Shadow Work

I admit the idea of shadow work always scared me. The idea of it – based on what little I’d read – seemed really intimidating. Go down into the most awful parts of yourself and face them… Mostly I try and keep the awfulness locked down, under control and hidden away. I can’t bear to go there. This year I’ve had no choice.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a keen sense of my own awfulness. There are parts of me that, if they got out, or out of control, would do terrible things. It has always seemed very important to be very in control all of the time and never drop my guard to let the awfulness out. Except, when I’ve tried to face it, I struggle to find any evidence to support that.

There are things I’ve been told about the kind of person I am, that have made me afraid of myself. The idea that I’m so terrible that I can’t even see how terrible I am is not one I came up with by myself. I’ve been told if people knew what I was really like, they’d want nothing to do with me. I’ve been told, relentlessly, how difficult, unreasonable, prone to over-reacting and whatnot I am, and I’ve stayed afraid of the things in me that I must keep locked down at all costs. I’ve accepted that because I am a monster, it’s not just ok, but necessary to punish me, control me, keep me inline.

Delve into the shadows, and all I can find is the times I was told what an awful person I am. Not the bit before that when I did the awful things. There are no pets I killed, no violent assaults on anyone, no rounds of being suspended from school or taken in for police questioning. There was nothing I set on fire or deliberately broke, I did not threaten anyone with violence. I was a quiet, fearful child who could barely get a sentence out without stuttering. I was an anxious, nervous teenager trying to be more than that. I was and am flawed in so many ways, but there’s no real evidence for the dire monstrosity then, or in my twenties.

The big fear is that it exists and I can’t see it. I remember being told how aggressive I am when I’m upset, how I lash out at people and hurt them in retaliation and don’t even know that I’m doing it. And how afraid I became of what I might accidentally do if I was upset and not careful enough about how I expressed that.

I have looked into my shadow, and it is full of pain. It is full of times when I could have used some kindness and patience from others. It’s full of being knocked down and blamed, and made responsible for having been hurt. It’s an ugly mess in there, and not territory I am keen to visit, but I’ve been obliged to, repeatedly.

And so I find myself asking some really uncomfortable questions. What if how I am treated is not automatically a fair measure of what I deserve? What if I’m basically ok, certainly no worse than anyone else? What if the monsters I am afraid of aren’t real, or part of me? What if my shadow self isn’t full of appalling horror that must be kept hidden, but is just where my child self is huddled up, lost and frightened and in need of rescue.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

17 responses to “Shadow Work

  • bish

    You’re basically ok, and certainly no worse than anyone else. Just so you know. The monsters may be real, but they aren’t yours. The dark is where everything begins.

  • Martina Ramsauer

    I think we have all negative and positive sides within us and I wouldn’t always believe others! Be courageous and observe yourself! Thank you very much for your thoughts.

  • plateresca

    You’re better than many people I know, and you’re doing a great job of unpeeling monsters – I know because I’ve been there. I know it’s not easy, but I know a lot can be done.

  • Suzette Clough

    Nimue, thank you for your post -and your courage in going in there and sharing. I have been diving into my own shadow over the last few years – I think it takes a long time to make what is held within this psychic structure comprehensible…because by its very nature we put ‘bad + dangerous’ parts into it. This morning when I was connecting with g-d, the great mother – I began to soften to all the suffering and shame my shadow holds from the many many generations of those who have also been shamed, blamed and humiliated. I’m with you in knowing how difficult this is – I ask all the ancestor spirits for their help in this big project of human healing that is going on now. It starts with the personal wounds moving to the collective and diving back in to the personal. xox

  • Readerbythesea

    I recently received a couple of photos of me from my early teens from someone I knew nearly 50 years ago. I cried because the young girl in those photos was so pretty and never knew it. I looked so young and full of promise. A year after they were taken I was being beaten and raped by the monster I was married to. Being woken every night and told how fat and ugly I was and no one else would ever have me.
    Id forgotten all about those photos being taken till I saw myself as I was and realised I was going to take better care of that young girl from now on. Be kind to yourself Nimrue, you are definitely a good and valued person. xx

  • Jeff Flesch

    Phew, important work going on here. I can say, as some of the others have, that you are not alone; and, you are just like every other human being on this planet. That you know of your inner-pain (shadow-self), even that it exists is an important indicator of your current awareness. Take it one step at a time, keep breathing, and, again, know you are not alone. Be well.❤️

  • Labrys

    I found my “awful” child and rescued and loved her, rewarded her for her justifiable anger at ME for neglecting her forgotten self. It was shaming to me that I HAD forgotten her and it felt good to embrace the volatile defensive little wench! I know now, if everyone else abandons me- I will always have that tough enduring girl to brace my sometimes faltering bravery. I’ve come to love the shadows…

  • Yvonne Ryves

    I felt so incredibly sad reading this Nimue, sad that you have grown up believing all that about yourself and that that your shadow self is so awful. We all have a shadow, we have to. There is no light without dark after all. I love my shadow self, it’s what makes me you and yours is what makes you you. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it, you only need to change something if it is a problem but in doing so you also change yourself.

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