Our human mind is infinitely complex and multi-dimensional.
Our identities and personalities are not as rigidly defined as we have been taught to believe they are. We all have innumerous parts or aspects of our self. We usually have a couple dominant personalities/selves who we present to the world depending on our environment. But we have far more selves that we keep hidden.
These are parts of ourselves that we have deemed “not safe” to show to society at large. The reason could be as simple as not getting a favorable interaction by displaying that personality trait or it could be the result of some traumatic event. These are aspects of ourselves we repress, push away, hide or deny. But they live in our subconscious and influence our lives in more drastic ways than we imagine.
The compilation of these parts/selves make up “the shadow”. One of the essential steps of inner work and healing is to bring awareness and acceptance to the shadow. All parts of us want to be accepted and loved. When this is accomplished, those fragmented aspects of our self/psyche can be integrated into the whole. Then they stop sabotaging our efforts because their needs are met.
Here is a brief overview of how you can begin this process:
Step one: Bring awareness to the shadow.
Carve out some alone time and try to get yourself in a calm, relaxed state. Before I begin any activity like this I say a prayer. Mine goes something like: “My intention is to heal. I ask for assistance from God and from my Highest Self/Soul. Please share with me your wisdom.” You can say whatever resonates most strongly with you.
Do controlled breathing for about 5 minutes: inhale for 4 sec, hold for 4 sec, exhale for 4 sec (or whatever method you prefer). Try to only focus on your breath for those 5 minutes.
Then reflect on your life and pick one area or situation that is not going as you would like. Try to only focus on that one specific area. Next ask yourself: what is triggered when I think about this? Do I start judging/blaming myself? Judging/Blaming others? What reactions first pop up? Its best to write out the most prominent thoughts, especially ones that elicit strong emotion.
Step Two: Look for the origin of the thought
Reflect on what you wrote. When you read these statements try to imagine where they might originate. Is it something a parent or authority figure told you? When did you start thinking that way? What happened? Use your imagination and give that thought a persona. Who is thinking it? A child or adolescent or the scolding voice of your inner judge? What emotion is linked to it? Is it angry, sad, lonely, worried?
I’m not happy with my current romantic relationship.
When I think about it the first thoughts that come up are:
- we’re just not as close as we used to be
- I remember how it was at the beginning and wish it was like that again
- I think we’ve both just gotten lazy with the relationship
- I wonder if we’re going to break up or if its fixable
Pick a thought to look at deeper…
“We’ve both gotten lazy with the relationship”
- blaming both of us
- underneath is the belief that this is a common situation
- I immediately think of my parents marriage which was more polite and friendly than passionate and I swore I wanted a relationship where we were crazy about each other
- Disappointed in myself for letting it get this far
- Feel like I’m betraying part of myself who wanted more (BINGO!)
- When I check in with that part she’s definitely angry
Step three: Give that part of yourself safe space
Once you’ve identified one part of you that has been pushed away or repressed, now give that voice room and space to be heard. What do they want to say? What do they need from you? How do they feel? Try to just witness it with no judgment just loving compassion. You can even try to free write what that part has to say. Try not to attach to what is being revealed just let the energy move.
Back to our example:
“the part of myself that feels betrayed” What do you have to say?
- I’m disappointed that you let the passion die.
- Why didn’t you try harder?
- You’re going to end up with a relationship just like your parents.
- How could you let this happen?
- You were so naïve thinking you could be different.
So this voice may appear to be a little attacking. But try to stay unattached and just listen like you would to someone telling you a story. Just try to offer loving kindness for their pain or suffering.
After the thoughts have died down you can respond.
Step four: Offer loving kindness to that part
Tell that part of yourself that it’s ok to feel that way. Tell them you are sorry you ignored them or dismissed them for so long. Tell them you know they are probably just looking out for you and you appreciate it. Thank them for sharing their insights with you and tell them you value their opinion.
Most of the time, these repressed, hidden, shamed aspects of ourselves just want acceptance and love. Once they have that, the can blend harmoniously with the whole instead of “acting out.”
To someone unfamiliar with psyche work it may seem quite strange to realize you have different voices or parts or personas within you. You may feel a bit “crazy” but I assure you it is VERY NORMAL to have many facets of your mind. The more inner work you do and the more you explore your many selves, it will become easier and more liberating to integrate your selves into your Whole.
I hope you find insight and healing exploring this process!
Healing the Subconscious: An Intro to Psyche Integration
August 29, 2018