Self Love

Embracing Our Shadows

Traditionally, shadows belong to Samhain and the Autumn months. Ghoulies come out of the dark and days are getting shorter. The shortest day of the year marks the Winter Solstice, when we welcome back the Sun and the days begin to lengthen. We celebrate Christmas and New Year’s and launch into our resolutions and “new selves”. It’s a time for letting go, for new beginnings.

I celebrate all of these things. But I wonder if, when it comes to confronting our shadow selves, we should try something new.

As a whole, after the vibrant hubbub of the holidays and our new beginnings, we lose steam and fall under the hopeless shroud of our never ending Winter. I’ve lived my whole life in wonderfully wintry places, I understand this well. The beauty of Winter is replaced by brown slush and the cheerful holiday lights can no longer distract us from how dark it really is. We don’t even notice the subtle increase in day length.

To me this time between New Year’s and Spring, even more than Samhain, is truly when shadows abound.

I believe we’re too quick to jump into our “new year new me” mindset. We create lists of surface level changes we believe will make us happier and that’s precisely why so many aren’t able to follow through:

We don’t take the time. We need to look inward and listen, get to know our deeper selves and invite the changes necessary – not just to make us happier – to make us more inherently our True Selves.

Autumn is known to be a time of transformation, and it is! I’ve had many wonderful life changes happen in parallel. But we mustn’t forget about Winter. Winter is a time to process. It is a time to be still, to reflect, to let those changes percolate. It’s an incubation period, like butterflies in their cocoons.

Winter is a time of hibernation, and we need to allow our spirits to take that time. Our inner processing occurs while we’re sleeping. I’ve been continuously exhausted this last year, because the worlds around and inside me have gone through so many changes and my body needed the time to rest and process them.

What do I mean when I refer to our “Shadow Self”? Robert A. Johnson so eloquently describes it as “that dumping ground for all those characteristics of our personality that we disown…that part of us we fail to see or know.”* It’s the darker side of our nature that’s been deemed unacceptable in the whole of greater society, it’s personal skeletons we try to bury, and also threads of gold and good we’re too scared to grab hold of. I’m still learning exactly what my shadow is made of, what it means, and am beginning to understand the importance of developing a creative relationship with that hidden part of myself.

Over these coming Winter months we will explore together different ways we can look inward to find what these dark corners are holding and ways we can develop a healthy communion with it.

Getting to know our shadow selves and learning how to work with them is daunting. We’re instinctively afraid of shadows – not just the boogeyman but also of who we become in the dark, those sides of us we don’t want to be seen (by others or by ourselves). But doing the work is important, because it’s not going anywhere, and suppressing it will only cause it to fester and explode. Only when we understand and embrace those parts of us can we achieve a sense of harmony.

It will take longer than a season. But this Winter’s a wonderful place to begin. Spring signifies rebirth. So let’s hold on to our resolutions and allow the winter months to do their work. When the Spring flowers bloom we’ll be ready to bloom with them.

*Owning Your Own Shadow – Understanding the Dark Side of The Psyche ; Robert A. Johnson

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