Here’s a recent example of my own of how to work with your shadow in regards to dreamwork.
Dream: I quickly jump in my car and lock the doors as a very aggressive and angry man attempts to attack me. I’m sitting in the very center of my car, on top of the center console. He doesn’t bang on the windows or rip at the door, but paces the car with a very creepy intensity that rattles me to my core. His patience almost makes him more terrifying, like he is more than willing on waiting me out. I hit the lock button several times to reassure myself I’m safe. EOD
Here I have to recognize that there is something that I’m very unwilling to face. Something stalking me that I’m so terrified to face that I’m trying to lock it out to keep myself safe from it. Something I’m so scared to face, I attempt to relock the door several times just to make sure that I really am safe.
I did a visualization to speak to this man, to understand him, to understand why he is so angry. I bring myself back into the dream and imagine myself exiting the car. I stand before him and he transforms into Venom from Spider-man and I become Spider-man. He tries to thrash and scare me. But I stand before him unmoved. I prod him, “why do you hurt?” And similar questions, with each honest inquiry systematically dismantling all his ferocious glory, until a broken teenage version of myself is revealed.
There he is, huddled in a ball, feeling lost, hurt, forgotten, and abandoned – by no one else but myself. This is the hard reality of shadow work. When we butt up against our pain, our first inclination is to rage against the people that may have caused it. But if you are honestly doing shadow work the next step deeper is a doozy, because your shadow makes itself quite clear that it doesn’t care who did what, the truth remains that it has stayed wounded and broken and repressed and forgotten because you were unable or unwilling to go there for yourself and heal the damage that was enacted upon you. It can be very important to able to hold people accountable for their trespasses against our hearts and soul, but the deep Self holds us accountable, as well, to do the hard work of going into those zones and heal the damage done.
It’s a very tough truth to swallow, especially if the pain was deep. Especially if it was traumatic. Especially if it occurred at a time well before you had any idea how to cope or take care of yourself emotionally – if you even do now.
This teenage me has been waiting for me to welcome him back home. During that time I went through a very bad few years of depression, I have no doubt a large part of me got stuck there. Shoot, the majority of my adult life has been an attempt to resurrect all the parts of me robbed by that time period of my life.
So, I embraced him and assured him of how worthy and valuable he is. How sorry I was to refuse him entry back into my awareness and heart all these years. Sorry for allowing him to continue to hurt and suffer. Sorry for not knowing how to love myself at the time greater than all the forces against me. I honored all we went through, all the shit we endured, validated us on all of it, and assured him he was now safe with me. That I could show up for him in the way he’s always needed from me. And that I would never abandon him like that again.
And while this is beautiful and healing, it’s still not enough. It’s not that easy. I will have to be open and willing to “unlock more doors” of any more shadow material connected to this and other issues as they surface and meet them with the same grace and dignity. Shadow work is not a bandage, but a relationship. One of which I must be forever faithful.
Had I simply wrapped that dream in love and light and sent it off; shoot, had I tried to forget the dream; had I just visualized myself driving away; had I beat “Venom” back into submission: I would have missed the point, and would have missed another opportunity to reconcile with this part of myself and that would have been a deep shame. This pain and abandonment was like “venom” eating away at me. It has stalked me all through my adult life. I have ran from it and tried to lock myself away from having to face it. What I needed then was what I needed now – my inner warrior, Spider-man, to bravely bring my love and compassion into this lost zone of my being and love myself greater than all the forces in this life that threaten my ability to do so. Which is hardest thing one can do for oneself. Yet, the best.
This is not a sprint. Not healed by one mantra. Nor one visualization. This is a journey that leads one back home, through the muck, the fire, and the abyss.