Naturally Healthy

Emotional Work


by Janine Romaner, ND

Carl Jung first coined the word ‘shadow’ as a term for the repressed, denied, split-off parts of the self. Unfortunately, many assume that anything repressed, denied or shadowy must be bad. On the contrary, Shadow Work® is a way to reintegrate the parts of yourself you may have forgotten you even had, and to bring the power and energy of your true self into your daily life. It is an opportunity to share and heal in a safe and balanced community in a way that synthesizes ancient and modern tools for growth and self-fulfillment.

In "A LITTLE BOOK ON THE HUMAN SHADOW", Robert Bly says that infants are born in a 360-degree personality. As infants, we expressed the full circle of our human nature, without editing or censoring. As we grew up, however, we learned that certain slices of our 360-degree pie were unacceptable to the people around us. Maybe we were shamed for crying, or punished for being angry. We may have been ridiculed for wanting attention or acting proud of ourselves. So, we learned to repress these slices of our pie. According to Bly, “We spend our life until we’re 20 deciding what parts of ourselves to put into the bag, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them out again.”

So, what’s different about this approach?

For one thing, it works! Clients experiencing individual sessions, or participants in the weekend seminar experience fundamental changes without “processing” for years. While Shadow  Work®, as many other approaches, utilizes role-playing or psychodrama, metaphor and other familiar tools, the unique dimension in Shadow Work® is that deep structures of the human self are accessed through archetypal energies. ARCHETYPE simply means ANCIENT (arche, or archaic) IMPRINT (type or print). So, this approach provides tools to connect with ancient imprints; far more ancient than family heredity goes back.

The archetypes of Sovereign, Warrior, Magician and Lover have been increasingly incorporated in men’s and women’s gatherings and publications across the United States and abroad. Many people now see that these imprints have traditionally been understood to be the building blocks of the mature masculine and feminine. The psychological research that led to the naming of these archetypes as the four fundamental configurations which, in dynamic relationship, constitute the deep structures of the mature psyche, was first presented in a series of lectures at the Jung Institute of Chicago and first published in a series of best-selling audiotapes. These four archetypal energies have been revived and developed by psychoanalyst Robert Moore and mythologist/pastoral counselor Douglas Gillette in a series of books they co-authored.

By using a combination of non-confrontational tools in a group context, participants are assisted by skilled facilitators through an interactive process whereby they reintegrate parts of their shadows. For instance, a woman who experienced the loss of a loved one early in life had not been able to deeply love in a relationship for fear of experiencing the same pain of losing again. Through a unique grieving process, the energy that had been internally bound is freed and reincorporated into her self-expression. Another example is a man who is hurt or abused during childhood and is repeatedly taken advantage of in his adult life. Because of his attempt to be kind and to not hurt others as he had been hurt, he had not developed the ability to maintain appropriate personal boundaries. In Shadow Work®, he learns to make a distinction between strength and hurtful behavior. He energetically reintegrates his ability to be strong and, at the same time, learns that he has the power to consciously choose how he wants to behave. As a last example, if a person has been hurt prior to thinking or speaking age very early in childhood or during the birthing process, this wound or dynamic is not stored in mental memory. It is recorded, however, in the cells of the body, and so it must be healed where it is. No amount of talking will get to the root of the issue if it is not recorded in the mind. This is where metaphor performs its magic, by going directly to the place of origin: the cells. In Shadow Work® we cannot change the reality of what may or may not have transpired years ago, but we can change the way it is living in our minds, bodies and emotions today, and therefore how we live and interact from this point forward.

Shadows which are not reintegrated are destined to remain as unconscious compulsions for behavior. I may say, “I’m not angry,” yet my life may be littered with the results of my unintentional lashing out. Or, my life may be an endless attempt to gain love and recognition while, to myself, I say, “I don’t deserve to be loved.”

Most of us spend so much time just keeping things contained that we don’t have enough energy to live the way we want. Half our energy is repressed and the other half is repressing! No wonder we’re exhausted and depressed! Who we think we are is locked in battle with who we thing we are not.

“If the Ego is a photograph, the Shadow is the negative,” says Jung. “The Shadow is an autonomous complex, which holds opinions, expressed feelings, and generally wills an agenda radically different from the Ego’s… Unless reintegrated (the Shadow) forever seeks to sabotage the Ego’s plans and behaviors.”

I believe that every shadow conceals a kernel of inner strength, which we can use to power our lives. Your shadows are like a gold mine of creative, useful energy. Shadow Work® provides the tools to uncover this gold and harness its potential.

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Natural Emotional Therapy