Freud called it the subconscious and Jung called it the shadow. What exactly are these ‘Monsters in the Closet’ and how can we shine light on them? Why is ‘shadow work’ so important for those on a path of spiritual awakening?

Hear from Dharma Teachers Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat what exactly these monsters in our personal and collective closets are, and why and how we can liberate them.

By examining the ‘shadow’ or the aspects of psyches that we don’t want to see, we can liberate these hidden aspects of ourselves. The result is greater energy and wisdom.

Enlighten-Up is a monthly livestream session with Dharma Teachers Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat. These candid talks on spirituality and awakening are to enliven and enlighten you, as the world spins in challenging times.

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Monsters in the Closet – Liberating the Shadow

The Subconscious, the Shadow

What do we mean by ‘monsters in the closet’? Freud called it the subconscious, Jung called it the shadow. Shamans called it spirits or demons. The shadow is the aspects of our consciousness we don’t want to see or own. These monsters however are not there to defeat you, the shadow is there to help you grow to become a more fully integrated person. By using our will and our intention, we can unlock the door to the ‘monsters in the closet’.

Selfhood Builds the Shadow

To have a shadow, you need a ‘self’. This self, the ego, begins to develop around two years of age, where you realize you are separate from your mother. You realize you are a separate personality and this comes as a big shock. This is felt as traumatic- you are completely dependent on the people around you for food, clothing, shelter and survival. The infant realizes how vulnerable it is and that death could happen at any time. This ‘terror and panic’ is programmed from the very beginning and the ego begins to calcify it, form shells around these feelings, and it becomes part of our shadow, monsters in the closet. Ongoing traumas and ‘terrors’ through life that aren’t able to be processed, continue to grow the shadow. As adults we wonder why we are suddenly in semi-hysterical emotions from relatively minor triggers… this is the shadow.

The ego is drawn to what it likes and pushes away what it doesn’t like. Family and tribal likes and dislikes are also incorporated into our ego structures – these might be related to sexuality, power, survival issues, gender issues. The three lower chakras tend to get pushed into the shadow – eg don’t talk about sex, don’t talk about money, don’t talk about power hierarchies.

The Four Deep Ego Fears Hide the Shadow

All our normal conflicting emotions are like defensive smoke screens that hide the shadow. Anxiety, worry, tension, anger, feeling upset or physically ill- these are often ways we keep the shadow at bay. They are protections against the four root fears, the last layer of defense before meeting the shadow.

The Four Deep Ego Fears:
1. Fear of abandonment,
2. Fear of annihilation,
3. Fear of going insane and
4. Fear of being evil.

How can we liberate the Shadow?

1. Therapy – there are lots of excellent therapies available to you- counseling, group counseling, self education, reading etc. Therapy is within the framework of the ego.
2. Spiritual practice – What takes us beyond the framework of the ego is the spiritual work, meditation, shamanic journeys etc.  In Buddhism, the Triple Gem (Buddha/Teachers, Dharma/Training and Sangha/Community) are three pillars of support for this liberation.
3. Get outside the comfort of your box – Exposure to new experiences, travel and anything that takes you out of the box of your paradigm is very helpful to liberating the shadow.
4. Sangha and community – The shadow often shows up in the guise of other people. We might think we dislike or are afraid of a particular person, but they are actually a mirror for our own shadows. Living in and engaging with community, particularly with a spiritual community or sangha has much transformative power for understanding and working through our shadow aspects.

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