Life Coach Question: How do I Integrate My Shadow Side?
So we've been discussing the concept of a "shadow" side as the part of us we've kept hidden or submerged beneath the persona we let people see. Usually we've repressed these aspects since childhood, whether because we wanted to please other people, wanted to fit in better, or because we simply needed to survive.
In order to become whole we need to integrate all the parts of us--but how can we do this? If it was easy, we would have done it already, right? And what if it's too late, or we're afraid of what we might find?
It's never too late to put yourself back together again (even Humpty Dumpty did it), and nothing to be afraid of. You may or may not like what you uncover, but the fact is that it was always there, and things seen in the light of day usually aren't worse than the things go bump in the night. Here are a few ways to go about pulling yourself together:
- Make sure you have sacred space and support. Doing personal work can be hard, and bring up some tough memories and emotions. This is why people have coaches and therapists. At the very least, make sure you give yourself your own time and care. If you're going to write in your journal, make sure you have a comfortable space and time to reflect without interruption. Plan ahead and figure out what you might need afterwards -- will you need to be quiet, by yourself, or will you need to get out into the energy of friends and fun?
- Find a way to clearly identify the aspect of yourself you need to pull into the fold. Sometimes it's easy to think we don't have any shadows, but we all do. One way to spot them is to see what bugs the shit out of you in other people, because chances are that's what you've suppressed in yourself. Does it piss you off when people are late? Maybe there's a part of you that doesn't want to please other people or do what she said she would, or wants to feel more important than others. Remember, we're not judging. We're identifying.
- Use the power of visualization. We tell our kids we love them all the time, right? Try to visualize that "other" part of you and give it a big hug and tell it that you see it. It sounds silly, but our imagination has power, and this is a way to make sure you don't let yourself off the hook in the forgiveness department.
- In order to forgive and incorporate the aspects of yourself you deem "unlikeable," you also need to be able to identify the parts of you that you like and are proud of. We tend not to do this in our culture, because we don't want to "toot our own horn," even if we're only talking to ourselves! It doesn't hurt to take stock periodically of who you are. SoulCollage® is a good way to do this, because you can make a card for all the voices or aspects of yourself and flip through them every now and then or journal with whichever one stands out.
- Do not hesitate to get help. You can get a lot of mileage out of journaling and self-reflection, but it's hard to hold yourself accountable or push past when it starts getting uncomfortable. Sometimes it's just hard to make the time to do personal work unless you've hired a coach or a therapist.