Do Not Look Away
Shadow work was never meant to be easy. It was never meant to be comfortable. It is messy and painful and sometimes, downright ugly.
Any strong emotional reaction you have to what I’m about to say is indicative of something unhealed within you that needs to be addressed, and it’s calling you to look at it, sit with it, and to not look away until you’ve come face-to-face with it in the mirror of your reality.
I ran a little social experiment in a Facebook group years ago that literally proved that it was almost impossible for the majority of people to do this. I posted this blog post in the group and asked people to do the exercise contained therein, and to comment not with their opinion about the article, but with what types of emotions were arising within them as they read it.
Nearly every single commenter failed. They immediately launched into their defense mechanisms, commenting with their beliefs and opinions about the article rather than paying attention to what was happening within them, emotionally. Even with further instruction and guidance, many of them continued to react from their subconscious programming.
So here I am, six years later, writing yet another post which is going to challenge you to sit through your discomfort and refrain from reacting out of your own wounds. Can you do it without looking away? Let’s find out.
BLACK. LIVES. MATTER.
Do not look away. What are you feeling in your body right now?
Did your pulse quicken? Your heart start beating heavier? Your chest get tight? Brow furrow, perhaps? That almost uncontrollable urge to instantly react and tell me that all lives matter? Or perhaps your reaction is to shut down, stop reading, and immediately click away to avoid having to sit with those very physical feelings?
Do not look away.
If your coping mechanism is avoidance, the urge to run from these feelings is probably going to win out. You’ve most likely already stopped reading.
Do not look away.
The other possible outcome is that you’re already formulating all the arguments in your head to contradict the concept that Black Lives Matter, all of the reasons that justify what you are feeling right now and makes it righteous. This is another type of coping mechanism at work.
DO NOT LOOK AWAY.
Your instant emotional reaction and physiological response to Black Lives Matter is what we call feeling “triggered.” A person becomes triggered when a similar, yet unconnected environmental stimulus causes them to subconsciously recall unresolved emotional wounds from past experiences.
Still here? Still reading? Still able to sit with all of those uncomfortable feelings? Ready to explore them? Good. Let’s dig in.
Every time I write Black Lives Matter, I am intentionally triggering you. But how and why?
More than likely, you believe that acknowledging that black lives matter means that you don’t matter. That somehow, by acknowledging the pain of people of color, that your pain is being ignored. Your own unhealed wound is screaming so loud for acknowledgment and love that you can’t hear, see, or feel the collective pain of an entire group of oppressed people. And so you dismiss their pain or demand that they also acknowledge your wound. You may have wrapped this up in some kind of political rhetoric as a way to justify your feelings, but underneath that justification is your own core wound. Acknowledging that black lives matter somehow, for some reason, makes you feel less than.
In the spiritual community especially, this justification has become wrapped in the flowery language of peace, love, and light… which leads me to–you guessed it–SPIRITUAL BYPASSING.
Spiritual Bypassing: Spiritual Bypassing is a term coined by psychologist Robert Masters to describe the practice of empty spirituality devoid of real personal development. In spiritual bypassing, a person uses over-simplified spirituality to avoid actually doing the internal work to develop real spiritual understanding, often resulting in stunted spiritual growth, repressed emotions, inflated ideas about their own level of enlightenment, and a plethora of other detrimental activities and ideas.
This sort of empty spirituality doesn’t facilitate conscious expansion or enlightenment, but rather feeds one’s own ego and keeps its proponents trapped in the lowest levels of conscious awareness.
Here’s a clear example of using spirituality to bypass:
You cannot heal yourself without sitting with your own discomfort. When you haven’t healed yourself, your gaping wound can block your ability to empathize with the plight of others, and that aspect of your shadow is reflected back to you in the world around you. In the case of Black Lives Matter, the anger that people feel around black people asking for the acknowledgement of the generational trauma inflicted on them by a biased system stems from feelings of resentment that your own pain hasn’t been acknowledged (and therefore, why the hell should anyone else’s be?).
Acknowledging the collective pain of black people doesn’t invalidate your own pain. That’s you invalidating yourself. That internal invalidation has informed your beliefs about yourself and the world around you. It’s the foundation of how you see the world. It’s informed your politics. It’s informed your actions, which include willfully ignorant blindness to the systemic oppression of people who don’t look like you.
And that, my friend, is how you create your own reality, and how that reality gets reflected back to you–until you heal.
That’s a hard pill to swallow. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a wounded person, blinded by your own pain. You can forgive yourself. You can recognize your wound. You can begin your own healing process, and in that process, you can contribute to healing the world–including the generational trauma of millions of Black people.
Thanks for being here,
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What I hear when I hear black lives matter is that we matter, our lives matter. I don’t hear that all lives don’t matter. After being oppressed for so long and so many lives taken because of race and pure cruelty. There lives matter. I feel that everyone needs to hear this. Because it’s not that all lives don’t matter,but that there lives matter to.
Exactly! This is very difficult for someone who is still very much living from their own wounds because their immediate reaction is, “What about me? What about my injustice? What about my experiences?” It’s their unhealed inner-child crying out, and it’s a heart-chakra block that gets in the way of connecting with another’s experience (i.e. empathy).
As an empath that seems to feel the weight of the world, I feel sad. Sad that we (white people) have marginalized and oppressed people of color for eons. Black people, brown people, mixed people that can’t “pass” as white. It is infuriating that white people actually say, “all lives matter” (note the lower case). I have so much more to say, but never enough words.
There’s a lot of collective grief in the air right now. I’ve been feeling it all weekend. That’s a good thing, though. It means there’s an energy purge happening.
All of the shifts that we talk about happening within us as individuals during a healing crisis must also occur on a collective level within group collectives, and at the highest level, within the global collective. A world-wide dark night of the soul.
I don’t think we’re done yet, but we do know that this is a healing process and the quickest way out of hell is through.
Thanks for getting this and articulating it perfectly Ash!
I appreciate you.
I just want to say that until I heard the podcast re: Spiritual Bypassing, I was doing just that. And I’m so thankful for being called out so I can work on it! Thank you for discussing things that are uncomfortable. I check myself now and ask why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. If I’m comfortable, then I’m not doing the work. Thank you for addressing Black Lives Matter. I used to be a member of the ‘all lives matter’ club, to my chagrin. But I understand now, its not about my pain being unacknowledged but their pain and anguish taken seriously and seeing it through their eyes and recognizing their pain and offering tremendous compassion. At least that’s my take. I’m still learning.
And THANK YOU for being open and willing to listen and learn. That’s all any of us can do! Also, I think it’s brave of you to take accountability and (publicly) make this admission. Not a lot of people are willing to do that these days. Thank you for listening and thank you for learning. This is how we heal <3