As we journey through life, any time we experience unresolved trauma, our human ego fragments into different parts.
In Shamanism, these are lost soul parts, reunited in a process called soul retrieval.
In Jungian psychology, these are the archetypes within that have been pushed into the subconscious shadow.
In internal family systems, these are the different “family members” that live within us.
Any of these systems are appropriate for doing shadow work, soul retrieval, or parts work, as it is sometimes called. I prefer a combination of shamanic journey work and Jungian psychology.
When I was young, my soul decided it was no longer safe to be me. Because it happened so early on, it’s been difficult for me to remember any attributes of my authentic self.
Over the years, I’ve been having many dreams, almost every night, where I’m running away from someone or something trying to kill me. I’m escaping buildings, jumping out of windows, running through neighborhoods, hiding in the bushes, even at times flying above the trees just to get away from my attacker.
I’ve known for some time that I needed to face my fears and I’d been working on facing the biggest fears I’ve held in my life—from people to experiences. But the dreams persisted.
Then, the dreams shifted. I was the killer first, watching people die because of poison I’d given them or something similar. Then I’d immediately shift to being a witness of the killing and be afraid I’d be the next victim, and then again, I’d run.
Now, I am not a violent person—at all. I’ve never been in a physical fight and I’m not cruel toward others. I certainly have never killed or injured anyone. Many people tell me that I am actually one of the most calm and compassionate people they know.
In fact, I’m incredibly calm, even in crisis situations. I always have been, since I was a child. So calm that if I wasn’t so kind, empathetic, and rational on the outside, I could potentially come across as an unfeeling sociopath.
But my outward-facing behavior is so good at being the perfect person in a crisis that no one would ever blink twice. I’ve even had myself fooled this entire time.
What I’ve realized through immersing myself in the depths of my shadows is that when my soul decided at a young age that it was no longer safe to be me, my ego fragmented into extremely different parts. Pretty effective ones at that.
There’s the part that is the vulnerable, weak, incapable, emotional, submissive archetype that needs the help of others, so as to solicit sympathy and protection from those around me. I especially have played this part around those who feel unsafe, hoping they’d have mercy on me rather than hurt me.
And then there’s the part that is the calculated, highly capable, extremely confident, manipulative, rational, calm, sociopathic, trained killer archetype who uses different roles to protect the inner soul, to get what she wants, and to be accepted by those around her.
I didn’t know until recently how much my inner killer archetype was running the show. Not in a violent way, but definitely in a calculated way.
When I went to finally meet her in a shamanic journey, I was surprised at how anticlimactic the meeting was.
Often when I meet my shadows in journey (which I only recommend doing once you’ve received trained support in doing so), they will be incredibly scary and demonic looking the stronger they are.
But my inner killer was rational, calm, and collected. She knew exactly what she was doing. She was shooting arrows into a tree with a traditional bow and arrow set. She would never kill anyone unless it was necessary to save the world. She wasn’t cruel or ruthless.
When I met her, I thought, Wait a minute, this is me. Maybe this isn’t a shadow part after all.
She was so confident and capable—she was exactly who I wanted to be. She knew exactly how to handle any situation. She wasn’t a bad person. She felt safe. What could be wrong with her?
There isn’t anything wrong or evil about our shadow parts. It’s just that sometimes we can be completely unconscious of their existence and have them running the show without us knowing. I was ready for an emotional shift of some kind, and I wasn’t sure how to get it upon meeting her.
But then I thought about what my inner truth could be. I asked to see my soul’s essence from before I birthed into human form. And I caught a glimpse of the brightest white light.
Immediately, my inner killer sprung into action, blocking my way, refusing to let me go toward my inner soul’s essence.
That’s when I realized my inner killer archetype had been in control for a long time—meaning my shadow had been running the show for a long time. Without me even knowing it.
She was keeping my soul’s essence safe and she would do it at any costs. She would kill, she would lay down her life, she was a trained warrior through and through. And she was smart! No matter how much I tried to reason with her, she would not let me through.
I realized that my whole life I had been playing whatever role would be accepted by those around me, that would be safe, that would get what I wanted, all at the expense of showing my authentic self. Actually, all at the expense of even knowing my authentic self. No wonder I’ve had identity crisis after identity crisis throughout my entire life.
And the men I had been in relationships with who had been abusive in different ways toward me were a reflection of the abuse I had been enacting within myself. Forcing my inner soul’s essence into submission, keeping her trapped in a cage of my own creation. I could plainly see the mirror in action.
But then, the light of my inner soul’s essence began to grow as this part of me started to come closer, until she was immediately behind my inner killer part.
The light was so bright, so blinding, I could not see anything but the light. And as the light grew stronger and stronger, it started to melt the heart of my inner killer, until her knees buckled and she fell to the ground, failing in her mission to keep my soul’s essence hidden.
And as I felt the light enter and fill my body, I could feel the radiance of pure innocence flooding my entire being.
Wow, I thought, innocence is not at all what we think it is.
Innocence has a magnificent strength that cannot be matched by any aggression or force.
Innocence is pure authenticity without filter or hesitation.
Innocence is an incredibly creative force. And it is grounded deeply in the purest form of unconditional love.
How much creative life force and innovation have I been holding back this entire time out of fear? What beautiful purpose does my soul have for this physical life that I’ve kept locked away?
And how disconnected have I been from other people because the sociopathic numbing of feelings felt safer than true connection?
Embodied as my innocent self, I turned to my inner killer and I embraced her. I thanked her. I gave her a seat and I told her I still needed her. Her confidence, competence, experience— it was all still valuable.
But, she didn’t need to be in charge anymore. She could emerge from the shadow into the light.
And I came back into this body, as a being of pure innocence, creative life force, and love, with my inner warrior by my side.