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Working with Shadow Stories

From Cat Caracelo, Founder of JourneyPath Institute

I have a long history working with shadow. Attuning to and honoring the potency of facing fears, I have worked with the depth and delight of remembering that which is mine, that had been dismissed, disowned and dismembered.

Shadow sounds scary, and it can feel intense and heavy. Over the many years of working with myself and others, exploring below the surface, I have observed that shadow only rises into consciousness when one is ready to move into new abilities. It comes forth to serve one’s healing, wholeness and growth. Shadow is only and always about increasing ones capacity to hold more of ones truth. When approached from a holistic and healing perspective, the rising awareness of the dark offers space to see, seeking and finding illumination that will guide choice and assist the potential of evolutionary growth.

This aspect of shadow is foretold as I think back to a childhood poem by Robert Louis Stevenson: “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, and what can be the use of him is more than I can see.”

Years ago, within a guided journey experience I was surprised to find a small, emaciated and dirty vampire child that I had not known was held within my psyche. She was barely visible and well camouflaged, dwelling deep in an underground grotto. I could see that she was sad and fearful, emitting energetic waves of deep mistrust. She was not frightening or pathetic, although I was aware that others might have seen that in her; rather, I felt in my own body her sense of profound overwhelm. It was a distinctive kind of flooding horror that she was experiencing.

Through her, this single part of self that I had no conscious knowledge of previously, I began to deepen my relationship with the power of seeking shadow. Slowly listening and moving closer over time, I began to offer her warmth and sustenance. I learned to understand the language of my own darkness as I listened to her stories. This journey led me to unravel and understand my own experiences. My inability to be connected to feeling states became illuminated through her. I, too, was empathic and overwhelmed by the emotional pain of others and I blocked my own expression of strong emotion, needing the energy of others to guide me. I saw where I was unconsciously operating as the wounded child, hidden, a victim and other times feeding myself on the energy of others.

I gathered and worked with memory threads of my earliest sense of being flooded by emotional pain. I painted, created, made collages, and wrote as I explored these experiences. I explored my womb time, touching the time before birth, when I was in utero, my own sacred cave and my birth mother was planning my adoption. I re-remembered a time later in my infancy after she decided to keep me, her sadness and confusion permeated my small psychic space and I put on armor to protect myself. All of these selves needed to be seen and known.

I found places of deep sorrow and crystalline clarity, understanding how I had developed many parts of self, very early in my life, to navigate some of these pre-verbal experiences. I explored this through many mediums, making art, dreaming, moving, writing and visioning. Over years she has grown and appeared in new forms, redefining herself, meeting me as she integrates her abilities and finds new strengths. Through this one opening, I activated my own healing, developed new abilities, met my deeper needs and strengthened my empathic boundaries. My vampire child was a doorway to discovery and illumination.

Shadow parts and stories may come through the surface of life unexpectedly. Images and energies can creep up on you, surface during process, art-making or open up within a powerful conversation. When they come there is an opportunity to connect, listen and learn. Parts of self, once seen will also evolve, change, grow and move in unexpected ways. They have their own histories and mysteries to share with you.

Developing depth practices with your art process will assist relationship building with shadowed parts. If you are working with shadow stories having guidance and support from a depth coach or therapist, may be necessary and helpful. Shadow work often requires companioning, as you are diving deep and developing expanded perspective.
Carl Jung shares, “Your vision becomes clear when you look inside your own heart, who looks outside dreams, who looks inside, awakes.” He speaks of spending time opening awareness, deeply exploring the shadow of the self, the dark places that seem frightening. It is Jung who asserts that most of our growth potential is found in working with the shadow. Creative inquiry offers more access to deep knowledge. Shadow and Integration is where we cultivate strengths and find information that becomes the light and illumination we are seeking.

If interested in exploring individual coaching with Cat Caracelo, please contact her via email.