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What to expect in a shadow work session

What to expect in shadow work sessions

What to expect in shadow work sessions

Getting clear exactly what you want from the session

Getting clear exactly what you want from the session

Shadow work offers the container for a deep dive into whatever it is that you want to explore: this could be any current or historic pattern or issue that you wish to look into to find clarity, resolution or healing. Individual shadow work sessions last between 2 and 5 hours. The first session is typically five hours with a free follow-up 20-minute integration call a week or so following the session. The longer length of the sessions I offer makes a huge difference to the therapeutic experience, allowing a level of safety to emerge for you within which you are able to settle into deep exploration of whatever it is that you are bringing. The duration and frequency of your ongoing sessions is informed by your needs and where we are in our journey of working together.

You may choose to begin your sessions with a guided meditation to help you land in the space and ground you. We will then move into a conversation about what you would like to explore and we will spend some time getting clear exactly what you want from the session: the inner shift or the experience that you are looking for. I'll make a written note of this 'want' and this will be used to guide the work for the rest of the session. This ensures that the session is following your agenda and what you want from the session. We will then talk through any previous experiences or incidents in your life that may be relevant to the work we’re going to do.

 

Maybe you don't know what exactly you want but have a sense that things are stuck and not in a good place. If this is the case we will have a deep and broad discussion about how you live your life: what works really well and what doesn’t, what areas of life flow and which ones are stuck, what is the focus in the foreground and what is neglected in the background?  If it is useful for you, we may draw on the lens of the Archetypes as a map to explore your psyche. In this way we will uncover what is alive for you and you will naturally see what it is that you want to have happen.

The multiplicity of the psyche - Identification of parts

The multiplicity of the psyche - Identification of parts

When working with the psyche and our complex web of inner and outer relationships, I make use of the concept that we are all made up of sub-personalities or parts. The emerging view of the psyche is one of multiplicity: we are not in fact just 'one mind' but a collection of individual parts, voices, energy systems, sub-personalities, complexes or inner-selves: that we actually have inside us an inner community

Parts are the energies that developed within us in response to the environments and people that have impacted us in our lives. Parts are a collection of thoughts, feelings, emotions, beliefs and ways of being. People are using this concept in everyday life when they say things like ‘Part of me is really happy to be leaving for new horizons, but part of me is sad that I will not be here with you all.’

 

Parts can be thought of as holding differing points of view and most of us will be familiar with being able to hold different points of view around the same issue. Utilising the concept of parts in shadow work helps us to give form to these different energies, bringing awareness to these aspects of our personality. 

For an in depth overview of 'parts' and the 'multiplicity of the psyche', see here.

Symbolic representation and experiential process

Symbolic representation and experiential process

When exploring the shadow, we make use of a central carpet in the room as a metaphor to represent the your inner world or psyche - that is, a place where we can represent the parts showing up in whatever current or historic issue we are exploring, and also other people or in fact any other entity with which you interact: this could be a dream, an organisation, an idea, concept, story or myth. These people and these parts are symbolically represented on the carpet using coloured cloths (or props and objects).

 

You will be physically active and invited to ‘step in’, to move towards, explore and take on the energies of these parts of you, speaking from that place, inhabiting and embodying the part, getting to know this place within you intimately and experiencing the energies and emotions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs hidden there.

 

This work is experiential, meaning that it involves stepping into these parts of the self in order to fully experience them. Returning back to an ‘observer’ place away from the carpet, you are able to separate from this aspect of your personality and leave it represented on your carpet. We can then discuss the process, what is emerging, and what to do next. In this way we build a symbolic representation of your inner world on the carpet in the middle of the room.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. With my holding and guidance you are invited to step into a part and direct your attention internally to bring to awareness what we can. We are working with your real experience and there is no pretending or 'right' way to do shadow work. If there are inner blocks to the work we will work with the blocks. If there is resistance or risk that arises we will work with that. If the work is not flowing for you, we will find another way to work in order for you to explore the issue that you came to explore. The framework and tools are transparent and flexible, allowing you to experience a personal process in a way that is authentic and works for you.

You are invited to explore and discover parts of yourselves you may have hidden, denied or repressed. By bringing these parts out of shadow in a safe, experiential setting, you are able to move beyond your ordinary relationship to the world. From the 'observer' place the aware Self can look at it's own psyche from a different perspective, from a unique angle and place of altered awareness. This process can be uniquely shame-lifting, with compassion for ones-self naturally arising as you begin to see with greater clarity and perspective what drives your reactions and behaviours. 

By making the unconscious conscious in this way we will have access to the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that govern your way of being in the world. In this way we can guide your process: feeling, experiencing and expressing your emotions, gaining clarity, understanding and new perspective, and bringing about the transformation or shift you are seeking.

The whole process is guided by you and at every step you are completely in control of what happens or does not happen. We spend time exploring the parts that you think are most relevant, finding out as much information as we can about them.

Exploring dynamics and relationships between parts

The alchemy of relational parts work -
Exploring dynamics and relationships between parts

What also comes to light through this experiential process is the relationship between parts of the psyche, between parts of the psyche and the people in our lives, and between parts of the psyche and any other entity which has an influence on us and with which we interact in our lives. When in a part we are able to feel and experience the impact of other parts or people on that aspect of ourselves and this can provide much insight into what needs to shift within us. For example, as I step into a part that feels shame, I may feel small, less than, and want to hide. From staying with these feelings, thoughts and emotions that are aspects of that part, I may become aware of a person or voice close by, judging me. I may be able to hear clearly the words being said and realise that they are loud and repeating and there is a sense that I cannot get away from them and I get to experience the impact of this inner voice or person on this part of me that falls into shame from time to time. This inner voice or person can also now be represented, bringing it into relationship so it can be worked with.

 

In this way, the wider dynamics (the relationships between these parts, or between an inner part and something outside of us) can be experienced and explored and through representation these dynamics become visible where before they were below the level of awareness.

 

So, what emerges are the messages we are hearing from the people around us and how these impact us; metaphorical entities that are blocking our way forward, protecting us or holding us back; unhelpful patters of behaviour or ways of being, repeating relationship dynamics; and the truthful nature of the parts and inner relationships that comprise our inner world.

 

It is through representation and this parts framework that an effective way of relating with the aspects of self becomes available, and a space emerges to start to unravel and make sense of our emotions, drives, feelings and sensations.

Facilitated inner transformation

Facilitated inner transformation

Shadow work offers the opportunity to experience a symbolic process and offers huge flexibility with no real world consequences. Working directly with parts of you or a dynamic playing out for you we are able to process strong or destructive emotions and stuck feelings; work through inner or outer conflict; facilitate expression of anger or grief; work with parts that are experiencing guilt, shame or holding onto traumatic memories; set or strengthen boundaries; meet, witness, hold, nurture and support vulnerability or parts you might find hard to accept; work with fear, over-protective parts, resistance and protective or controlling patterns of behaviour or other patterns that no longer serve; release limiting beliefs; it may involve delicate and sensitive Inner Child work. The nature of the work and what you want to have happen will naturally emerge.

Our work together is an experiential and symbolic way to work with your inner life and goes beyond comprehension, finding experiential ways to move through, to support and to accept, providing an embodied process of exploration and healing. At all parts of this process, the decision of what will happen and how it will happen is made by you.

The work in shadow work sessions is about more than healing deep emotional wounds. It is also about finding the gold that lies in those wounds. Somewhere within our deepest wounds we will find the greatest energies and the greatest gifts we have to offer the world. Through this work you will learn that you have a core, an essence that is untouched by life's traumas. This core, this indwelling Self, however it manifests for you emerges naturally and grows through the process of your work. This Self holds the wonderful qualities of calmness and clarity, acceptance and compassion from which we can step fully and consciously into our lives, in deeper alignment with the world, our purpose, and our true selves.

"Bowing to your pain, wisdom, and resilience. Let’s walk together in ruthless joy."
Pat McCabe 

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