What is the Shadow and How are we Wounded?
Though none of us would consciously choose to be wounded, wounding is an initiation onto a soul journey uniquely our own. As we deal with the consequences of our shadow wounding, we learn and gradually become whole.
Aside from the hurt of the initial wounding, the pain and suffering inherent in the shadow arise because it is mostly unconscious. Its true nature is not obvious. We dare not look it directly in the face for fear that we will be hurt again.
When the shadow is triggered, we get frustrated or angry, or experience another difficult emotion. We don’t see a source for these feelings inside ourselves, so we project them outward into our relationships. We blame others for our misery. We feel victimized and powerless.
What we don’t see is that some unclaimed piece of us – hidden in shadow – is undergoing a painful birthing process. The essence of shadow work is to shift our focus from whatever it is outside of us that is triggering our pain to whatever it is inside of us that is struggling to be born. This is largely a matter of taking responsibility for our pain and making what is unconscious, conscious.
The challenge is to realize that others are not causing our suffering, that we are not victims, and that we can choose a different kind of experience. As we go more deeply into the process, we begin to realize that the power we feel we don’t have is held by the shadow – that part of ourselves that we have given away through projection onto others.
Jung considered the shadow to be the guardian of the threshold to the unconscious, and a primary catalyst to individuation. The shadow encompasses some aspect of the psyche that is wounded and requires healing. This healing represents a lifelong journey that circles around what I call a core issue. Core issues provide a focal point for emotional, psychological and spiritual growth over the course of a lifetime.
All shadow wounds are unique to the person who suffers them, and require some investigation. Using our knowledge of shadow theory and astrology, we can dialogue with our clients to illuminate what has been held in darkness. We can identify a signature for the shadow in the birthchart, explore memories related to key transits and progressions to the shadow pattern, and gradually piece together an intimately personal picture.
I'll look in more depth at shadow patterns in the birthchart in the next posts in this series and end by telling Mary's story First, let's look more closely at shadow wounds.