Shadow work is the path of metabolizing unprocessed pain or grief.
Unprocessed pain manifests as the “shadow” because it is repressed energy that becomes stuck, then concretizes in the psyche, forming patterns where the wound is. The pain ends up running the show and becomes the “picker” of things because it is trying to get recognized.
I’ve been asked a few times recently: “So many teachers are saying ‘just feel your pain,’ but how do I do that?”
To feel our unmetabolized, unprocessed pain, we must feel safe. Be in our body and understand how to hold ourselves through pain, to work with our pain, to nourish ourselves, and be good parents to our body physically, emotionally, and energetically. If we do not feel safe, we cannot relax enough to feel our deeper selves.
Most humans are in pain. These are heavy times that are a potent reflection of our collective unprocessed trauma and fear.
If it was so easy to “just feel our pain” we would. Plus, we need to feel it in a way that is useful, rather than swimming in it and living from it.
Unfortunately, the cost of trauma and pain is fear, disconnection, and shame.
Our culture has a pathological relationship with the human condition that needs to be addressed in relation to love—like trauma and addiction—that is shoved into the “shadows” even when it’s all right there in the open.
We pathologize what we don’t want to deal with and then expect everyone to “just deal with it.” Kind of crazy, right?
To feel your pain, one needs to be able to be in the body, to have access to their emotions, and feel safe doing that. Often, in the beginning, our pain, our shadows, the parts of us that have not been loved and therefore have gone unprocessed, need a witness. These parts were not witnessed, did not have a container, or did not feel safe to be expressed.
There was a disconnection in those painful moments. Our grief turned into shame in the body, and we started to live solely in the mental body.
These are the places where we have an opportunity to reconnect with the sacred, elemental, and primal Mother in order to remember how to hold ourselves in our pain, grief, terror, anguish, hopes, dreams, joys, visions, and celebrations.
First, it’s important to cultivate safety. To become a safe container for ourselves; the body is our safe container for our life force energy and our soul.
What do you need to feel safe to be in your body? If you don’t know, it is helpful to find someone who can guide you to learning this for yourself.
What do you need for your mind to be a kinder parent to your body? If you don’t know, it is helpful to find someone who can guide you and give you loving practices.
This is the fine dance of tending to the nervous system, taking care of energy blocks to being in the body, and also tending to the inner parent (the mind) that attacks the physical, emotional, and soul body based on parenting we internalized.
This is making a connection to ourselves. Reconnecting to the body is reconnecting to our access to the elemental, primal, and nourishing mother. She is slower, but if we allow her to teach us through connection with our body, we remember how to nourish, nurture, tend, love, dream, vision, care, and have kindness toward our pain, others, and the Earth. Because our body is the Earth, it is the Mother, it is the split from the sacred feminine.
Once safe and feeling held, you can access your grief, process your pain, metabolize the shame, rework the memories, move the energy, retrieve your soul parts, and make a new meaning—shedding layers of the pain body and get used to feeling safe and happy in balance with a loving inner world. Mother, father, and child working in harmony within.
It is, after all, a loving inner mother and father that can birth your inner divine child so you can bring forth your sacred soul gifts with honor, safety, devotion, and love.