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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. ~ Anaïs Nin

Much has been written about The Shadow, originally described by Austrian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, a pioneer of Depth Psychology, an approach to psychotherapy close to my heart that includes the exploration of the unconscious and transpersonal aspects of the human psyche. The Jungian construct of the shadow involves those parts of the Self that we deem as flawed and unlovable, often due to early trauma, and therefore, relegate them to our unconscious. Eckhart Tolle describes it as the painbody, a semi-autonomous psychic entity of old emotional pain not faced, accepted, and let go of in the moment they were experienced.

Encountering the Shadow

Often these traumas have roots in our childhood, transferred by the unexamined (shadow) aspects of those in our family of origin whom we most trusted. Delivered as criticism or rejection, we learn to deny these injured parts to avoid further pain and, ironically, end up attracting to us exactly what we are trying to ward off.

Our shadow reveals our deepest wound, which also holds the key to our greatest healing. Our unexamined pain accumulates and combines with that of others’ to form a collective shadow. Wars have erupted due to our unconscious collective shadows. I believe by working to bring these aspects to consciousness, one person at a time, we can not only lessen the conflict in our own lives, but ultimately achieve world peace.

Robert Bly describes the shadow as the bag we drag around behind us through our life and when aspects of ourselves appear that create discomfort, we throw them into the bag as unclaimed, unlovable parts of our persona. The bag becomes heavier and heavier until we develop the courage to begin to take each dissociated part out to bring it into the light of consciousness.

In shamanism, the shaman, or healer, is seen as one who can walk between the human and spirit worlds to retrieve our discarded parts in order to restore balance to the soul, whether the imbalances are caused by fear, loneliness, addictions, or other ills.

Dancing With the Shadow

If we are courageous enough to enter into long-term, committed relationships, it is likely we will encounter the proverbial mirror that forces us to see our shadow projected onto our beloved. Discerning what is ours from theirs is the crisis and the opportunity of deep intimacy. For me, it took a series of divorces to realize who the common denominator was. During my first and most tumultuous marriage, it was easy to shrug off any criticism as his projections, but when I encountering similar criticisms during my second marriage, I began to recognize recurring patterns.

I don’t believe my rigorous life path of learning through relationships has been arbitrary. I believe it was specifically designed for me to learn and teach others self-love through the healing power of intimacy. As a psychotherapist, being of service has been a large part of my mission and doing my own personal work has been an essential prerequisite. I remember asking my former mentor, “Do I have to experience everything in order to be of service to my beloveds?!” Not everybody needs to experience a curriculum as extreme as mine, but as a psychotherapist, you can only take other people as far you have already gone.

From another former mentor, Werner Erhard, a complicated but significant leader of the “human potential movement,” I learned that in order to truly have a relationship, you must be willing to not have that relationship. To me, this meant that in order to truly have an intimate relationship with another person, I needed to be willing to risk it for my own Truth. This is not an easy principle to follow, especially when the ego is invested in maintaining status quo at all costs, but it is a tenet I have learned to follow more and more as I have matured spiritually. As Maya Angelou eloquently stated, “When someone knows better, they do better.” Choosing our Truth over our egos’ desires is the difference between feeding our shadow or feeding our authentic Self – choosing Love over fear.

Opening to the Teachings

From this end-of-life perspective, sitting still twenty-two hours a day, I have opened into what could be called my life review. Those who have entry into what some call the bardo or the life between lives, either through dreams, meditation, or visions, are able to begin a broader process of self-reflection over their lifetime and begin to identify the themes the soul has come in to work on. My many years in non-ordinary states of consciousness through Holotropic Breathwork, both as a practitioner and a facilitator, has helped me to access these healing states.

Throughout my earlier life I struggled with feeling victimized by energies outside of myself over which I felt powerless. This common pattern is often an imprint from the family of origin. My mother was my initiator in this journey of duality (drama). I was terrified of her and then of my teachers and went on to attract relationships that affirmed this worldview.Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer are three different expressions of victim in the dramatic triangle. (For more information, see the Karpman Drama Triangle – three faces of Victim, a must for psychotherapists and addictions counselors!)

Drama vibrates at a low frequency and like attracts like. To maintain a low vibration, which serves to keep vulnerability at bay, a victim can only draw a persecutor or a rescuer, which then always switch roles. Shadow Work involves bringing each role to consciousness to allow vulnerability and intimacy, a high frequency.

Breakthrough From Drama to True Self

During my breathwork visions, for years I was a Jew in a concentration camp. However, one day, to my shock I suddenly became the Nazi – feeling the power/control of oppressing, enslaving, and murdering others. (This collective shadow, by the way, is the core of racism, or othering, a fear prevalent in the world today. A critical mass must be reached to bring this hatred out of the shadow, one person at a time.) I let myself marinate in these excruciating feelings until I felt the energy complete itself. I didn’t know what to think afterwards – feeling shame mixed with horror that shifted into empowerment, and even liberation.

For me during breathwork, as in life, the most arduous part of the process is learning to stay with uncomfortable feelings. I learned firsthand that it was much more comfortable to experience Victim than Persecutor; the latter forced me into shadow of the motherwound. However, by avoiding the pain, I suppressed my natural fire energy – creativity and passion (joy). I was so afraid of being my mother that I couldn’t fully be me! After this breathwork retreat, I knew my life would be different.

Staying in drama temporarily lessens anxiety, but the cost is one’s true power. The role of Victim (the one down position) was familiar to me. When people emulate the childhood abuser who appeared to have more strength and power; the Persecutor becomes their go to persona during conflict. The Rescuer (the one up position) feels the illusion of safety from the messiness of intimacy, by staying above the fray. Feeling less than was my shadow and Persecutor was the shadow of my shadow. Only when I allowed myself to fully experience this repugnant role, replete with abuse of power, shame, and fear, could I liberate myself and experience Wholeness. In that way, I was my own shaman.

Integration

During this sacred time of life review, I want to honor the teachers in my life of which I have only mentioned a few. I especially want to honor my mother who chose to play this role with me in this lifetime. Mother, I know you are with me and I look forward to dancing with you soon with less fear and more joy.

These bonds with our children as we are their mothers in this lifetime – like Joni Mitchell sings,’permanent tattoos’ that transmit all kinds of emotional knowing and intuitions about their states-of-being into our bodies. Indelible. Love’s burning mark. – Kathryn Brady

When I was 26, I had an explosion of love like none I’d experienced in my life thus far – the birth of my first baby. It was in that moment, feeling that degree of love, that I realized just how much more vulnerable I was in life. I never really had very much to lose, that is, before now.

It’s a girl. I had always been a tomboy, didn’t really know much about girlie things. The men in my family and the men in my mother’s family had been the nurturers. My mother was the matriarch and wielded much power, impetuously. I think she missed the nurturance gene.

I never wore pink. Intuitively, I knew that Casey was a pink baby. She was completely uninterested in the trucks, farm animals, and backhoes I bought her. Casey loved to wear pink and always had a baby doll in her arms. Early on she made it clear that she was an Artist, drawing hearts and balloons on everything she created. As a conscientious mother, it was always a mad dash to provide blank pages on her two-sided easel so her creativity could flow endlessly. Entering her room, I never knew what creations I was going to encounter. A happy being, Casey woke up  every morning singing in her crib until I heard, “Ma!” and my day began.

She was around two years old when I became a single mom and it was Casey and me for the next few years. I rode her to pre-school on my bicycle down St. Charles Avenue and sometimes we rode the streetcar. When I took a few classes in premed, she watched me study, enjoyed my wonder, and was curious about the dead frog in the refrigerator that was my homework.

Casey was strong-willed and she came by it honestly, if you know me. She is a third-generation fiercely strong woman and, also, just the medicine my mother needed to open her heart. There was a special bond between them that I was not a part of, but for which I am deeply grateful.

At four, my creative daughter built a clay Madonna that her art teacher found exceptional. Unfortunately, it exploded in the kiln. Nevertheless, my daughter was to be an artist no matter what else she did with her life.

Any program, class, or experience I could find to enrich her life, we participated in. I loved to watch her blossom and blossom she did. Aside from being creative, Casey was very grounded and sure of herself. In preschool she asked for the telephone list of her Montessori school and began calling each student and telling them to bring a particular fruit to school the next day. Casey was planning a fruit salad! During these moments, I watched her in awe and happily became her assistant.

Another quality noticeable at a young age was Casey’s selfless generosity, an attribute she shared with my mother. When Casey was three, she grabbed a plastic bag and started putting her stuffed animals into it. When I asked her what she was doing her reply was, “I’m giving these to the ‘crooked childs.’ ”  This quality has been consistent throughout her life.

We used to draw letters on each other’s back at bedtime and excitedly guess what each other drew. It was a sweet, simple time. There was strong connection and love between us that has surrounded us throughout our lives.

Conflict arose in her fourth year when my second husband joined our family. Casey is fiercely loyal and I suspect this quality was triggered, perhaps including Sid felt like a breach of trust on some level. Also, Casey had to share me for the first time which made for a bumpy transition.

We eventually found a new equilibrium, that is, until a few years later when I dropped into a sense of unworthiness and self-loathing almost too painful to contain. I later recognized this as a replay of the postpartum depression I’d experienced for a few hours after her birth.

Dense feelings have a cumulative effect throughout our lives and once they become unbearable, the earlier triggers may have been long forgotten. They often become lumped into general malaise and even medicated. Our culture doesn’t value vulnerability and the trauma that contributes to it. Postpartum depression is usually minimized to just hormonal when it is more like a lantern illuminating, or bookmarking, an issue to be explored at a later date. Embracing a greater vision of the cumulative, multigenerational nature of trauma is essential if we are to heal the depression and fear so prevalent in our culture. As we are learning with epigenetics, trauma can skip one or two generations and really wreak havoc making it more difficult to connect the dots. The mother/daughter dyad can provide a mirroring aspect that is often unconscious and evocative. Understanding our ancestry can be a helpful part of the tremendous healing process that is possible with same gender dyads. Some useful tools are Holotropic Breathwork and Family Constellation Therapy.

Being a psychotherapist and open to different healing modalities, I was able to bring much of my angst to consciousness which became grist for the mill for myself and my children. Fortunately, I raised children who are self-aware and communicative. My parents, having been first generation American born with parents who immigrated from the traumas of Eastern Europe and grew up in the Great Depression, made physical survival a possibility for our lineage. I try to make it a practice with my children to give gratitude to their grandparents. Our ancestors’ lives were not easy.

Considering this, my mother was likely struggling with similar feelings I had, but she struggled silently and with fewer internal resources.

Aside from family issues, Casey and I share something unseen. There is an energy between us that is beyond our limited, concrete understanding. For example, when Casey was very young she, her father, and I swam with the manatees in Florida. We had not spoken of manatees for decades. When she was in France, twenty years later, she was walking into their rental telling Kumar about the manatees when she checked her mail and I sent her a Valentine’s Day card with the name of a manatee I had adopted in her name!

After the disability became physically apparent, Casey agreed to go to Brazil with me for a couple of weeks to see John of God. I wrote more specifically about this profound journey in my book and in a previous blog essay, click here. After two weeks in Abadiania, Brazil sharing one of the most profound experiences of my life, I saw more of how Casey and I were similar, than different. I experienced the deep soul connection between us and how it had profoundly affected the community of others seeking healing and their loved ones. The collective grief was palpable as we left on the bus.

It’s as if something was activated during that trip that I had not been aware of previously. When I was preparing my book for publication, Casey told me she wanted to go to the river in Louisiana where they grew up and do an art project with photography and that’s where she would speak to me after I left my body. I titled my book Meet Me By the River – A Woman’s Healing Journey after asking her permission. For the book, click here.

I could have written a full-length novel about my relationship with my daughter. When she feels joy, I feel joy; when she feels pain, I feel pain, like permanent tattoos. I can also feel my mother’s compassion and joy at watching Casey grow and learn, after all, that’s what we are here for. It is not an easy curriculum here in human bodies. It is the PhD level of evolution and my mother, now in Spirit, knows that. As I can now feel my mother’s unbridled love, I hope my children will feel mine and when we are together again, we will all have a celebration.

VISIT THE BLOG FOR MY NEW BOOK – MEET ME BY THE RIVER!

Go to - http://www.meetmebytheriver.net -- And you can find it on Amazon!
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. more...

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