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Me and My Shadow

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At the age of three, I learned it wasn't right to be jealous of my baby sister, take cookies from the jar when my mother was busy with her, or have a tantrum when I felt neglected.

These are just a few of the lessons I remember. As I became more skilled at interpreting my parents' facial expressions, a raised eyebrow or voice, a frown, and other subtle gestures were enough to signal that I had violated yet another rule.

I know I changed. My baby pictures show a happy, laughing infant. Though I still smiled dutifully when the camera recorded my four-year-old self, much of the exuberance had vanished from my face. I had learned to think about what I was going to say before speaking, lest I be called silly or babyish. Once I learned to read, I took every opportunity to retreat into a world where magic and spontaneity were still possible, where people could do things I wasn't allowed to do.

My story isn't unique. It's typical of what happens to most children. We are very young when we realize the worst thing that can happen to us is to lose our parents' approval and to feel we've lost their love. Their love and approval are necessary to our survival. When they withdraw it, we are desperate to have it back.

Like me, most children are careful to learn what behavior, attitudes, and beliefs result in the withdrawal of parents' love. If they decide -- as a majority do -- that love and approval are more important than exploring and expressing their individuality, they make difficult decisions. As they must eventually put away their stuffed animals and dolls, so they must abandon whatever behavior, emotions, and attitudes deny them their parents' love.

As we grow older, discarding aspects of our personality or nature which we feel aren't socially acceptable becomes a habit. According to how dependent we are on the approval of others, we may present images of ourselves which bear little resemblance to who we really are. The more successful we are at forgetting these discarded aspects of our personalities, the less we remember the elements of our essential selves.

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Not Gone, Not Forgotten

Unlike the toys of childhood, aspects of our nature never really go away. The effort to keep them under lock and key can be exhausting. It's difficult to be who you're not.

A close friend of mine was very psychic as a child and told his parents about things he thought were going to happen. When these events actually occurred, his parents, no doubt frightened, became very angry and told him to never speak about things like that again.

Their anger subdued him, their fear was contagious, and my friend locked the door to his psychic gifts. Only when he explored the metaphysical world as an adult did he remember his childhood abilities. This remembrance helped him to understand the great unhappiness of his early childhood, his drifting from career to career as a young adult, and his feelings of both shame and loss.

Other male friends have spoken about being punished for crying. Women describe being told they were too assertive, too "unfeminine." Many people speak with regret about being discouraged from the exercise of gifts their parents considered inappropriate.

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Shadowed Lives

When we remain divided beings we face great difficulties.

One problem is the psychic and emotional energy we use to keep the rejected aspects of ourselves hidden. We don't just lock the closet door; we lean against it with all our strength.

Another problem is that when we meet someone who acts out the behavior our parents condemned in us, we may react to that person with the same judgment. I've written elsewhere that when I was young I got the idea it was always wrong to talk about oneself. For years I disliked people who had no such inhibitions. When I learned to wonder at the depth of my reaction, I realized that underneath the anger, a small voice cried, "It isn't fair that she gets to do this and I don't."

In addition, when we attempt to fulfill our talents and dreams, we find ourselves stopped. Because my parents told me I would never be able to make a living as an artist, I didn't pick up a paintbrush for thirty-two years. Even now, I have moments when I think I'm being frivolous and wasting my time.

Residual feelings of shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and inadequacy, all stemming from unremembered or half-remembered childhood incidents, can also derail us from the path of fulfilling our dreams.

Above all, a sense of loss haunts us. We know something that was once part of ourselves is missing. We don't feel complete.

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The Road to Reunion

In order to become all we can be, we need to restore to ourselves all that we are. This means meeting our shadow selves.

The first step is to be willing to allow yourself to become aware of whatever you stored in your particular closet. Adopt the belief that nothing you will discover about yourself is as bad as you fear it might be. Believe that releasing these poor old skeletons from prison will free you.

I want to emphasize the importance of being receptive to remembering. It means you stop leaning against that door. It means treating memories as welcome guests. It means being excited about the wonderful discoveries you're going to make about yourself and welcoming the new creative energies which will begin to stream through you.

You can learn more by noticing how and in what areas you stop yourself. For example, if you realize you're afraid to change anything about your life, you may have learned it was wrong to be spontaneous and take risks.

It's not necessary to trace the roots of the limiting beliefs you discover. I recently realized I believed I was irresponsible with money. Although I don't know how I acquired this belief (did I squander my twenty-five cents' allowance as a child?) I experienced a huge feeling of relief upon making the discovery.

Observe how you respond to how other people behave -- like my reaction to people who talked about themselves. This will tell you something about what you have hidden away.

The closet doors often open at night, so pay special attention to your dreams.

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Coming Together


When the discoveries emerge into consciousness, you may not at first be happy with what you learn about your shadow self. You can soften the impact of your discoveries by reminding yourself that behavior, beliefs, and attitudes your parents considered undesirable aren't necessarily so. While my psychic friend had been inhibited for years by his parents' reaction to his gift, as an adult he was comfortable with his psychic abilities.

Grown men can learn to cry. Grown women can be assertive.

You may discover emotions and behavior you wouldn't be proud of as an adult, as I did when I remembered my jealous childhood. I handled this by reasoning that it's in no way abnormal or criminal for a very young child to be jealous of a usurper. I also healed the surfacing emotions with the help of the Bach Flower Remedy Holly and with rose quartz.

When you're going through a period of recovering your abandoned self, be especially mindful about loving yourself unconditionally. Also pay attention to being forgiving. Forgive your parents and remember they, too, were molded by their own parents. Forgive yourself for abandoning aspects of your being, and rejoice in your reunion.

Obsidian is probably the most effective crystal for letting down the barriers between you and your shadow self. Obsidian unlocks the closet, throws open the door and reveals the shadow self. This crystal, which is actually volcanic glass, has been used by many native cultures to make knives. Like a knife, obsidian cuts to the heart of the matter, sometimes.

You can soften its impact by using it in conjunction with aventurine, rose quartz, and chrysocolla. As members of the quartz family, the first two stones help to dissolve what obsidian surfaces. Chrysocolla is a warm and nurturing stone which makes the truth easier to hear. One can also work with snowflake obsidian, which contains some quartz.

Helpful as these crystals are, the desire to regain the exiled parts of self and thus become whole is obsidian's most powerful partner.

Clear quartz works well with obsidian, bringing pure white light to dissolve blockages we've created against knowing the shadow self. White being the opposite of black, the combination of these two crystals creates a balance of energies.

Azurite provides a gentler, kinder way to approach the closet door. It helps us to uncover limiting beliefs and also helps to dissolve them.

Rose Quartz is a vital crystal for recovering the hidden aspects of self. It generates the energy of unconditional self-love and also helps to heal the old wounds which may be uncovered.

Flower Essences

I recommend Agrimony (Bach) for people whose shadows are very well hidden and pretend to the world and themselves that everything is fine. They tend to be very well-liked, but the price for their popularity is inner agony. Even if you don't answer this description, you will find Agrimony helps to reveal the shadow self.

Black Eyed Susan (FES) brings the light of consciousness to painful or traumatic emotions which have been avoided or repressed. It's very helpful when resistance arises in process self-growth.

Scleranthus (Bach), though usually recommended when people are undecided between two choices which appear to be opposites ("I want to live in the city; I want to live in the country") can also be powerful in reconciling any set of opposites. The untamed shadow self often contrasts vividly with the selves people have created in order to receive social approval. Scleranthus can help to resolve the conflict between the two selves.

Owl (Wild Earth Animal Essences) symbolizes the power of the dark, of mystery, of hidden aspects of self. This bird sees in the dark and can't be deceived. It can help in accessing the hidden you.

Beyond the Rainbow
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