If We’re Going to Save Humanity, We Have to Face Our Shadow

Photo by Amanda Bowman

He sat next to one of my oldest friends and started chatting with her. I saw a smile creep over his face and her laughter in return. I was across the room, a level down, so I couldn’t hear what they were saying.

And the jealousy wracked my body at full tilt.

Thing is, this wasn’t real life — it was a dream. But I felt it as if it were real, both in the dream and when I woke up in the morning. I was drenched in waves of anger and rejection, with the burning desire to prove…I don’t know. That I was good enough?

I’ve had dreams like this at different points in my life, usually not long (or sometimes years) after breaking up with someone. Often, it comes up when the belief has crept in that they didn’t really love me, or that they were looking over their shoulder at the next woman in line, or that maybe — though I didn’t catch it — they cheated on me.

But over the last several years, I’ve started to understand my shadow side and the implications and control it’s had on my life, without me being conscious of it. If you’ve never heard of the shadow in terms of personality, it is essentially that which we discard from our conscious self because it isn’t generally accepted by society, our family, and our community. For me, one of my biggest shadow elements is jealousy, which stems from an underlying fear of abandonment.

For our culture right now, one of our biggest shadows is sexual assault. Underlying it is deep and profound fears around self-worth and control.

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Photo by: daniel zimmel

For you astrology buffs (and some others who have been infiltrated by your friends Facebook posts), you know that Jupiter recently moved into Scorpio for the next 13 months.

If you have no idea what that means, Jupiter is the planet of expansion. It’s often thought to bring good luck to the area where it falls, but it’s really more about the amplification of whatever signifies that area of a chart.

Now that Jupiter is in Scorpio, which signifies birth, death, and regeneration, and whose characteristics include passion, commitment, jealousy, obsessiveness, and desire control for control, well — shit’s about to get real.

It already has, hasn’t it?

You’d be hard pressed to find an astrologer who was surprised about the timing of the Harvey Weinstein exposé (the first article was published online on Oct. 10th; Jupiter moved into Scorpio on Oct. 10th). Don’t be shocked when more stories of this caliber come to light over the next year.

As a woman who has been sexually harassed (just as every single other woman in the world) and has been assaulted, I often say how lucky I am that I haven’t been raped. Yes, that is what it comes down to - I feel lucky that I’ve only had random men grab my breasts and stick their hands between my legs instead of being forced to have sex with someone when I didn’t want to.

So yes, I’m triggered by these revelations, just as many women are. And, I understand that these secrets need to come to light for more reasons than the downfall of one man — they have to come to light in order for us to heal as a human race.

The shadow elements of domination, control, and misuse of power show up consistently in the history of human kind, and the people who have felt the deepest impacts of these elements are women and people of color.

Those of us who have stepped on the path of doing deep internal work are learning that we must see the shadow as parts of a person and not the whole of who they are. We know that honest dialogue about the reality that we ALL contain shadow elements is what leads to long-lasting change, not shame or condemnation.

But women and people of color can’t be the only ones grasping the meaning of shadow work. We need men to do the honest and sometimes excruciating work of looking at themselves, or nothing will change.

It goes without saying that our cultural (and really, multi-cultural) misogyny impacts men as well as women, that they are cut off from their rich emotional world, that violence is easier than vulnerability, that there are many shells of men walking around addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex. And yet our culture continues to reward men for living these outdated and toxic ideas of masculinity, inherent in which is the abuse and misuse of women. It feels massive to try and turn this sinking ship around.

Yet, any attempts to meet our shadow brings about healing. It’s kind of incredible, as the power of it usually hits swiftly — we are all hurt, we all carry trauma, we are all flawed. It brings down the intense energy of the shadow into something manageable, mutable.

I like Matt Kahn’s idea of the shadow: it is really just our inner child trying to get our attention. And it has been trying to do so for so long, and we’ve ignored it for so long, that it grows into this uncontrollable thing. Give it the attention it wants inside of you, and it won’t control the outside of you.

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Photo: Aimee Heart

The notion of “self-love” is being thrown around a lot lately, but what does that actually mean? There’s no other way to describe it other than this: it’s complicated. But, one of the most profound ways to work on self-love is to engage with your shadow, and accept it is a part of you. Only then do you have the ability to make conscious choices that are in line with your higher self and the greater good.

I choose to engage with my jealousy in this way: I ask my inner child what it needs. I dance like a bat outta hell. I remind myself of all the love that has shown up in my life throughout the years. I kick it with my little five-year-old blonde, curly-haired self on a hilltop in San Francisco in a visualization. I express my truth to a friend I trust. I recognize it’s not about the person in real life or in my dream: it is about me, and I take full responsibility for that.

This is where freedom hangs out. This is where personal actions change.

This is how we’ll make it through Jupiter in Scorpio alive.

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