Telehealth and Pandemic Reflections…

This blog is inspired by a conversation I had on video last night with one of my closest friends. Lysette Herrera is a psychologist who has been seeing clients for many years now in Seattle, New York City and currently in Portland where she has worked for a group practice the past chunk of years. She sees mostly teenagers and has formed strong bonds with her clients whom she has been working with long term.

Upon switching to tele-health, like many therapists, she was nervous and unsure how sessions would feel over a video versus in person. We tend to see technology in a negative light and to think that screen connection is less intimate. Yet to her surprise, Lysette found her sessions to be very intimate. She discovered clients having an easier time being vulnerable when sharing from the comfort of their home and she has met many of her client’s pets too, which as we all know, are important family members.

Lysette has found that video sessions are not more intimate, per se, but differently intimate. I have found this to be true too. Lysette named the experience I have had this past week using tele-health. I too have experienced that differently intimate experience of connecting from our homes. The power of place is real. Home is a safe place and a comfortable place. When we feel safe and comfortable we tend to open up more and this allows therapy to go deeper.

Lysette mentioned that another positive aspect is that a certain amount of formality is shed through video sessions. This speaks to how I feel the pandemic is stripping away the persona and the formality in us all. The roles we put on in order to communicate are changing. Our humanity and vulnerability are coming more to the surface. As a result, sessions feel more powerful. Add the video element, allowing both therapist and client to connect from home, and the intimacy does feel very differently powerful.

I feel no less of a connection through having video sessions. The screen does not get in the way. I have not asked my clients about their experience yet but I imagine it is different for each person. Some people are more sensitive to screens and technology and others may actually prefer it. I can only say for myself, in many ways, I prefer video sessions because I enjoy the differently intimate experience that it creates. I also enjoy working from home.

I do miss going to my office and having a special physical space to see clients. My office is filled with crystals, cards, incense, and the vibe I work hard to create. I share my office with a friend and we share office space with another therapist we rent from. I love our physical space and location. The three of us create a very harmonious healing environment. Video sessions do not replace the in person experience but now I now know that tele-health is complimentary and not just a “plan B”.

Since the pandemic I have been spending a lot of time connecting with friends through video as well. My days in quarantine are spent sitting in my special chair where I video everyone. In-between connecting with clients and loved ones I do yoga, walk, get groceries, watch Netflix, meditate, read, journey, reflect, and pull cards. I am finding my new routine. I empathize with everyone who lives alone needing to find a new routine in the aloneness.

Living alone through this time is very surreal. All of my connection with others is through video except sometimes I take a walk with a friend nearby. I don’t have any physical touch, nobody to “prepare for the worst” with, nobody to be with in my home. Solitude takes on a new form that often feels too hard or like it’s too much. Anxiety can creep in. There is a lot to manage being alone. Therapeutic skills are extra vital as is keeping a routine.

I am beyond thankful I can continue to see clients through video as it is grounding to be of service. I am thankful to be able to continue to work. Many cannot and surviving monetarily is a real concern for many. This pandemic is going to force us to find new ways to be resourceful and take care of each other. It is forcing us to care more about community and our neighbors and not just for the self and immediate family. I think of my father who is all by himself in his eighties. I think of the service industry people out of work right now. The chain reaction of the virus will create much needed structural change on many levels.

Being connected through video is my life’s blood right now and I am learning to embrace the screen more through this challenging time. My intention is to highlight the positive to bring balance to the more prominent negative lens that tele-health and video connecting is somehow inferior or less connected.

During these challenging times tele-health is needed more than ever and my hope is that it becomes more of a norm in society. My dream would be for our licenses to be national or even global. For as therapists we are trained to work with humans, not just humans in one area.

 

 

Reflections and 10 Skills for Healing Body Shame

This blog is intended for women. I am not excluding men, gender fluid or non-gendered identifying people from the topic if it resonates with your experience. No matter what, we all experience body shame and my focus on women is purely due to feeling called to be specific in this blog. Apologies in advance for any unconscious generalizations that could show up in these words. I do make conscious general commentary regarding women, based upon history.

The truth is, I don’t know one women who does not feel shame for her body on some level from severe to mild. I don’t know one woman who does not criticize her fat this or that, her wrinkled this or that, the sagging neck or jaw, the ass that isn’t there, the boobs that are no longer perky, the aging body, the fat body, the misshaped body, on and on…

Me included and I have worked hard to heal. My intention is to weave my personal commentary into this collective epidemic of body shame.

Shame rises up for the body for being too much, not enough, aging, and flawed for every woman I know because women have long been expected to be beautiful, sexual objects for a very long time. If women are not expected to show their beauty or flaunt sexuality than they are expected to hide it. This blog is not intended to be a history lesson. Just a quick summary of what we are all aware of…

The mind grabs hold of shame and turns it into different stories.

Some minds put off happiness, relationships, sex, or self love until the weight is lost, the health is fixed, the cleanse is complete, and until the body looks good according to the expectations we have been conditioned to believe are sexy, pretty, appropriate, and healthy.

This is not to say that there isn’t any truth in health and beauty expectations stemming from some root of reality. Perhaps some eyes like sinewy lines. Perhaps some excess fat creates health issues sometimes. But not for every pair of eyes or every body. Some bodies are perfectly healthy in a larger size than the expectation. Some shapes appear sexier when not conforming to the hour glass or twiggy versions. The variety is lost on us when expectations turn into rigid belief systems that constantly are conditioned generation after generation.

Another aspect is that women are conditioned to find the bulk of our self worth in what a man thinks of our value as a sexual and beautiful woman. This may not be the case as much in the LGBTQIA community though I imagine it runs through every community and may be less prominent in communities where people have been forced to break free from conditioned ideas of what is right and good, in order to survive. Being outcasted and treated unjustly, as in the LGBTQIA community, usually leads the soul to more depth, compassion, and openness in all ways.

I also want to mention that many men feel body shame too but their conditioned standards are much more forgiving on the whole from a collective perspective. A man can look distinguished with wrinkles and cute with a belly. Most men don’t wear make up to accentuate their face. Their handsomeness and sexual attractiveness has more leeway to be connected to their actions, mind, and presence, especially as they age. Just to give a picture here, imagine society with men dressed as women and women dressed and as men. You can get the point when you see this in your mind.

I like to think of famous awards ceremonies where the women are stuffed into dresses like beautifully wrapped Christmas presents hugging their curves up on stilts for heels sucking in their tummies while the men walk around in the same natural fitting tuxedo outfit and comfortable shoes like a bunch of penguins. I don’t mean to say anything negative about anyone walking down a red carpet. My commentary is purely on the social expectations of beauty and worth.

This isn’t to say men and women don’t have differences either. We do and it’s great. Differences are wonderful and needed. It’s ok to honor differences and not try to make every human being the exact same prototype. Variety is important and spices up life. I am only calling out where the balance has been lost between men and women. Where women are so conditioned to be pretty sexy objects that look like the female magazine model and men are given the grace to stray from the male magazine model and be handsome for a variety of physical expressions and his inner qualities too.

We are so conditioned that we have become the judge of ourselves, holding ourselves to impossible and rigid body expectations. Even if you don’t care about how you appear to others, you may still care how you appear to yourself without understanding that your preferences are not your own. You may be heavily conditioned by your mother, father, and friends as well by society, since birth and through the bloodline. The conditioning is everywhere and has been going on for thousands of years even if the specifics have changed a little through the generations.

Another way the mind can grab onto shame is to avoid the body. Many of us live dissociated from the body. We can’t feel the negative effects of shame hurting the body. We do not sense the toxic effects of putting too much or the wrong food and drink into the body or the negative effects of not getting the right nourishment and movement for the body. Avoidance can look like wearing only sweats and baggy clothes when really you would love to dress differently deep down. Sexual avoidance is very real and this can be conscious or unconscious. You can think you want sexual intimacy but unconsciously push it away at the same time.

Sexual expression is a fundamental human need and pleasure that has been exploited completely by religion and the media in a highly contrasted fashion. Either you should feel ashamed of your sexual body or you should look like Marylin Monroe and be a sexual kitten. The former is more about shaming your desires and the latter is more about shaming what you look like. The former is more about putting the moral soul above the amoral body and the latter is more about needing to fit into one very strict prototype of a body that is impossible for most people. Whether it be the Marylin body, the yoga body, the model body, the strict prototype is that we must be thin and either have curves or no fat.

I want to share that I know body shame more than any other shame. I have been obese in my lifetime and grew up the chubby kid who was always teased.  I put on a lot of extra weight due to coping with childhood trauma. I healed through the years and let the excess weight go and I am still many sizes above the expected beauty norm in our society. My body has been the place where psychological pain has expressed the most. Food addiction became my escape hatch and this is another method to avoid shame. Addiction is the number one way for the mind to escape shame.

You can be addicted to food and put on too much weight than what is balanced for your body or be addicted to dieting/working out and have just as much shame being a size four. Eating disorders are rampant in our culture as a result. Truth is, every body has a natural size and shape it wants to be from teeny to huge. We don’t need to glorify thin and shame fat. We don’t need to heal by glorying fat and shaming thin. Healing is allowing the variety to return and self-sovereignty over one’s body to be restored.

I am not afraid to share my story anymore but I used to be. I have worked hard on myself to heal body shame and I have approached healing from two angles, internal and external. From the internal angle I have found self love for exactly how my body looks in the present, flaws, fat, sags, wrinkles, and all. I also have an autoimmune disease that presents in very ugly skin eruptions. I found much acceptance and love for the way this disease attacks my body.

From the external angle, I have healed shame by losing weight, getting in shape, and being committed to my yoga practice. I was carrying more weight than what was right for my body due to food addiction, which is why losing weight was healing for me though losing weight may not be needed for every body to heal. Getting in shape brings me a lot of joy which is healing. My yoga practice connects me to my body each day and this is the crux of body healing for me. I do think every body benefits from mind body connection as it is our birthright to be whole and connected creatures.

I have made friends with shame along the way. I am not free of it but shame is greatly reduced and when I do feel it, I bring love and radical acceptance to the shame knowing that if I do so it will leave my body. Shame is a passing chemical storm. It is not who you are. And you can feel just as much shame being the body society promotes all the way to being the body society rejects. Doesn’t matter. Shame is not logical and it is not rooted in reality.

Learning how to meet shame with love and release shame from the body is the key to health, balance, and self love. True beauty is making peace with all of who you are body, mind, heart, and soul. But it’s hard because we are hooked on comparing ourselves, feeling bad about our bodies, and trying to meet society’s beauty expectations again and again. What has been most conditioned is the hardest to change.

To overcome body shame and feel self love for the body requires a commitment. Kind of like a marriage commitment. The reason why I say this is because it’s too alluring to slip into body shame and believe it, again and again. It only takes a moment to slip and fall into a shame spiral that acts like quick sand once in. Healing from shame sometimes requires a fight but more than often requires skill and dedication.

One skill is to utilize love and not confuse love with like. I may not like the skin eruptions I can get with my autoimmune disease but I can love the eruptions. Using the marriage metaphor, you can learn to accept your partner’s traits that irritate you because you love them unconditionally even though you may not like certain things about them. Love your body the same way. Just like a relationship, every body has its pretty and ugly parts or parts you like and do not like. This is ok.

Love is not about liking all the time. Love often loves what is does not like. This is hard to understand or put into words because love is a felt experience and not a logical equation. Body love is felt and the feeling grows with skill and dedication. This love versus like skill applies to body size and shape too. You may not like your body size or shape but you can love your body size and shape.

Some people carry more weight than the beauty standard and enjoy how they look and some don’t. You can work on your size and shape if you want to change it but are you doing it from a place of love or as a way to avoid feeling shame? This difference is important because if changing your body is motivated by shame you will never love your body no matter what you look like.

Changing from a place of love is the healthy route. This goes for any aspect of the body’s appearance. Sometimes accepting what you don’t like about your body’s appearance, that you could change, is the healthiest and most loving route. But to even have the choice between changing and not changing your body requires self love. If you do not love your body you will feel like you do not have a choice. You will feel victim to shame or your mind will tell a story that you must lose weight (or whatever it is) to be healthy, pretty, good, or valued.

So it gets complicated…

Having an autoimmune disease has taught me a lot about accepting my body when I don’t like aspects of it. Nothing screams shame like horrifying and unsightly skin eruptions. In my most noble moments, I feel this condition is in service to my work as a therapist because I have been forced to learn how to love and release shame to the extreme.

If you live with acceptance and love for your body you will live in the present, stay connected to body, and you will be more inclined to move and feed your body in the way your specific body truly needs. You will be more likely to let an intimate partner into your life, you will be more motivated to dress in a way you enjoy, you will be less judgmental of others, and you will experience more peace.

I feel that it is the responsibility of every woman to try to love and accept her body more so that we can change the beauty expectations and society’s conditioning over time. It’s not just for yourself you are healing for, it is for every women and every child. It is to bring more equality to women in this world. It is to bring more equality to everyone in this world.

Women can look refined with wrinkles too. Our bellies can be cute. We can be large or thin, flat or big chested, have a butt or no butt, wear make up or not, on and on, and we can be valued by society as healthy and beautiful if we make it a responsibility to own our self worth and body love within, first.

One thing I have learned on my path of healing is that even though it’s not my fault for what happened to me or how I got conditioned, it is still up to me to heal. This is the harsh truth of life for us as humans. Even if you have been truly victimized by another, by society, or in the world, you are the only one who can heal yourself. When you heal yourself, you heal everyone.

I want to share what I did to release shame and love my body because maybe it will help you too.

  1. I made the commitment to myself. I did this by creating a ritual on the new moon, calling in the directions and to the transpersonal forces in my own way, I asked for help and said my vows out loud. This was my marriage ceremony to my body.
  2. I began doing yoga naked in front of a full length mirror. This was very hard! I had so much shame in the beginning but I kept doing it anyway and asking the transpersonal to help me see my shape and size with loving eyes. Wouldn’t you know it, it worked. I began to see myself with authentic loving eyes and to have acceptance around parts I did not like. I still do naked yoga because it has become very enjoyable connecting to my body this way. Our society tends to over-sexualize the naked body but let us break that mold. The naked body is our innocence and creature self in raw form. You can try a practice of looking into a full length mirror naked once a day for a few minutes. I recommend asking spirit to help you see with loving eyes. Stick with it. This took me a few months before my perception shifted and shame lifted.
  3. I began mindful eating no matter what that looks like, meaning I can mindfully eat quickly with robust vigor as much as I might eat mindfully slow and methodical but the point is to be aware I am eating and enjoy the food. Thank the food. Thank my robust appetite. Thank my belly for digesting my food which is really number four.
  4. Giving gratitude to the body for it’s functioning. Thank you body for digesting my food, for my walking legs, my eyes that see…you get the idea. Take some time to think about all your body is doing for you and give it thanks. Give thanks for your body allowing you to be here alive on this planet.
  5. Radical acceptance. This one simple skill is hard to achieve and all you need to meet shame with love. I learned how to move through the shame by giving it space to express itself without fear. Learn to not fear shame. When shame rises up know that it is nothing more than a chemical storm coursing through your body. It is not who you are. When it rises up, notice shame as a sensation in the body and radically accept its existence just like you might accept a storm passing through your town. Shame will pass. Shame will leave the body when it is given non-resistance.
  6. Find the movement you love. I found yoga. I love doing ashtanga yoga. When I do it, I feel like myself. I feel open, free, peaceful. It’s not fun per se, but it makes me feel whole and balanced. I also found fun body movement in walking and other random activities such as swimming and being on a boat feeling the water move my body ever so slightly. It’s not just movement, it’s how your body feels. I love the way my body feels when the sun shines on bare skin, when I step into a hot shower, when I slide into clean sheets. Find all the little body joys. Every day.
  7. Stop looking at triggers like fashion mags or anything that seduces you into the comparing mind. I refused to pic up fashion magazines in the beginning stages of my healing journey because they made me feel not good enough. Now I can flip through them without being triggered but it took time. Know your limits. Honor your limits. Reduce triggers as much as you can until love starts to take over and shame is released enough. You will get stronger, I promise. It isn’t weak to know and honor your limits. It is smart and healthy.
  8. Be consistent with your practices. This is the hardest lesson of all but absolutely necessary. I have this skill down with ease now but it took a few years of pushing myself to do what I don’t feel like doing over and over. You can not listen to your feelings and do the thing anyway. Get on the mat. Go for a walk. Say the gratitudes. Eat mindfully. Look into the mirror naked. Do the things.
  9. Always call the transpersonal for help. Every morning I say my invocation and ask for spirit to take my body shame and bring me body healing. The transpersonal is real. You can surrender to your higher power. This is not weakness. We are only human. We are not superheroes and this is ok. Our wills are stronger when they are knitted to the whole, to the transpersonal larger forces however you relate to them, religious, spiritual, or nature.
  10. Get into therapy! Of course I say this as therapist, I believe in it. If therapy isn’t your thing than have therapeutic dialogue through diary writing, talking with friends, seeing energy healers to get support, there are many ways. I keep a diary, talk to my spirit guides, and have my support system. Body shame is a big deal and usually very chronic and life long in women. Be patient with yourself. The healing takes time but results are real.

May you find your way to release shame and love your body. I share my experience because maybe I can be of help or inspiration. We are all in this together and the more each one of us heals the more society will reflect balance, love, and true sovereign individualized health. Beauty’s natural variety will return and we will all feel more free, more peaceful and more content.

 

 

Jungian Psychology and Becoming Whole

Carl Jung called it the individuation process. Through the lens of shamanism it is called soul integration. I see Jungian psychology as the western european reinterpretation of the indigenous practice of soul retrieval, where the healer of the tribe would travel into non-physical dimensions (the names of these dimensions vary from tribe to tribe) of the sick person, retrieve fragmented soul parts that fled during trauma, and return these parts to the individual in present time, making them more whole.

In Jungian psychology, the unconscious would be the name of this other, non-physical dimension. The shaman would be the psychotherapist. The soul parts would be aspects of the Self tossed into the shadow, as well as archetypes living in the collective unconscious. Bringing these aspects of self and archetypes to conscious awareness through active imagination, dream interpretation, creative expression, etc, would be akin to the shaman retrieving the soul parts for the individual and breathing them back into the heart through the process of spiritual journeying and ceremony.

This correlation is my humble opinion. I have not studied up on this correlation and perhaps much has already been written. I am reflecting upon my personal thoughts from my own personal experience. I have had soul parts retrieved by a shaman and I immersed in the shamanistic healing lens for a number of years in the early 2000’s. I retrieved my own soul parts after a time as I desired to do the work on myself, straying from the tradtional path.

I need to mention that this was a western civilization’s appropriated version of shamanism I immersed in. Although this appropriation was rooted in loving intention to bring authentic healing to others, I acknowledge it is far different than if I were to study with an indigenous tribe and experience the true original essence of the practice…and even then, I would still be a westerner entering a culture not my own.

Jung used the metaphor of shadow and light to refer to the conscious and unconscious and turned the spiritual concept of soul into the psychological concept of the Self. Jung translated the earth-based spiritual into the psychological in a society that devalued and oppressed the indigenous soul, pushing this aspect of our human nature into the shadow (this is the Tricker archetype of which I will save for another blog) in favor of western, masculine dominant civilization (again, another blog for this mammoth topic). Although he had his own battles with devaluing the feminine (his own shadow), I am thankful for his work, his words, and his translation that allowed the earth-based feminine wisdom to survive in a cloaked western masculine form. Again, this is all my humble opinion and I too, have my shadow.

The soul journey is filled with the light-experiences of security, pleasure, belonging, connection, health and well-being. The soul journey is also filled with the shadow-experiences of insecurity, pain, loneliness, illness, abuse, loss and separation. We are each unique and yet we share in common the nature of the soul journey which is filled with shadow and light experiences.

The ratio of shadow to light experience is different for everyone. Why? I find it valuable to not ask why. Asking why puts a narrative around the happening that produces suffering that stems from comparing. Sure, you can say it is karma, or law of attraction…but what if you didn’t make a reason that put control in the individual for causing the ratio? What if nature simply produces a variety at random?

What if karma is not about how much pain we endure but more about how we handle it? What if the more we learn to handle shadow experiences with self-awareness, love, and acceptance the less we create some shadow experiences that stem from self creation (such as relationship conflict and self-sabotage)…yet the more we are able to metabolize and grow from shadow experiences that we do not cause (loss, abuse, oppression, death)?  Questions to think about (and again, another blog topic). Back to shadow and light reflection…

We also contain light and shadow aspects within the Self. The light is what we are aware of and the shadow is what we are not aware of. The light is the conscious self, or ego. The shadow is the unconscious, which has a personal and collective level. Think of it like an iceberg. The ego is the small tip of the iceberg rising out of the sea. The personal unconscious is the large expanse of the iceberg submerged under water and the collective unconscious is the depth of the sea itself.

What we (and others) approve of about the self is expressed as our conscious self or ego. What we are ashamed of and judge about the self hides in the shadow of the personal unconscious. Painful feelings, traumatic experiences, and the wounds we carry may also get relegated into the personal shadow. Some of us have consciously over-identified with our wounds, traumatic events, low self-esteem and self-worth, causing a healthy and positive sense of self to live in the personal shadow. It’s different for everybody.

When the self becomes too divided, suffering results in a variety of ways. The ego projects onto others what hides in the shadow. This happens in personal relationships and collectively. When we do not own our own shadow material, we blame others for in relationship. Our inner division is reflected in relationship division. Feelings stemming from unprocessed complex trauma, abuse, or hurt relegated into the shadow can morph into physical and mental illness. Addiction may result as a way to continue avoiding the painful feelings and wounds living in the unconscious. We may relegate our spiritual connection or soul-self into the shadow and on an ego level, always find the need to compete and prove ourselves due to being so disconnected from essence. 

The collective shadow contains who we are systemically. All of us are deeply connected to our family system. We inherit multi-generational wounds, character traits and behavioral patterns through the bloodline from our ancestors and immediate family that live in the collective shadow and may be unconsciously creating chronic issues in our lives. For instance, A great great great grandmother’s anger from being oppressed and abused may be passed down from generation to generation as a character trait of being easily enraged for the smallest of reasons. This rage may cause conflict and reoccurring issues in each new woman born into the bloodline. 

The instinctual human drives we all share in common as a human species also live in the collective unconscious and are called, archetypes. These collective instincts are invisible and so the archetype is like a pictorial costume the instinct wears so that the conscious self can be aware of it.  The drive to live, love, belong, sexually connect, succeed, make meaning, spiritually commune, create, mother, father, etc…are the archetypal instincts. For instance, if you suddenly feel a strong urge to have a baby, it is the mother archetype connecting to your conscious self, asking for embodiment. If you suddenly know you must become a healer, it is the healer archetype connecting to your conscious self.

If an archetype over-powers, it may cause suffering, illness, and imbalance. A good example of this would be an insecure and outcasted young man who suddenly becomes driven by the spiritual teacher (hierophant) archetype. If he finds a sense of empowerment from this archetype he may lose himself in it and become evangelistic and dogmatic as he mistakes connection with power when developing a following of students.

An archetype may also be stunted. For instance, if the artist archetype connects to the ego of a woman who suddenly feels the need to create, but she doesn’t express it due to being too busy with work, she may turn toward excess eating or drinking to release the pressure of the artist archetype building up in her belly as creative fire and passion. 

The archetypes are mysterious. They tend to wake up and connect to our conscious self of their own accord, having their own consciousness. Jung tended to see them as sentient unconscious forces that possess the ego. The god and goddess pantheons may be seen as archetypes. They can make us feel more connected, inspired, alive, and whole, when we embrace them in a balanced way. For instance, if an isolated and lonely young woman suddenly connects with Venus, the archetype of feminine love, she may experience her female sensuality and open her heart, attracting in a romantic partner.

One of my teachers warned us about the archetypes, due to their nature being collective, they are impersonal and do not care for our personal lives. Hence, we have to learn how to say no to them sometimes, if it isn’t in our best interest to work with them. For instance, the warrior archetype may connect to the ego of a woman who is always fighting, when she needs to find more softness and love in her life. In this case, it would be best for her to not give in to the sudden desires to fight in certain situations.

I am only touching upon this topic and feel this blog is already growing too long. I would like to wrap it up with a few words about the healing process…

Transformative healing naturally happens when we illuminate unconscious shadow aspects with conscious awareness by giving acknowledgment, honor, and expression to these parts. The healing for the conscious self is through gaining awareness, understanding, and expressing what is in the personal shadow. The healing for the unconscious is when we give conscious embodiment to the archetypes through creative expression, ritual and ceremony.

When the unconscious and conscious find one another through these means, the healing takes place of its own accord. I can say from personal experience, when I become aware of what is in my shadow, I gain a sense of humor about it and it doesn’t seem like a big deal after I express the initial shame, embarrassment, or fear that was keeping the deeper feeling or aspects of Self in the shadow. I have also experienced more wholeness and fulfillment by allowing certain archetypes to have creative expression in my daily life. 

I find it very useful to allow the ego to feel all the uncomfortable feelings (shame, sorrow, anger, humiliation, etc) with radical acceptance in order to do this integration work. When all the parts of self begin to connect, being who we are feels right and flows, no matter what the experience, be it shadow or light. 

Integration of the shadow and light allows the Self to become more whole and balanced. In essence, we piece ourselves back together with wisdom, love and creativity, turning suffering into gold. Narrating the “story of me” is meant to be a creative process and determines our internal experience. Like the clam turning mud into a pearl, the pain we have been through may become the fodder for transformation and healing.