by Debbie Ford
The Shadow Process gives us access to loving all of ourselves. This deep and profound work teaches us how to love each and every aspect of our humanity. It enables us to embrace both the darkness of our smallest self and the brilliant light of our highest self. Making peace with our dark side is a sacred journey. It demands rigorous honesty, courage and a great deal of compassion. Embracing our shadow delivers us emotional wholeness and the absolute freedom to be who we are. When we are filled with self-love and self-appreciation, we automatically attract the miraculous experience of love and appreciation from others.
What is the Shadow?
The shadow contains all the parts of ourselves that we try to hide, deny or suppress. It is the keeper of all the aspects of ourselves that we dislike and the qualities that we judge as unacceptable. The shadow wears many faces: angry, critical, fearful, lazy, controlling, selfish, weak, pathetic… These are the faces we don’t want to show the world and the faces we don’t want to show ourselves. Most of us expend huge amounts of energy trying to get rid of or control these unwanted aspects of ourselves. We hope that by hiding or fixing our “bad qualities” we will have the peace, success and happiness we desire. Most of us are convinced that we are flawed and inadequate so we become masters of disguise, and go to great lengths to hide our bad qualities from those around us – even from ourselves.
The result of turning our backs on our dark side? A life that slips by only half lived. Dreams that are never realized, or worse, that lay buried under years of resignation and shame. Until we make peace with our shadow we will continue to be at war with ourselves. And our outer world will mirror our inner struggle. What we resist persists – and we will create and attract from others that which we most dislike in ourselves. Until we feel authentic compassion for each and every aspect of ourselves, we will continue to draw forth people and events that will mirror the negative feelings we have about ourselves. Until we take back our power and forgive ourselves for being human we will attract people who push our buttons and reactivate our emotional wounds. And until we find the courage to love ourselves completely, we will never truly be able to experience the love from those around us. We don’t need to guess how we really feel about ourselves at the deepest level. All we have to do is look at how the outer world treats us. If we’re not getting the respect, love and appreciation we desire from the outer world, it’s more than likely we aren’t giving these things to ourselves. This is the benevolence of the Universe in action. The whole world is a mirror of our own consciousness, and when we make peace with the disowned aspects of ourselves, we make peace with the world.
Embracing The Shadow
The process of embracing our shadow side calls us to uncover the gifts and receive the wisdom hidden within each and every aspect of ourselves, particularly the ones that we are ashamed of or embarrassed by. Rather than viewing our weakness, our smallness, our insecurities or our rage as enemies or as obstacles to moving forward in our lives, this process guides us to embrace our so-called defects as the powerful teachers that they are. The Shadow Process is founded on the understanding that every quality, every emotion and every experience comes bearing great gifts. Once we learn how to uncover these gifts we become the powerful masters of our lives. We develop the ability to transform thoughts, beliefs or situations that once held us back into fuel for our spiritual evolution and the manifestation of our dreams. Embracing our shadow allows us to reclaim the power we once gave away. When we are at peace within ourselves, our self-esteem no longer depends on the approval of others. Our own sense of self-worth is no longer at the mercy of how other people feel about us. When we receive the gifts of our dark side, something truly miraculous occurs. Our wounds are transformed into wisdom and the parts of us we once believed to be our deepest flaws are revealed as our greatest assets.
Embracing our shadows is the ultimate act of self-love. There is no greater love than the one that allows us to shine a light on the aspects of ourselves that we have judged and made wrong. Embracing our dark side gives us a new found freedom to be with the darkness in others. For when I can love all of me, I will love all of you. Shadow work is the path of the heart warrior. It takes us to a new place where we can open our hearts to all of ourselves and all of humanity.
Shadow work is not about perfection; it’s about integration. It is the path of reclaiming each and every aspect of ourselves and discovering how that aspect can serve us. It requires us to look at our lives from the perspective that we have been given everything we need to fulfill our hearts’ desires. And the greatest of these gifts lies hidden in our shadow. If we look for the gift of our weakness, we may find that it has actually given us strength or that it has allowed us to be supported by others. The gift of our fear might be our determination or our ability to set good boundaries. The gift of an upsetting situation is that it could lead us to read a life-changing book. The gifts of our pain are here for us to receive, but first we must be willing to look for them.
Each of us must make the conscious choice to step out of the belief that we are victims of our lives and open up to the possibility that we have created our particular circumstances for a reason. We must commit to looking at our lives as though each and every quality, person and circumstance has been drawn to us in order to give us specific insights and wisdom. This requires us to examine each aspect of ourselves and our lives and ask, “Why would I need this? How could this be a catalyst for me to grow and evolve? How could this quality or situation serve me in creating the life I desire?” Transformation requires nothing more than having a shift in perception. It is choosing to look at our lives in a way that empowers us rather than disempowers us. At its core, this process requires us to make the choice to see ourselves though the eyes of the Divine.
I believe that the shadow is the greatest gift that God could give us. It is the teacher, the trainer and the guide that supports us in uncovering our true magnificence. The shadow is not a problem to be solved or an enemy to be conquered, but a fertile field to be cultivated. Dig your hands into its rich soil and you will discover the potent seeds of the person you most desire to be. Our most hated, feared or shamed qualities are the ones that hold the key to living the life of our dreams. What the Shadow Process provides is a way to love what we have feared, to decode the messages we receive from within and to unleash the power that is hidden within you.