The Shadow Self and Shadow Work’s Role In Spirituality

The Shadow Self and Shadow Work’s Role In Spirituality

The Shadow Self and Shadow Work’s Role In Spirituality

The shadow self and shadow work maybe concepts you’ve stumbled across during the course of your spiritual journey. Shadow work is the entire realm of healing that every person must engage with in order to “ascend” or pursue enlightenment to any degree, and there’s a massive overlap with psychology and trauma that I think often gets overlooked by the spiritual community, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

We live in a society that is so mentally and emotionally unwell that we are exposed to a covert undercurrent of micro-traumas almost daily. Sexism and sexual harassment are traumatic. Racism is traumatic. Anti-LGBTQ attitudes are traumatic. These are covert societal traumas that are inflicted upon social groups over generations. These kinds of abuses and microaggressions can become so systemically “normalized” and occur so subtly that some people who experience them end up internalizing them and may not even recognize the abuse when it occurs.

Then there’s overt societal traumas: Genocide, war, and the displacement of people that occurs because of them, as well as poverty and the displacement of people that occurs because of it, like gentrification and homelessness. Terrorism and hate crimes are also a part of this.

Then we have social traumas: being bullied for your weight, intellect, physical appearance, religious beliefs, disabilities, or any other factor that makes you physically, neurologically, or ideologically different.

You can think of all of these things as the collective “karma” that we, as a society, have created here on earth throughout our history.

And then we have the traumas that are passed down to us through our families–generational trauma, or as some in the spiritual community refer to it, ancestral karma, generational karma, generational/ancestral curses: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, narcissistic abuse, mother wounds, father wounds, etc. These are the traumas that when viewed from the outside, we can mostly agree are problems, but they are difficult for us to recognize in ourselves. Particularly in cases of emotional and narcissistic abuse, most of us never had another familial experience to compare it to, so we assumed our parents behavior was normal, and thus, never recognized the abuse, and because we never recognized the abuse, we never dealt with it.

Throughout our lives, as we are bombarded with all manner of abuses and exposed to innumerable traumas great and small, we learn strategies to survive and feel safe. Many of the coping mechanisms which we develop to keep ourselves safe in these toxic situations in our formative years prevent us from having healthy relationships and healthy lives in adulthood. In the case of societal abuses, we are being re-traumatized every time we experience one.

For many of us, this initial traumatic “programming” as you could call it, makes us more susceptible to abuse and trauma later in life, because it instills subconscious fear-based beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.

All of these coping mechanisms–and the emotional scars that they are trying protect us from re-experiencing–are lodged deep in our subconscious psyche: our shadow.

In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” may refer to:

(1) an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one’s personality, the shadow is largely negative, or…

(2) the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. There are, however, positive aspects which may also remain hidden in one’s shadow (especially in people with low self-esteem).

The shadow is where all of our unconscious habits, patterns, addictions, subconscious beliefs, and traumas lie. It’s the emotional bruises we’ve sustained that are so painful, we tucked them away and never looked at them. And when we haven’t dealt with those emotional scars, they bubble up from within the shadow as depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, rage, narcissism, abusive behavior, projection, dissociation, an inability to form secure attachments and healthy relationships, addiction, codependency, and so on and so forth.

A lot of people never make the connection between being abused and developing mental illness.

These are all trauma responses or destructive coping mechanisms we created to help us deal with (or not deal with) our emotions. This is the shadow made manifest, and what many spiritual people label as the ego.

(Note: What most spiritual people label as the ego is not the same as the definition of the ego in psychology, which is defined as the totality of our conscious self, or our identity. Thus, our ego–or identity–can never be truly killed or destroyed, merely transformed. To have no ego would be to cease being human.)

Learn more about the purpose of the ego.

Furthermore, when it comes to relationships, that subconscious programming in our minds (and souls) continuously attracts us to similar behavioral patterns, emotions, and energy throughout the rest of our lives because we’ve learned that this is what love looks like and it becomes what we’re attracted to in others. Because we’ve also normalized abusive behavior, we don’t have healthy boundaries and can’t identify red flags. That looks like experiencing repeating patterns of the same relationship issues no matter who you’re with, the same toxic work environments no matter where you go, and meeting the same kind of toxic people over and over (some might call this the Law of Attraction). The incidents mirror or recreate the original trauma, but they also present an opportunity for that trauma to be processed and healed.

READ: Your fear, anxiety, depression, and other self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors are caused by unhealed trauma, and that trauma, when allowed to run rampant in society over generations, has created the world we live in.

When we create beliefs around these trauma responses and coping mechanisms, and then create social norms, and governing policies around those beliefs, we then manifest that shadow into the world around us.

“Trauma decontextualized in a person looks like personality. Trauma decontextualized in a family looks like family traits. Trauma decontexualized in a society looks like culture.” –Resmaa Menakem, trauma expert

You’ll find a lot of spiritual teachings that discuss acknowledging the shadow self and and learning to acknowledge it and integrate it. Through this process of acknowledgement, we recognize our traumas and the behavioral patterns that have resulted from them. Through that acknowledgement and the subsequent practices of reclaiming our power away from that trauma, we integrate it. When we acknowledge that all of our emotions are okay, even the negative ones, we integrate pieces of our shadow, and recognize ourselves as a whole person again. As we heal, we step into our power, and into alignment with our higher self and our higher purpose. We “ascend.”

Learn more about ascension.

It’s also important to note, once again, that the shadow isn’t only negative. It also includes positive aspects of yourself that you aren’t able to consciously see because of all of the beliefs we’ve created around our abuse and trauma. For example, someone who has been emotionally abused may believe that they aren’t worthy of love. Their inherent worthiness and goodness is trapped in their psychological shadow, where they can’t consciously access it. Only through shadow work can they excavate their self-worth–usually by sifting through some of the heavier emotions around traumatic experiences that it’s buried under and working to release them.

Shadow work isn’t only a mental and emotional exercise. Trauma is what creates emotional blockages in our energy bodies and our physical bodies, and that stagnant energy contributes to our inability to process the trauma and keeps us stuck in our repeating patterns. Utilizing various types of energy work like reiki, crystal healing, acupuncture, or physical movement therapies like somatic therapy, yoga, and dance can help re-align the emotional and physical bodies with the mind, and shake loose stagnant energy that can then be processed through more traditional types of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-informed talk therapy, etc.

Our shadow is not something to be destroyed, it’s something to be explored. Through that exploration, we discover ourselves, and by discovering ourselves, we are able to become more conscious of who we are, and live with more awareness, both of ourselves, and how we contribute to the co-creation of the world around us.

Xo,

Ash

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Do We Manifest Abusive Experiences?

Do We Manifest Abusive Experiences?

Do We Manifest Abusive Experiences?

If you’ve been in spiritual circles for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard some form of the idea that we create our reality, and we manifest our experiences, and as such, we must take responsibility for ourselves and our experiences in order to create the outcomes we desire.

This concept becomes dangerously twisted, however, when applied to victims of abuse such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, rape, and systemic oppression. That doesn’t stop many well-meaning spiritual people from using it to dismiss and otherwise invalidate the very real experiences of abuse victims. I’ve come across some form of it a lot over the course of my spiritual development, particularly in the early stages, including touting it as channeled information from spirit guides, etc.

At the time, I wasn’t educated enough on the subject to know better, and I took the word of psychics and channelers. Having had many years to grow in understanding and develop spiritually, I now realize how this is an over-simplification and only serves to damage and shame victims of abuse.

Some of the forms of this message have been:

 

  • Your souls contracted for this experience.
  • Your thoughts create your reality, therefore, your victim mentality created this situation.
  • There’s an energy exchange between abuser and the abused, and if the abused wasn’t putting out that kind of energy they wouldn’t attract this experience.

I’d like to break each one of these down and explain why this is misunderstood and damaging.

“Your souls contracted for this experience”

If soul contracts in these situations are such a thing, then it is a contract to bring light to these dynamics so that they can be healed and ended. That does not mean that we simply dismiss it as “well, you signed up for this” and forget about it. It means that it’s a contract between all of us on earth–the person observing abusive situations–and the people specifically involved as well, and their dynamic is meant to teach us empathy and what it means to protect the vulnerable, so when someone dismisses abusive situations in this manner, they are not only enabling abusers and hurting victims, they are also engaging in spiritual bypassing by using spirituality to avoid having to feel uncomfortable emotions, which would be the catalyst for empathy.

Additionally, if we are to believe that there are multiple timelines in play and that multiverse theory is true, then we live in an infinite multiverse full of alternate and parallel realities where all possibilities exist and are experienced, including those that don’t involve abuse, and this would render the concept of soul contracts null and void.

Learn more about parallel realities.

“Your thoughts create your reality, therefore, your victim mentality created this situation.”

As I’ve said before… a victim mentality only exists when the abuse is imaginary… but even those victim mentalities are often rooted in real trauma and abuse. In that case, we must go back to the source.

Learn more about victim consciousness

A person’s first experience with abuse can never be the result of their own thoughts because the experience has never entered into their awareness. Especially when we are children, we haven’t yet fully developed a sense of self–our brains don’t even finish forming until we’re 25–and we are at the mercy of the adult/child power dynamic. Therefore, any abuse perpetrated on a child by an adult can never be the result of law of attraction. Children don’t have the luxury of making their own decisions, much less forming complex belief systems about being victims. They do, after all, only come to believe they are the source of their abuse after the fact, and as adults, spend years unlearning that shame.

Abusive experiences and patterns are almost always ancestral, handed down from one generation and forcefully inflicted onto the next. By simply incarnating into that ancestral line, one will experience that abuse. This, you might call a soul contract. But soul contracts are not only meant to be experiences, they are meant to be opportunities to heal. As an observer of that contract, you become a part of the collective contract and you are offered an opportunity to heal group karma that enables abusers through rape culture, systemic racism, and other destructive social climates.

By telling someone that they manifested their abuse, you are absolving the abuser of accountability, and thus aiding in the manifestation of that experience by contributing to global karma that perpetuates those experiences.

“There’s an energy exchange between abuser and the abused, and if the the abused wasn’t putting out that kind of energy they wouldn’t attract this experience.”

With regard to there being an energy exchange between abuser and the abused–what this really means is boundaries.

People can only abuse you if you continue to allow it, and often times that requires learning to uphold and maintain healthy boundaries. But many times, power dynamics make upholding boundaries extremely difficult. It’s called abuse because the person or group who has the the most power is using that power to abuse a person or group who has less of it. This, too, is ancestral, because the only way a person or group obtains more power than another is by accumulating it over time (the only exception being a parent/child dynamic in which case it exists from the moment the child is born).

Who allowed that person to accumulate that power, unchecked?

Who continues to enable them to wield that power without consequence?

The answer is the collective. The family members who don’t speak up or step in. The friends who never say anything. The “good” cops who don’t report the bad cops. The people who say “boys will be boys.” The well-to-do family who protects their sons and daughters from the consequences of their actions.

All of the people who see this abuse taking place and say nothing? They are just as responsible, because they allow abusers to avoid being held accountable.

You can’t tell someone that they’ve manifested their own oppression or abuse without pointing the finger at yourself for being a part of the collective that allows it to continue.

So… let’s shut this toxic shit down wherever we see it. Okay?

Xo,

Ash

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Dream Walking

Dream Walking

Dream Walking

The last couple of posts have talked about out of body experiences and astral projection as it pertains to our individual experiences. Today I’m going to talk about something similar but a little bit different – dream walking.

Dream walking is when you enter the dreams of others, or when they enter your dreams. Some may also experience this as a shared dream.

Dream walking can be done lucidly, or not. The only way you would be able to confirm that you’ve done it is if the other person were to share their dreams with you on a regular basis and the two of you can compare notes, but there are some tell-tale signs.

The Dream World

Most of the time we think of dreams as not being “real.” But everything in the universe is made up of energy, including your thoughts and consciousness. In that sense, everything that exists is just as real as anything else – including your dreams. Some might even argue that because your dreams are pure consciousness, and consciousness is the basis of reality, your dreams are actually closer to the original state of “real” than anything in the physical world.

I discussed astral planes and dimensions a bit in my last post, and I also mentioned that your consciousness is multidimensional. What that means is that your consciousness exists in multiple (actually, ALL) planes of existence simultaneously, it’s just that you’re only typically aware of the most immediate one at any given time.

Dreams, meditation, hypnosis, and other tools for altering consciousness allows your conscious mind to experience some of these other dimensions temporarily.

A common misconception many people have is that you experience one dimension at a time and you go from here to there. In reality, it’s a lot more fluid than that – all of them exist together and particularly within dreams, you may experience a mix of elements.

What that means is your experience of those other dimensions is filtered through your current ego consciousness.

Interacting On Different Levels

Just like you can have an OBE and astral project into varying planes of existence and dimensions, you can also interact with other people in those varying levels and planes of existence. It’s just your multidimensional consciousness and their multidimensional consciousness meeting at the same level – or not.

The thing that makes this totally fascinating and confusing at the same time is that neither of you absolutely has to be in the same level to interact. You may interact with them lucidly, but they have no idea and vice versa. Their consciousness may interact with you from a higher level and you remember it and experience it lucidly either in this plane or the next one up, but they don’t. Or you may both experience it and remember it but wake up thinking it was just a dream, and if you never compared notes on those dreams, you’d never know it.

Apparently I have a tendency to show up in people’s dreams and have really deep, meaningful conversations with them that they can’t remember when they wake up. Five people have told me about them so far, I’m sure more of you are out there! (And if you are, I’d love to hear about it! No matter how weird they might sound. No judgement.) I typically don’t remember these, but there was one instance where there was some correlation and I’ll talk about that in the next section.

Shared Dreams

Shared dreams can be just as you’d imagine them to be – two people having the exact same dream, or, two people having the exact same dream featuring each other, or, they can be two people interacting in a dream state, but each of them experiencing and remembering the dream differently.

For example, you may have a shared dream that you are having a conversation with someone, but you only remember your half of the conversation and they only remember their half. Or each of you may see completely different imagery in the dreams, but they will both have the same overarching themes and contain similar information.

I was once working with someone on some intense, prolonged dream interpretation. He was having very vivid dreams about me every night (literally – nine nights in a row and then a few more sporadically after that). Every day, he’d tell me the dream he had the night before and we’d go through the symbolism, and I would compare notes with the dreams I was having.

One night I had a dream that I was having a conversation with him via text message. I could barely remember it, but from what I could recall, I was attempting to explain something to him and make him understand a difficult concept.

The next day, he told me about the dream he had that evening. He was talking to me on the phone and I told him, “Quit wanting the unattainable. Only you know what is attainable and only you can make yourself happy.”

One Level Up

Earlier I mentioned interacting with another person’s consciousness “one level up.” I, obviously, struggled to explain the level of self-awareness that one has in the higher planes in my last post, but this one is a tad easier to describe. I’m not really sure what the proper term for this level is, but you definitely still maintain a sense of your current identity so my assumption is that it is much “closer”, so to speak, to our current level than the other one.

The way I experience this level – and I’ve talked to other people who have had similar experiences – is simply as a void. There’s nothing in it except myself and the other person. It’s just a big, blank black space. I’m always 100% aware of myself and of who the other person is and that we’re interacting, but it doesn’t necessarily occur to me that I’m dreaming. It’s just as “real” as the real world and it feels just as natural that I should be interacting with that person there as it might if I were awake, but there is always a strange sense of surprise because I’m always thinking, “What are you doing here?!”

Other Dream Quirks

Dreams are highly symbolic, so very rarely are the things in them completely literal – not even the people involved. What I’m saying is, you may show up in someone else’s dream as another person and vice versa.

You’ve probably had dreams where you knew who the person was supposed to be, but they didn’t look like themselves, or they were someone else you knew, entirely (I know I have). In those dreams, you were at least semi-aware that it was supposed to be someone else. But you may also have dreams where you aren’t aware of that and it could be someone visiting your dream as someone else. Or even something else – people can show up as animals, too. Or anything, really – it’s the dream world! The sky isn’t even the limit 🙂

Another odd quirk about consciousness… I’ve mentioned in several of my blogs that time is really just a human perception and it doesn’t actually exist. This means that you may have a shared dream with a person, or interact with them via dream state, except you don’t experience it at the same time. You might have the dream tonight, and they may not have it until next week. Time doesn’t matter. Consciousness is al there is, and it’s all very fluid.

I know all of these possibilities can make it difficult to determine what kind of dream it is that you’re having and how you should interpret it, but with a little practice, you can really start digging in and learning a lot. If you’ve got a dream you think you need some help with, I’ve just started offering dream interpretations. Get the details here.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Xo,

Ash

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How to Know How Many Past Lives You’ve Had

How to Know How Many Past Lives You’ve Had

How to Know How Many Past Lives You’ve Had

Question from a reader:

“I wanted to know if I had past lives and if so how many?”

Interesting question to ask. Allow me to bend your mind a little bit…

You want to know if you have past lives and if so, how many. Having a life that occurs in the past assumes a certain linearity in the flow of time itself and it assumes that your lives happen in a linear, chronological order and it assumes that there is a beginning to this time and that there is an end to this time.

All of those assumptions hinge on the existence of linear time, but, as I’ve covered a few times before, time as you know it does not exist. It’s an illusion. 

If you click that link, it will take you to one of my older blog posts explaining why and even link you to a video by theoretical physicist (and my nerd crush) Brian Greene explaining the science behind it.

So what are the implications of that on the concept of incarnation? Effectively what it means is that all of your lives–past, present, and future–actually exist in the “now.”  They all exist simultaneously, and instead of thinking of them in terms of where they are in “time” (past/present/future), you could instead think of them in terms of where they are in space-time.

I wrote another post giving a visual example of what simultaneous lives looks like that you can read here.

When you take these things into account, the question of, “Have I had a past life and if so, how many?” becomes null and void. Thinking about it in those linear terms may make it easier to grasp, but it also puts a lot of limitations on your expectations about what your soul is capable of.

Another great post I would refer my readers to, after checking out the two linked above, is this one about spirit communication and reincarnation.

Now to address the question of “How many?” The answer is “All of them.”

If everything and everyone in existence is merely God manifesting itself and we are all “one” at a spiritual and energetic level, then you are everyone and you always have been. Every life that’s ever been lived is your life. And so is everyone else’s.

Hope this was helpful. If it made your brain hurt, then that’s a good thing. It means we’re stretching your mind. 😉

Xo,

Ash

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