Not to get way too personal here, but hey - it does matter! Just how we take care of any aspect of our outer world, we should be paying equal attention to our inner environment. That said, how do we begin the process of becoming a loving witness to our innermost world and cleaning up the old and moldy pizza boxes and beer cans that are laying about deep within? Why does it matter and how do we bring light and healing to those aspects of ourselves we deem unacceptable or too painful to look at?
We all have the essence of an inner child that exists deep within our subconscious mind. Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, popularized the idea of our inner self or shadow self. That part of our personality that is relegated to the unconscious.
"Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. "
For most of us, this inner innocence needs our attention, our unconditional love and our loving assistance in healing from any traumas (big or small), rejections and wounds that we may have experienced throughout our younger life. We've been holding onto this wounding, never properly felt or processed, deep down in our subconscious.
When we experienced this initial wounding, we were too young and inexperienced to know how to cope and so we buried these experiences deep within our subconscious where they exist to this day. These splintered aspects of ourselves don't lie dormant either. Quite the contrary.They are running as a silent and harmful operating system that unconsciously informs every aspect of our daily life. You can think of the subconscious as an iceberg - what's showing on top is tiny in comparison to what's beneath the surface. That's the content and importance of the subconscious mind.
In the same way we take care to attend to our outer environment, we need to do the same for our inner environment. Without this deep inner work, we will continue to react from our wounds, live from our fears and cause discord in our life. Cultivating this type of inner hygiene is the path home to yourself and to creating an everlasting inner peace and joy where you integrate these splintered aspects, becoming more whole and aligned with your true self. Inner child or shadow work isn’t about changing who you are, it’s about feeling all your feelings deeply. That's what was missed when we were younger - processing these deep and painful emotions. It's about healing your inner wounds, loving them even, and accepting all those parts of yourself as you are right now, holding yourself with compassion and deep love. This is some of the most important work you’ll ever do for yourself as it will unlock the door to living as your most authentic and confident self. This is also the path to cultivating self-love – because without this type of inner acknowledgment and acceptance of the wounds that live deep within, we can never truly understand, align or love ourselves for who we truly are. And we’ll remain locked in all the negative patterning that keeps us stuck. All the while wondering why life is so challenging. It's possible your life is more challenging than it should be because you are refusing to look at what's beneath the surface.
Identifying these negative patterns and triggers and seeing them as an invitation to explore their origin is your first step. Think back on when you were last triggered by something big or small. Can you trace that feeling back to how you felt as at some point in your younger life? What was happening then? What were you feeling then? These patterns and triggers are the most beautiful bread crumbs to your path to healing.
When we finally meet ourselves in a real way, with unconditional loving compassion – giving ourselves the acceptance we always needed and craved, we begin to live fully from our individual truth with more joy and peace. For myself, I wished I had found this work sooner - it took me years to get to it. Once I embraced it, cried a million tears and journaled a stack of notebooks, I experienced a very profound shift in how I see and operate in the world.
This type of inner work can be done with a few different techniques. A combination of meditation, breath work and journaling is my favorite because it allows the body, this "embodying" that Jung speaks of, to get involved in releasing emotions that are trapped within. From what I can tell, this work is never "one and done" either. It's a life long commitment to being open to a compassionate and ongoing awareness and discovery of what lies beneath. When we continue to bring more love and understanding inside to the one who was traumatized, the one who was hurt, dismissed and ignored, we can then bring more authentic love out into the world.
I love you xx
Please feel free to try my own shadow work meditation here on "Becoming the Loving Witness."
Photo: Bianca Salgado via Pexels