“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
Since childhood, I’ve always loved and been fascinated by Halloween. I remember sleeping over at friends’ houses watching the latest installment of A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, unbeknownst to our parents.
Halloween is a spooky and magical time. Plus, there’s no shortage of candy, which is a win in my book. However, it’s always been the celebration of the unknown, which has been the greatest attraction to it for me.
Halloween is a time we celebrate the things that frighten us most—whether it’s creepy spiders, scary clowns, aliens, politicians, grotesque monsters, Pee Wee Herman and so forth. So why is it that once a year, we come together in celebration of the things that normally, most people consider gross, risqué, or even sometimes, satanic (who just said Mitt Romney?)?
Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung developed the theory of shadow self during his career and in my own personal experience, that is the closest thing I’ve come to reconciling my complete fascination with Halloween.
Jung taught that our shadow self is the denied aspects of who we are as well as the social masks we wear. He also taught that by denying these parts of ourselves, we project them onto others, thus, using them as scapegoats instead of facing our own unsavory depths. Anytime we feel a strong emotional response to anything outside ourselves, whether it’s another person or our environmental surroundings in general, that’s the first sign our shadow self is acting up. This is typically followed by criticism and blame towards those outer elements in order to divert our attention away from the dirty little parts of ourselves we rather not to acknowledge.
The shadow self acts as a “shadow” for a reason—it scares us. It represents the things that go “bump ” in the night, the thing we swore we saw out of the corner of our eye and the aforementioned monsters that scare us in horror films. The reason the Michael Myers character in the Halloween film series was nicknamed “The Shape” was because he represented all the fears, or “shapes,” we ignore inside ourselves that we’re just too scared to look at.
Through shadow work however, we get to know ourselves better and begin breaking the chains which have held us captive to many unconscious beliefs and behaviors. Denial of these aspects has had its time, but now, through facing them, we can begin to take control of our own well-being.
In a recent interview I did with MC Yogi, he indirectly related his own struggle with acceptance of shadow self and the importance of overcoming it, not only for himself but others as well. In the interview, Yogi stated:
“When I initially came out with Elephant Power (Yogi’s first album), I wrote those songs at a period in my life where I shunned everything that was negative and went as positive as I possibly could, and those songs were the result. I think those songs were the necessary process of those initial phases in my writing but now, I feel like it’s about integrating more of my past too. Those past experiences that were more turbulent and traumatic, they’re chock full of wisdom. So now I’m going back in myself and mining all that gold.”
So the good news is that through shadow work, we’re provided a wonderful opportunity to go deeper inside and begin liberating much of the subconscious garbage that’s been holding us back. Through bringing awareness to these emotional responses as they arise, we begin to befriend and integrate acceptance of our shadow selves into our conscious personality, and by doing this, we’re taking responsibility for our inner states of well-being, rather than playing the blame game with others. This integration of our shadow selves will begin to dissolve our subject-object duality and open us up to entirely new possibilities of well-being for ourselves and others.
“The shadow is both the awful thing that needs redemption, and the suffering redeemer who can provide it.”
~ Liz Green
Like any good horror movie, shadow work can be scary. It does however hold a key which can unlock our hearts and minds, allowing us to become more at peace with ourselves and others throughout the process.
The following are some suggestions to help you in getting started.
Approach each day as a classroom, allowing people and circumstances to be teachers whenever applicable. In doing this, we leave ourselves ripe for growth through experience. Anytime you become aware of your emotional reactions to someone or something, go inside and explore your part in it.
Why am I feeling the way I do? What past experiences led me to these emotions?
Again, this can be scary and difficult, but the payoff far exceeds the temporary discomfort. Work towards reconciling whatever memories come to mind. Allow them to be as they are, learn from them what you can, and then allow them to go. They have served their purpose and it’s time to move on.
Recognition of non-duality is not only key in shadow work, but life in general. Non-duality and unity consciousness is something I’ll be going deeper into in another article, but I’ll briefly touch on it here because it’s relevant. Non-duality, a concept I first learned of through the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, is taught in sects of Hinduism, Buddhism, my own personal path, A Course in Miracles and is also supported scientifically by quantum physics and others.
According to quantum physics, we’re all energetically made up from the same stuff; we just freeze at different vibrational levels. That may sound crazy to some of you, but everything at its core, whether it’s you, me, your car, or favorite book, are all made of the same stuff.
The Buddha’s statement, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die” is deeper than it’s often taken at face value. So in knowing that we’re all connected at our deepest core, we begin to realize that by projecting our subconscious shadow stuff onto others, we’re also projecting it onto ourselves and thus, continuing a vicious cycle. So the next time we find ourselves in a place where we’re ready to lash out, we’d be wise to step back a moment, breathe and look at our part in the situation.
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” ~ Christ Jesus
There will always be struggles, judgments and sides, but as we begin to take ownership of our part in the process, we begin to heal. Let “others” play their parts and do what they will and we can begin taking responsibility for our own.
The abyss of our primal minds need no longer be in charge. We can set fire to them, allowing their ashes to dance in joyous freedom while descending back to the earth. In doing so, we can stuff our faces with Halloween candy and watch scary movies while resting in the awareness that if we, in fact, decide to go on a murderous rampage, at least now we’ll be doing so with a clear and conscious mind. Er, um, I mean, with a clear and conscious mind we can be happy, joyous and free, yeah, that’s it, happy, joyous and free.
Editor: Brianna Bemel