Sometimes I call my work parts-work, other times, shadow-work, but it’s all the same to me.
Distilled down, it’s about isolating parts of self or psyche (sometimes in tremendously nuanced and subtle ways) in order to access shadow material. You know, our gaping blind spots – the stuff we can’t see but that’s really obvious to everyone around us. Material that we banished to the depths of our unconscious because it wasn’t safe or socially acceptable to express “that thing” or be “that way”, but is now running amok, seeping out sideways, leaking everywhere!
Played out, this unconscious material can wreak holy havoc in our lives. I mean, have you seen “Inside Out”?!
“Sadness” has wisdom, insight, and perspective to share, but the more she’s silenced, invalidated, and relegated to a small corner of the room, the more she unwittingly and compulsively creates situations to get Riley’s attention. She creates tremendous disruption in a simple attempt to be heard, and a lot of damage occurs before her value is recognized and she is given her rightful place inside of Riley’s psyche.
In the work I facilitate, I have my clients personify various parts of themselves so that these parts can come into conscious awareness, and be accepted, owned and integrated by the Self. Once integrated, the life force energy within these parts gets updated, redirected, and repurposed to good use. More often than not, all these parts want are to be heard and validated. The rest kind of takes care of itself after that — because the energy has been liberated and movement in now possible.
We all have impulses and personality traits we’d rather not admit to or show the world, but they are part of us, and if we resist them, and battle to keep them hidden, they get bigger, louder, and more entrenched in their habitual stance.
The movie illustrated a few really important things:
The profound usefulness of all emotions, including and maybe especially the ones we deem as bad or unfavorable. You know, the ones we most try to get rid of.
The more we turn towards all that is inside us, the more dynamic our emotional reality can be. We develop and grow, and one dimensional emotional experiences transform into textured, layered, multi-colored ones.
When we repress and neglect our internal emotional cues, something inside of us breaks or splits, as in the case of the “personality islands” crumbling into oblivion. We disconnect from important parts of our history and from our core sense of self, which in turn dulls our experience of life. But do the work of repair and old neural networks get updated, and new ones get formed. After all, once “Sadness” was integrated, the “personality islands” came back online, only with way more nuance and sophistication.
In general, the more we embrace our shadows, the closer we come to embodying our Souls. If embodying your Soul is important to you, then this type of work will yield deep rewards. If that’s not what compels you, do it so that you can direct your energy where and how you want it, instead of having it perpetually sabotage and derail you.
So embrace your feelings, and be a gracious host for all of your emotions. Then notice how much quicker they dissolve into their original essence, and fill you with a sense of dynamic wholeness.