourself. Be courageous but also be gentle with yourself and others.
Step Two Teaching Video
Homework for Step Two
- The Shadow is comprised of what you have not learned to love or accept about yourself. What do you not love or accept about yourself?
- What are your biggest judgments of others? Can you see how your judgments of others reflect your judgments about yourself?
- Fear and shame are the two primary components of the Shadow. What are your deepest fears?
- What are you ashamed of and don’t want others to see?
- Because we don’t want to look at the wounded, unhealed parts of ourselves, we often project our shadow onto others who trigger us. Who are the people who trigger you the most?
- One aspect of our shadow can consist of gifts/talents or positive qualities that we have difficulty accepting because they are not valued by parents and other important adults in our lives. Do you have gifts/talents/positive qualities you repressed because you were judged or ridiculed when you tried to express them?
- Have you been able to acknowledge, accept and integrate any of your shadow qualities so far in your life?
- Your persona or mask is composed of aspects of self that you love and accept and that are valued and accepted by your parents and society in general. We wear our mask to try and get the love and acceptance we so desperately want. Please describe your persona or mask.
- What real and true aspects of yourself are you betraying when you put on your mask?