It’s time to bring all fractured soul-parts back HOME
Subpersonalities work together with shadow work are part of the Self-Integration stage of the evolution process and are responsible for bringing the fragments of the Self back home where they belong. When these fragments or subpersonalities are reclaimed, the energy stuck with them becomes available to us. The life force, the energy available to the whole-again Self constitutes the fuel for the next stage of the journey, the Self-Realization.
This is a two part workshop series that is addressing the Self-integration stage. To give a broad outline, the first workshop will explore our relationship to ourselves (or the inner conflicts between our dominant ego-personalities and unconscious sub-personalities); the second will focus on transforming relationships to other people (by taking back projections through shadow-work).
This is the groundwork for the Shamanic Journeys we are organizing. It represents a preliminary work, and doesn’t engage with the next level of our journeys – attaining communion with the Higher Self or Self-Realization– because some groundwork of cleaning the waters of the subconscious and attaining a relative balance from inner conflict is necessary before tapping into the guidance of the Higher Self.
The workshop combines shamanic techniques for trance journeying with psychological approaches to working with subpersonalities.
Working with subpersonalities
One of our biggest illusions is that we’re a consistent, singular self. Different philosophical, esoteric and psychological traditions have diagnosed the many I’s, multiple selves or subpersonalities that we harbor, each with its conflicting desires, which pull us in contradictory directions from one moment to the next. Coming face to face with this fragmented multiplicity and understanding how they once arose as protective mechanisms but have become dysfunctional is the key to attaining greater self-knowledge, self-compassion, and freedom from unconscious behaviours. Some shamanic traditions call this soul retrieval, while psychological schools call it “inner child” work. We will work in a very practical way, by starting with an inner conflict that we each have at the present moment, in order to understand the multiple selves and conflicting desires behind it, and to trace it back to an original traumatic moment, so that it can be reworked and released in a shamanic trance meditation.
The alchemical magic of transformation does not come from rejecting or getting rid of what we consider to be our darker elements (or by killing the ego, as some misguided spiritual traditions advocate). It comes from embracing what we resist and dislike, and learning to find the positive desire behind what we usually perceive as negative. If we shift our judgments from the mind into the heart, the change often happens on its own, precisely after we let go of the desire to change.
During the workshop we will look at different subpersonalities – Primary Selves, Inner children and Shadows. We will learn the differences between these fragments and how they relate to each other.
The Primary Selves that make up our ego are the behaviors that were praised by parents and reinforced by society because they match dominant cultural values, so they developed into the dominant sides of our personalities. The controller, pusher, perfectionist and pleaser mimic the parental and social voices that guided us in childhood, and their behavior is designed to make us fit in, conform, be productive, and be liked by others. So they’ve been constantly reinforced in our life and have become increasingly stronger over the years. But for every primary self that has come into being there are other (different and even opposite) selves that have been hidden away, buried, or disowned because their behavior has met with disapproval while we were growing up. They include childlike selves that have been suppressed – vulnerable and wounded children, as well as playful and magical children. Together these form a cluster of energies that’s usually referred to as the “inner child” in psychological literature.
The main role of the primary selves is to avoid the kind of emotional pain that is triggered when certain situations in our current life recall something we felt overwhelmed by in childhood. They are protectors and what they are protecting are the inner children or exiles. Exiles are fragmentary, childlike selves born out of specific pains and fears – the fear of abandonment, loneliness, abuse, being rejected, not measuring up to external standards, not being able to trust anyone and seeing the world itself as a hostile, dangerous place – which can usually be traced back to some traumatic experience that happened when we were too young to be able to work through the emotions and process them properly. Whenever a current situation threatens to set loose the old pain we once felt, the protectors go into action to suppress the pain through defense mechanisms.
There are two psychological approaches that I use as techniques of working with inner dialogue to access and transform subpersonalities: Richard Schwarz’s Internal Family System therapy –IFS and Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind process. Both approaches view subpersonalities as protective defenses that initially arose to guard us (as children) against pain associated with an original traumatic event.
Carl Jung used the term “Shadow” to describe parts of the personality that we have repressed because we internalized parental and social messages that they were bad or shameful. But Jung also talked about golden shadows, like creativity, imagination, playfulness – which can be suppressed and driven underground if parents and society favor rational, pragmatic behavior. This has the effect of making shadows a synonym for whatever is unconscious, which makes it too vague to be useful. In this workshop we will be working to understand shadows in a much more concrete way.
Shadows are aspects we refuse to recognize about ourselves because they would destroy our self-image, hence we project them onto other people. We can spot shadows when other people’s behavior triggers us into irrational fits of judgment and condemnation. Because shadows are our blind spots, we cannot see them when meditating or practicing simple awareness. When noticing an extreme emotional over-reaction of anger or repulsion to someone else’s behavior, we can go on endlessly witnessing our thoughts and feelings. But this doesn’t capture the real dynamic behind the scenes – the fact that the story isn’t about what we feel towards the other, but about what we’re suppressing in ourselves.
I base the shadow-work that I do on several principles:
– Most often, what annoys the hell out of us about other people is a projection of our own disowned qualities. And if we become aware of this dynamic, we can discover and integrate what we are suppressing in ourselves, which simultaneously transforms our relationships with others.
– As long as we’re projecting our “stuff” (our unresolved emotions and fears) onto other people, we are living unauthentically – behind masks and false personas that hide the full range of who we are. And we are also living unconsciously – triggered into extreme emotional reactions and exaggerated judgments that we have no control over.
– Integrating our shadows means being able to recognize that behind the so-called “negative” qualities we condemn in others, and unconsciously deny in ourselves, there is a positive desire or a hidden gift that is trying to manifest itself. For example, behind rage is a desire to create safe boundaries; behind arrogance is an attempt to love the self. If we deny these desires, we can fall into the opposite extremes of having our boundaries constantly violated or total self-denial. In a sense, even the most noticeable negative traits can be transmuted, alchemically, by tapping into the positive desires that they express.
When we engage in shadow-work we can acquire a deeper knowledge of ourselves and learn how to communicate more authentically with others – by stopping to dump our own stuff and unresolved issues onto them, and by becoming more compassionate to their vulnerabilities since we can recognize that we also share them. Integrating our shadows is a way of healing the fragmentation in our psyche and becoming more understanding and tolerant in our relationships.
As part of the workshop we will perform a few analytical shadow work exercises that will help discover the suppressed shadow self.
Also, we will embark in a trance journey to center our awareness in the magical chamber of the heart, from where we can have an encounter with the person who embodies our shadow, in order to transform it.
In shamanic terms, this type of work is referred to as Soul Loss/Soul Retrieval.