Notes on Coming Home to the True Self

“The therapist also has a shadow, a theme which has been explored by Adolf GuggeInbuhl-Craig, who alerts us to the dangers inherent in the possible perversion of the archetypal image of the Wounded-Healer. Such a perversion can take place when, for a variety of reasons, the therapist splits the therapeutic pair into ‘healed therapist’ and ‘wounded patient’, thereby extracting the healing potential from within the patient, who is then caught in a passive, infantilized and dependent position.” —This excerpt is taken from :

I began this blog with the above excerpt to share that I am a human being with a shadow just like everyone else. I am not “healed”. I have been healing myself since I was a tween and the process is life-long. I do not believe in the duplicitous model of healed therapist and wounded patient. As stated above, that is an illusion maintained by an ego not in touch with their shadow. Integration does occur as we take the journey of healing and the individuation process continues. I do have a lot of experience and mastery in certain areas. I have come far at mid-life and the healing journey is not linear. It is more like a spiral. Each time we come around to the same spot, another layer is shed and more of the true self is illuminated.

My intention for sharing about my life is to be an earthy example, for we are all walking this path together at different points along the way. I find inspiration, motivation, and encouragement when listening to others share about their personal journey and I want to give back by sharing a bit about my personal journey and the power of dreams and ritual.

I had a dream last night where I was wearing a fancy skirt and trying to hide why I was wearing it from my dream sister who was questioning me with a critical attitude. Not sure why I was trying to hide it from her but it had something to do with being urban, enjoying fashion and feeling ashamed of this. In the next scene, I am with a group of male cops in a meeting, wearing the same big fancy skirt. I am talking in front the group about my woes analytically and then I say, “I realize this is the talk of a privilege person with guilt,” disgusted with myself. I continue analyzing myself and say again, “this just leads back to me being a privileged person with guilt again, ” feeling more disgust. The crowd of cops are silently listening but not really paying attention. From my feelings I suddenly belt out, “but my heart is broken, my heart has always been broken, my heart was broken in the womb!” When I say this, I feel my real feelings and break free from the previous analysis, that although had some accuracy to it, was self-centered in a negative way and disconnected from feeling. The male cops in the room are oblivious to me but pretending to listen. I wake up from the dream with that sentence alive in my heart.

The broken heart sentence was my feminine soul piercing through the negative masculine (animus) analyzing from a heady, critical, disconnected place. The skirt in the dream was one of those big poof skirts made of red and green plaid, a sheer burgundy layer over the plaid and a cream colored crinoline underneath. The skirt was cinched at my waist with cream colored heels peeking out from the mammoth poof of matching crinoline. I was ageless and glowing in my feminine beauty as I faced the scrutiny of the dream sister, the disinterested cops, and my dream ego’s shame until the heart-break sentence liberated me. The heady analysis, dream sister and cops represent the negative masculine (animus) and negative feminine (mother complex) spinning webs of shame and deception that have kept the authentic feeling of life long and multigenerational heart-break repressed in the shadow by my ego focusing on self-centeredly trying to fix my “bad and wrong” self.

This powerful dream occurred after doing ritual to illuminate the complexes in my shadow blocking me from embodying my true self and expressing my authentic feelings. Ritual is powerful because it engages the deeper parts of the Self in the unconscious, not just the ego. Ritual creates rebirth. From this dream alone, I am shown the deception the complexes are creating in contrast to the authentic feeling of the feminine soul aching to be seen and heard. The deception is focusing on the addictive behavior of trying to fix the “bad and wrong” self to possess the external things (partner, home, success, weight-loss, money, etc) that the complex thinks will bring love, security, self-worth, and happiness.

The healing is for the ego to see and let go of the complexes, allowing the true self out from the shadow which in turn, draws to itself the external experiences and relationships aligned with its true nature. Letting go of the complexes also allows the feelings out from the shadow to be honored and released from the body. Repressed feelings create sickness and enhance the deceptive thirst for possessing external things to fix the “bad and wrong” self. Complexes are like movie scripts about the self based upon the family system upbringing, trauma, multigenerational wounds, and karma, that help to repress feelings and the true self into the shadow.

Love, security, self-worth and happiness are attributes of well-being that emerge from being free to live as the true self. My own definition of the true self (Jung’s Self or the soul) is; the divine playing the role of being a “me”. It’s the combination of spirit and instinct that makes the soul. Soul making is the life long process. Living from true self we feel love within, we feel secure with the Self, self-worth is independent of external validation, and happiness is not so much of an emotion as it is a deeper feeling of being authentic.

Through ritual, I chose to surrender my ego desires to the transpersonal (the divine) in order to release myself from the deception of the complexes. It is the divine playing the role of me that desires love, security, self-worth, and happiness, not my ego alone and not the complexes. This ritual is meant to purify my soul by returning desire to the rightful place of Self while illuminating the complexes so I can let them go. I see into my shadow and allow more of my feelings and true self to shine.

The feelings finally found space to emerge through my dream. The key is to be able to hold the tension of opposites. My heart is broken and I love deeply. My heart is broken and I am filled with faith and connected to wisdom. My heart is broken and I feel joy for being me and here in this life. My heart is broken and I am healing.  My heart is broken and I give my soul to this world. My heart is broken and I laugh. My heart is broken and I play and create. The key is honor the feelings and the opposites. Not try to fix, solve, analyze, make feelings or opposites go away. Holding the tension of opposites and honoring feelings creates rebirth.

Not everyone is called to rebirth themselves. When feelings are honored and acknowledged they leave the body naturally, allowing the psyche to metabolize the mysterious, painful and pleasurable experience of being human in a complex reality. Through this process we become more resilient, aware, compassionate, and loving.

Feelings are intense. They are like drugs that overtake the heart and make us feel out of control. Fear, sorrow, anger, despair, heart break, disappointment, disgust, grief, and loneliness don’t need to be moralized as “bad” by the ego, nor do we need to moralize ourselves as “wrong” when we experience intensely painful feelings. If we can learn how to let ourselves feel, providing ritual and communal containers to honor painful feelings, we grow and transform from them. Shadow serves the light and light serves the shadow. Wholeness is embracing both.



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.