I have to admit that when I was in my 20s, I was caught up in the “positive thinking” phenomenon. Channeling optimism helped me through so many trying times and I do advocate for it. However, there was a side-effect I did not expect and did not see coming: all of those “negative emotions” I had never allowed myself to feel came flooding back in a torrent, demanding to be acknowledged.
I was at the Pagan Spirit Gathering in the year 2000. I was 28 years old. It was the time of my Saturn return. A dark night of the soul was soon to be upon me. The energy at the festival was very intense and beautiful. Then, it began raining–mercilessly while we were in a camping out situation (I have since learned I prefer “glamping”). My friends and I traipsed through the rain to attend a meditation workshop. I do not remember if there was a particular theme, but we were all lying down and were going to be guided “in.”
Right there, in a tent full of meditating people, I started sobbing. Loudly and gutturally. I could not stop. My friends helped me back to our tent. I had a hard time walking. My body just wanted to collapse and cry. I did just that when I got back to the tent. It went on for hours. The sun was beginning to set when I remember coming back to myself. Strangely, the sun seemed to me to be setting in the East. My equilibrium was completely off. It is really indescribable.
They had a safe space at the gathering called “Psyche’s Grotto” where you could go and talk to someone. This area was set up because people can get overwhelmed by all the energy. Also, such energy facilitates things coming up that need to be healed. I talked to the nice young man there. He seemed quite wise. He advised me that there were things I had not looked at within myself and that I had some hard healing work to do (I remember he made his points in the kindest way possible).
I was face-to-face with my own shadow and it was not pretty. Naively, or arrogantly, I really thought I had dealt with my traumatic childhood. Nope. I thought I had done so much healing work just by being vegan, doing yoga, etc. Yes, those practices were extremely helpful, just incomplete.
I was never taught that getting down to the nitty gritty is required to grow spiritually. Part of the reason was the inadequacies of New Age philosophy (So much of it is so wonderful and very useful. I’m only talking about how it was presented and often still is). Specifically, this idea that if only you can remain positive, you will draw only positive to you and if you allow yourself to feel negativity, you are somehow wrong or not doing it right. You create the negative situations in your life because you weren’t “positive enough.”
There is some wisdom hidden here about our thoughts and perceptions influencing our reality, but like “The Law of Attraction,” it is an incomplete picture of Universal Law, all packaged up for our society’s quick fix mentality. There is no quick road to deep healing and leveling up. The situation I was in forced me to face this fact. If I had known all of this sooner, perhaps my Saturn return would not have been so intense!
Thus began my quest to figure out how to do shadow work, though I didn’t yet call it that. I started by not denying anything about how I felt. Not a comfortable place to be, facing everything you would prefer not to see about yourself. I judged myself so very harshly simply for having lots of unprocessed negative emotion. I was a negative person! I felt so unworthy because I had not yet learned to witness my emotions without judgement. That didn’t even occur to me, to be non-judgmental, because the general consensus was that one should just be able to be happy. Why couldn’t I just be happy?
I wish I could say I figured it out pretty quickly and everything worked out. Actually, I felt like I was crazy for a long time. Gradually, I learned about having compassion for myself and accepting my past. Not condoning it, just not stuck in a mental loop of, “It shouldn’t have been that way!” Intellectually, I knew that those hard experiences made me who I am and gave me strength. They showed me what really matters to me, i.e. “How not to be.” However, I really had not integrated that idea into my actual physicality or my emotional body beyond the intellect. I learned that you have to go deep into your own psyche and see which archetypes have been running the show. You also have to check and see which archetypes are telling your stories.
Even in our everyday lives, by being authentic and radically honest with our own feelings, (at the very least with ourselves), we are engaging in a form of ongoing shadow work. Channeling the right archetypes and figuring out what you want the myth of your life to be is where it’s at. A vast topic, indeed.
I feel like not enough is said about this complex subject. A doorway in is to begin to observe yourself with the cold eye of truth, without judgement, and with the warmth of compassion. Let the Eye of Horus see all within you that has been hidden. Bringing those hidden aspects to consciousness is the essence of shadow work and imperative in avoiding spiritual bypassing. But it’s just a start. Authentic healing takes a lot of time . . . If I had only known that in my 20s.
Nicki Ojeda (Tatiara) has been a tarot and past life reader for 35 years. She creates custom essential oil blends and flower essences based on the energies of the reading. She also facilitates Archetypal Embodiment workshops, both online and in-person, helping people have a better relationship to their inner realms, their unique energy, and their special magic.
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