Sunday, June 9, 2013

Shadow Work III: Timing

Part 3 in the Shadow Work series: Timing and Shadow Work.

{Note there is where we're getting into the nitty gritty opinions section, so disclaimer: This is my opinion and my version of shadow work and you are allowed/encouraged to disagree and change this to suit yourself and your needs! Shadow Work is not a monolith, and neither is Paganism}

(Note in this post I am talking mostly about Emergency work/Complex Work, as I have the most experience with that type. The Timing for self work can be entirely different, though much of this applies to both)

You might wonder why I'm dragging out the nuts and bolts decision making process for shadow work, as opposed to methods, and Woo, and the Juicy Parts

Partly it's because many don't think there IS a decision making process that goes into highly emotional work (as if those two things can't coexist), and it's partly because many haven't experimented with, or examined, their limits, and the decision making process involves you looking at, and accepting, those limits and their validity. So--onward, to Timing!

Life is largely a huge game of timing. You can apply for hundreds of jobs, but timing is what often gets you the one. Right place, right time. Sales at the store are limited. Most people plan their families around other events in their lives/their stiaution. Timing is half luck and half planning, if you ask me. It's how you 'randomly felt like going to the grocery store at 8 AM on a Saturday, and you ran your cart into that random person because you were super freaking tired and they ended up being your spouse and what a weird story, right?' Seriously.

Timing is an undercurrent in everything. It's more acceptable to ask someone to date you as a stranger than to marry you. It's more expected to wear shorts in the heat than in negative temperatures. It's more appropriate to say "I'm sorry" than "Congratulations" at a funeral. It requires some situational-reading, y'see, and the same for the Work.

To say this another way, there is a such thing as taking Shadow Work upon yourself at the wrong time, and the wrong place, because you are at your limits emotionally and physically at that time. There is a situation that involves trying to take the Work on to get around the natural emotional grieving process or speed it up, when in reality your needs dictate you need to let that part happen first. There IS an order to this vague thing we call Shadow Work, and it's important to consider not just "when", but "IF" you should do it for yourself at this current time.

Basically, you need to not be at your breaking point to attempt shadow work in a safe environment. It's not meant to force you into a breakdown when you're on the verge of completely losing it. It's meant to help you bury things that are ready to go. In my experience, if you try and speed the grieving process this way or force yourself into a breakdown, the shadow work often "fails" in some way or another. You can't get through it or it doesn't "take". I say this because MANY TIMES I have thought my grieving was over and I was set to process the tail end, and only in the middle of working when I broke down sobbing and clawing my face (in the negative sense--there is a positive release like this too, in terms of reaction) and breaking in half I realized I wasn't actually over it, and I needed to process fresh things first, then try again later.

I have since learned the timing better, and know to wait until my body tells me it's time.

In short, Shadow Work isn't a tourniquet to stop the blood from a fresh wound. It's the cast or the bandage you put on the wound after it's bled itself out and most of it has been stymied. 

We all know everyone processes life altering events differently. For some, the grieving process is a lot longer than others. I know that I take a very very long time to process and get over huge events, and you can thank my earth-sign moon for that, because we have a hard time with drastic and sudden change, him and I.

When I was just starting out I thought I had to do shadow work consistently, like on a monthly basis, but it turns out that was far too soon for what I was working on. I was almost trying to do shadow work while the trauma (in this case abuse) was still happening, so what occured? I would do the work, and walk right the fuck back into the situation I was shadow-working on and revert immediately. It was honestly not a good idea. It took a solid 2 years after getting out of that situation for me to do the PROPER shadow work for it, and bury it/move on.

You don't bury somebody in the process of dying, you wait respectfully for them to take their time to pass, and then you start the rites. In this way you could say shadow work is very linked to death working. You take the time for yourself to heal enough to do basic life functions, and then you can begin to think about the work.

Let me rephrase that--

Directly after a traumatic event, seriously, don't even think about the work. It shouldn't be a priority. Surviving is your priority. Kick and scream and cry and handle the immediate fallout however you, as a human, like to do those things. Don't think about the work for a while. Let the event simmer and stew for a solid few weeks, at least. After the immediate shock period ends, you can test your limits. Shadow Work involves calling up events in gory detail and reliving them, then dealing with that final fallout, but if you're stuck in a period of crying 4 times a day because you can't HELP reliving them already--don't even think about the Work. Shelve it for another few weeks. Do not feel ashamed about doing this: As I said shadow work is a decision. It is your decision when and IF you take it on. You don't have somebody to please here; this is purely for your own well being. Forcing yourself to relive things you can't think about without breaking down completely at the current time isn't shadow work, it's mental torture. (PLEASE don't do that, seriously.)

The ideal time to do Emergency-type shadow work for an event is on average for me a few months to a year after the event. By that time everything is good and simmered for me and most of my depressive anger has gone out of me; rationalizations in their place. At this point I have analyzed and analyzed the situation multiple times, and it has largely exited my consciousness, because I did those mental work-throughs. This is very important. I often say shadow work is successful when you forget that you did it. The ideal time for it is when the trauma just comes back to bite you at random times, but you can handle those times without much emotion or upheaval in your day, and you want some help to handle the last bits of that thing, because you recognize it has no real positive impact anymore on your life. You have to be in a strong enough and safe enough place to survive reliving those events and letting them go, and that takes no small amount of courage and preparedness.

It's not a forgetting process; more of an accepting and cutting one.


This brings me to my final, more practical, point about timing.

Assuming you recognize you have an issue to work on and want to begin the work, I suggest choosing a time when you can be alone in your house or find somewhere you won't be interrupted. If that's when you go to bed because it's all you have, that can work out.

I prefer an empty house in case I get really deep into the work, because it does create almost a trance state or an ecstatic state, and in that state you might thrash or cry or vocalize and not necessary be worrying about someone else coming to ask if you're okay.

Note you can have somebody with you if you prefer, and you trust that person. The thing is, they have to be prepared to see you go into what might look like from the outside a semi-violent fit of emotion, and NOT step in unless asked. The expressive, ugly part that makes us uncomfortable is supremely important, and it's not good to quell it. Part of the shadow work is giving yourself the safe space to ugly cry and claw the carpet and chant profanities and not be composed and perfect and Okay.

Make sure you're in a safe spot, whatever that means to you, and feel free to call deities or guides to aid you. Make it a ritual, if you prefer. Make it something to celebrate, if that works for you. The Work is positive, even if it is difficult and painful, and you have the right to celebrate having the courage to begin.


Shadow Work II: Types

Shadow Work is the monolithic term that I and other uses for this kind of thing, but what it is and what are the types of work?

To define the term, to me Shadow Work means facing the dark parts of my life on purpose, instead of burying and sweeping them under the rug. It is a conscious and necessary process in which I choose to face these things on a regular basis. This process in turn keeps me healthier, more stable, and more prepared to handle trauma and emotional times.

(For the hows and practical applications, you'll have to wait until part IV)

Within this idea of Shadow Work, there are many approaches, and this often depends on WHY you're doing the Work.

I have divided it into:

  • Immediate or Emergency Shadow Work
This is what I consider shadow work in direct result of a traumatic or otherwise life-changing event. Doing Work to assist or aid with a recent death, a break-up, past abuse, assault, disease, divorce, and things of that nature. This is the most common type that I will do.

Additionally in my experience, this type of traumatic experience has the most likelihood of leaving the individual with fall-out that shadow work alone won't fix. This includes the obvious psychological trauma (which counseling can aid) but also the metaphysical fall out of soul-piece loss and cords and connections. It is common to have a single event cause a series of issues that need to be approached from several angles.

             + Assisted Shadow Work

             I put this under the first heading because it is possible to have aid from the Spirit worlds for your work, and indeed it might constitute a LARGE part of the work you do with a particular spirit. Granted you can be assisted in any case of Work, not just a trauma.

            Note the roles can be reversed. If a SPIRIT needs help with ITS traumas or its work, the individual can be brought on to bear witness and act as a support or aid system to the spirit. This sometimes occurs in people who work with spirits that need to cross; shadow work is often the last leg of the journey.

  • Self-Focused Shadow Work
         This is work that is undertaken as a direct result of a desire to change or focus on a particular quality of your own personality that you personally do not like. If you have deep seated anger issues, or anxiety, or problems trusting others, that's what this is for. It is usually long-term and can have many facets and layers, as issues rarely develop in a vacuum.

         For instance, my work on my self has been mainly in the area of my anxiety. So I sat down semi-regularly with myself to work on that. Additionally, I find this type of shadow work, the process of changing old habits and patterns, needs to be attempted on the fly to combat things often and repeatedly, versus emergency shadow work, which is in some ways FEELINGS ALL AT ONCE and becomes vastly better after.

            +Preventative and regular Shadow Work

         You can, in fact, do preventative shadow work. This is more like a check-in you do every so often to see how things are. You might not think there's anything bothering you anymore, but it's worth it to sit down, be silent, and really look very deeply into the well just to see. It's not a bad thing to clear the crap before it becomes bad.

  • Complex Shadow Work {Multi-Type}
         This is my name for work that encompasses emergency and self-focused at once, because let's face it, a lot of the time they are inseparable  So this just means yes, you can be working on SEVERAL issues at once, in the same work.

  • Multi-Lifetime Work
        This type is specifically referencing old, OLD issues you have left over from past astral lives or what-have-you. In many situations issues build and stay with us and they may not surface until several lifetimes later. In this life I did a ton of shadow work that centered in a life hundreds of years ago, in a different time, because it became apparent it was still bothering me. When you begin digging into your issues on purpose, you uncover a lot of shit. Some of it is ooooollllddd. Don't be surprised when this happens.

Note these are my definitions after doing this for a while, and you may have more, or less.

The reason I mention types is because in the next installment, which is on timing, I will be covering the fact that your timing largely depends on your issue, and it's very important to be mindful of why.

In the process of Shadow Work, often once you pull the plug on the bathtub of feelings, it doesn't stop. You will work with one issue, and solve it, and in solving that issue you unlock another you completely repressed, and another, and so on. This is why any type of Work should not be undertaken lightly, or at the wrong time.

More on this in part III!