Musings on Shadow Work

DISCLAIMER: I am not a therapist or mental health practitioner of any kind. I can only speak to my own experience and results with any practice I discuss, and nothing I say should be taken as professional advice.  If you are experiencing a crisis please seek qualified professional help.

Recently I had a tarot reading from the lovely Jessi Huntenberg, specifically her “Witch Path” reading that is meant to help you progress in your magicospiritual unfolding.  I wanted to know why I didn’t seem able to actually establish a practice, and what was holding me back from actual connection to a higher power or my own mojo.

From card 1 I knew two things: 

  • 1 – Jessi Huntenberg is a steely-eyed missile woman (ten points if you get the reference) and
  • 2 – She was absolutely right that there were things from the past I needed to face and understand if I wanted to move forward. She suggested a round of shadow work, and I heartily agreed.

What is shadow work, you may ask? It sounds more arcane than it necessarily is. The whole concept arises from Jungian psychology – Jung believed that all the parts of ourselves we deny, behavior we are ashamed of, and events we can’t deal with make up our shadow, almost a hidden second self which influences every move we make, dogging our steps and making it impossible to be integrated, whole beings until we’ve faced it down.  The idea is not to destroy the shadow – quite the contrary, it’s to understand its origins and embrace it so that we can control its impulses rather than those impulses controlling us.  

As Kelly-Ann Maddox (another steely-eyed missile woman) says, shadow work does not give you an excuse to be a dick because “Hey man, it’s just my shadow, it’s part of me and I can’t change that.”  Much like learning about your natal chart, understanding your shadow gives you a place to work from – it is a catalyst, not an excuse.  You shine a light on parts of yourself long neglected and bring awareness to them, then use that knowledge to progress on your path as a human being.

There are many ways to go about shadow work.  My process thus far has consisted of a lot of journaling and meditation, and in only a few sessions it’s uncovered some pretty nasty shit that, if I’d tried to address it a few years ago, I would have gone into a self-hating tailspin or at least shoved it back in the box.  Now, however, the primary emotion to arise is relief.

Shadow work isn’t just saying “Damn, girl, you’ve done some shady shit.”  The point is to figure out WHY you have, and WHY you continue to make decisions that compromise your relationships and integrity.  This may require revisiting childhood events (even the tiniest thing can feed your shadow, though of course trauma is a key player), or at least looking back along your path and taking note of what was going on when you started making iffy decisions. For a lot of people obviously this is a process best undertaken with professional help.  I’m a Scorpio, however, and one thing we love is relentless self-analysis – finally a chance to use it for good instead of evil!

(Seriously, find a therapist or at least a trusted peer to speak to if you’re interested in shadow work but feel afraid or overwhelmed at the prospect.  Here there be dragons, and while you can probably tame them yourself, if you’re not used to cave-diving in your own psyche it can be hazardous.)

What I’ve found is that while I haven’t been able to trace a single origin point for the issue I wanted to examine, I’ve definitely found a current of belief that, while unhealthy, made sense as a coping mechanism in the context in which it arose.  I suddenly sat back and thought holy hell – I’m not a terrible person!  I’ve been doing a shitty thing for a long time because of some other shitty things, and that doesn’t make it less shitty but it DOES mean I am not doomed to keep doing it forever because I’m some sort of high-functioning sociopath (which isn’t really a thing anyway).   That means that I can act from a place of awareness and do better.  

Shadow work is, above all, meant to be liberating.  It helps you reclaim your authenticity and your psychological sovereignty – you don’t have to be held hostage by your own bullshit if you’re willing to drag your bullshit out into view and air it out.  It’s not easy, but then again, living chained to a fuck-ton of baggage you’re pretending doesn’t exist isn’t easy either.  As with much of adulthood it comes down to choosing which kind of pain you prefer.

If you’re interested in learning more about this sort of thing, here are a couple of introductions; each of these ladies has a YouTube playlist on the subject you can delve into as well.  I’ll undoubtedly have more to say about it as well.   

Do you do shadow work?  Have some resources to share?  Do so in comments here or on Facebook.

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Smallish Bloggery, Day 30: I will go down with this ‘ship

Sorry guys.  My last two days of Smallish Bloggery were interrupted – I was felled by a brief but intense bout of food poisoning that involved 102F fever and longing for the sweet embrace of death a bit more than wanting to blog.  

I am still feeling pretty horrid, to be honest, so instead of waxing bloggerific about ships I know and love, or any of that, I shall just refer  you to my work over on Archive of Our Own where you can read a bit more about a couple of my favorites, as long as you like a) boys getting it on and b) significantly adult-oriented material.

I’ll be back with a Day 31 wrap-up as soon as I feel able.  In the meantime, please enjoy some exceedingly gratuitous Johnlock and Frostshield:

suchaprettyface at Archive of Our Own 

(18+ only please, thank you)

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Smallish Bloggery, Day 29: I dip my french fries in…

…ketchup.  Specifically, if I can get it, Whataburger ketchup.

Whataburger, if you’re not from Texas, is a fast food chain that is mostly located in the Lone Star State and is kind of ubiquitous here.  I can’t speak much for the burgers anymore but their fries are just about my favorite on the planet and their ketchup is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, so much so so that a few years back they started selling it in grocery stores.

It also comes in spicy.

I also love to dip fries in white cream gravy…and yes, chocolate milkshakes.  A nice salty fry in a chocolate shake…mmmm.  But only shoestring fries like Whataburger’s – not big ol’ wedges or anything flavored.  

I’ve been known to dip tater tots in barbecue sauce as well.  But tater tots are not french fries.  Fries have their own magic.

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Smallish Bloggery, Day 28: In my bag

I really have tried to keep up with the prompts this month – I know I’m doing kind of a shit job of it, but as I mentioned it’s been hard to get all the pieces of a blog post together without reliable internet service at home (and I can’t do much at my day job).  We’re almost at the end, though, just four more prompts!  That’s crazy!

Anyway, here are the contents of my bag, unedited for your enjoyment. 

Let’s just go from left to right, shall we?  

We have a pack of Zebra Mildliners, two U by Kotex maxi pads, two (count ’em, two) Scribbles that Matter A5 dot grid notebooks (the purple one is my bullet journal, the teal is a long-term lists and collections journal), a composition notebook I recovered to use for just general notes.  In the middle is a card holder with various non-ID cards like my library and AAA cards, a tiny Santoro Gorjuss notebook just in case I need something else to write on, some pseudoephedrine (the real thing, not that fakey shit that doesn’t work worth a damn), cough drops, and some AA batteries from IKEA which are going to work with me to power the string of tiny lights around my desk.  Oh, and a few coins, I think about $.76.  On the right we have my art box (detail below), about $12 I didn’t know I had, an altered tiny Altoids tin full of Advil liquid gels, and a little adapter thingie I don’t need anymore for my earbuds.  In the back you can see my actual bag, which is this one from Amazon and sports this adorable pin of Angelica from Hamilton.

Much more complicated are the contents of my art box.  I got the box itself from Target last year in their school supplies – if I see any this year I’m going to buy another, because they’re so useful.  

I don’t know where all of these items came from, but I’ll do my best.  Left to right on front:

  1. a binder clip, a dog-shaped paperclip, and a paperclip shaped like an @ all of which I liberated from work
  2. sharp-as hell scissors in a handy sheath
  3. a half-sized X-acto knife, which came in a package of tiny tools I got on clearance at Michaels forever ago
  4. A Kuretake Zig 2-Way glue pen
  5. Two sizes of click eraser – one’s the kind you get at the grocery store, the other a Uni-E Knock eraser
  6. Kyoto FitCurve mechanical pencil
  7. A Pilot P-500 pen
  8. Three (for some reason) Pilot Razor Point fineliners
  9. A Sakura Decorese white gel pen
  10. A Tombow dual brush pen in Cool Grey 1
  11. Pentel 4mm correction tape
  12. A wee bone folder, which came in the same set as the mini X-acto knife
  13. Some Kokuyo mini sticky notes
  14. A steel 6″ ruler
  15. A bullet journal grid ruler from DearLily Designs on Etsy
  16. Some skull stickers, origin unknown

And across the top we have:

  1. A gift card or some other useless card cut in half, which I use to cut washi tape
  2. A wee glue roller I got in a pack from Staples
  3. An absolutely dreadful pencil sharpener that cost like fifty cents at Target or someplace
  4. Washi tape (I think both came from Joann originally) that I use to repair my bullet journal when I’ve torn out pages and the whole signature tries to fall out
  5. Some random page flags

 

 

 

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Smallish Bloggery, Day 27: 5 favorite books by women

These aren’t all of my favorite books by women, or even necessarily my absolute favorite books by women, but I’ve listed the same books over and over for years as favorites so I thought I’d try give some different books a bit of love.

Alice Hoffman, The Rules of Magic
(2017)

A prequel to Practical Magic, whose movie adaptation you know I love, TRoM is in my opinion a much better book than its predecessor.  The origins of the Owens “curse,” as well as the history of The Aunts (and the brother you never knew about), plays out as a much richer narrative to me.  I would love to see a TV or movie adaptation of this one too, if they got the right cast.

Jes Baker, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls
(2015)

Jes just had a deeply personal memoir come out this year, but for some reason it didn’t affect me nearly as strongly as her first book, which I adore cover to cover.  

This is the movie tie-in version I have – I think I swiped it from one of my brothers when I was a kid.

Dodie Smith, The Hundred and One Dalmatians
(1956)

Yep, another Disney movie you probably didn’t know started as a novel.  It’s also very different from the film – in the novel there are three adult Dalmatians in the family, for starters.  Smith is perhaps better known, literary-wise, for her novel I Capture the Castle, which I’ve heard great things about and have a copy of but still haven’t managed to read.  (You might not be able to find this one easily – Amazon wasn’t much help – but the public library might be a good place to try.)

Sally Kempton, Meditation for the Love of It
(2011)

The best in-depth book on meditation I’ve ever read, and one that approaches the subject from a slightly different angle.  Instead of focusing on the effects meditation has on your life, Kempton believes we should meditate for the sake of meditating – to enjoy hooking up to what she calls the “meditation current,” and to delve our minds and spirits to learn and grow without focusing on what we’re going to get out of it.  Kempton comes from a modern Tantric background and her methods have helped me meditate more often, more deeply, and more happily than any others I’ve ever tried.

Amy B. Scher, This is How I Save My Life
(2018)

My love of memoirs, especially spiritually-focused memoirs by women, is a known thing, as is my fascination with India, so the story of a woman with late-stage Lyme disease who, in desperation, goes to India to receive stem cell therapy and in the process finds her entire being changed was right up my alley.  I loved this book enough to read it all in one night and be utterly useless the next day at work.  

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