There is so much emphasis on positivity that it’s very tempting to try and stay “up” all the time, even when we feel like garbage. It seems easier to keep things copacetic, breezy, and happy – no one wants to feel like a burden.
But we all have a hidden shadow dancer… a dark side that’s difficult to handle, uncomfortable, inconvenient. At some point on our path to purpose, we all run into our own dark sister. Some call it the underworld journey. Jung called it the shadow self.
Every single person on earth has shadow shards inside them that are:
My shadow self? She likes to tango. She slips into existence and dips me low, sensually. She tempts me with the familiarity of restlessness. She makes my skin crawl and I itch to escape myself as she twirls me until I’m lost in her lies… I blindly search for a zipper to flee this prickly sheath of judgement and worthlessness.
She’s a demanding dance partner, she wants my rapt attention. Any sliding glances back toward light and she slaps me hard, squeezes my cheeks, and slams a needle in my arm that sends liquid fear straight into my heart.
Each time we shadow dance, I get better at the sequence.
Step to the right & doubt that anything I create is worthy.
Step to the left & feel lonely in my own house.
Step-kick-punch-to-the-gut & start thinking the most awful thoughts imaginable…
About myself, about my love, about my child. About my work, my ideas, my heart, my intentions, my bank account, my thighs, my everything.
The dance ends when I’m stripped naked like Inanna, strung victoriously from the rafters of my own head; rotting, stagnant, putrefying, and hopeless.
This is what the shadow side looks like. It’s no wonder she has no friends.
Yet like any creature, she deserves love and attention. Loving her is the only way to survive the magnetic mercury morphine she syringes into our minds.
Facing these things about yourself is designed to be a trial by fire. Your shadow serves a role in fulfilling your higher purpose – she helps you clean out your ego, she tears down the walls around your heart, she allows the real you to shine through; as bright and luminous as the full moon on a clear night.
Doing the work means learning how to shadow dance.
How willing are you to be stripped of your ego?
Your very being
Shadow dancing rips them all from your grasp and only promises their return if you allow them to perch, uncaged, in your outstretched hand. Because none of these things are really yours. None of them define you. They have nothing to do with who you are.
Your shadow teases you with what it feels like to lose everything. Only then, can you grasp how amazing and ephemeral life really is.
How will you know when your shadow side has come to dance?
- You will feel like shit.
- Every old doubt and fear that you thought you’d handled will fly through your head repeatedly.
- You will find yourself putting up walls between yourself and the people you love the most.
- You’ll be snippy, full of blame, and unable to concentrate on anything but your mind’s running monologue.
- You’ll think horrible things about yourself.
- You’ll think horrible things about everyone.
- Your body will feel hot, then cold, then numb.
- Your jaw will hurt from clenching it all night.
- You’ll crave sugary foods to sweeten the wrong parts of yourself.
- You’ll feel like crawling out of your skin.
- You’ll want to move, quit your job, break up with someone you otherwise love (preemptively before they break your heart) or other such restless temptations.
Because these things are so godawful to feel, the habit is to repress or ignore them.
But as you know, caging things doesn’t set them free.
To process your shadow, you’ve got to turn toward the knife. You’ve got to freely FEEL everything you want to run from. Warning: it will feel like you’re dying. That’s a good thing.
- Say aloud those terrible thoughts.
- Paint your emotional tremors with long, black, unschooled strokes.
- Sit in meditation and allow the poison to flush through your system.
- When you feel yourself shutting out those you love, pry open your heart and risk it. Risk loving like you mean it.
- Risk exposing your darkest self to the light.
When your shadow dancer appears, turn around and take the lead.
Photo “Whisperer” by Katarzyna Piela