Continued from Part 7 – Common Pitfalls On The Journey
By now you might be starting to think this topic of the shadow is a bit heavy.
It’s often common for people to react with fear and suppression upon learning about their shadow (ignoring it), or to go the other way and get sunken with grief at everything they’ve buried.
Remember: it’s not your fault.
It’s happened to everyone and it’s an absolutely essential part of the individuation process of becoming a full human being.
It’s so core to our species that the activity of setting out into the world to face our demons and “eat our shadow” has been recorded in religions and mythology for millennia.
In the middle part of the 20th century, the renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell spent several years comparing the mythologies of all the great religions, indigenous cultures and faiths going back 10,000 years. In his research he found the same story arc repeating over and over, that of the “Hero’s Journey”.
It’s not your fault but it is your responsibility.
The Hero’s Journey
Our hero starts off carrying out their day-to-day lives, blissfully unaware of their shadow and the wider world around them. For some reason they start to develop an unease they can’t quite explain, like things just don’t quite feel ‘right’ any more, there is something else they feel they need to seek out to feel whole.
After a while of feeling disjointed something happens. Maybe it’s a job loss, a relationship ends or a bereavement. Maybe it’s a job offer or an invitation to go on a wild adventure.
Either way, a call has come down from the universe. They answer it. Now they must plunge into the unknown, the belly of the beast and wrestle all of their doubts, insecurities and fears to slay the dragon (achieve their dreams) and return a hero.
It’s the same story you see in every successful film franchise ever from Star Wars to Harry Potter to King Arthur.
Why does it keep resonating? Because this story is hardwired into our collective psyche.
It is an archetypal story, one that is primordial to our species. You could almost say it is the evolutionary narrative that drives us forward as human beings.
This story is yours.
This hero is you.
You were born pure light and it’s your job to shine brightly through the selfless giving of your gifts to the world.
To answer the call, you must strike off the “thou shalt” conditioning of your parents, friends, community and society. Come to your own realisation, find what is right for you because when you do, you will feel better than you have ever felt in your life.
You will have found and be living in your Inner Truth.
Make no mistake though, this is serious and difficult work. To quote the famous poet
Rainer Rilke: “Almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious.”
To take up this mantle though is to grip life, to be fully alive and savour the reward of coming to peace with yourself.
Metaphorically speaking, we might say as Jesus did that “the kingdom of heaven is within you”. When you’ve learnt to love every aspect of yourself, you will find that kingdom.
Almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious.
To speak of this, Frederick Nietzsche describes what he calls the three transformations of the spirit:
“The first is that of the camel, of childhood and youth. The camel gets down on his knees and says, “Put a load on me.” This is the season for obedience, receiving instruction and the information your society requires of you in order to live a responsible life.
But when the camel is well loaded, it struggles to its feet and runs out into the desert, where it is transformed into a lion — the heavier the load that had been carried, the stronger the lion will be. Now, the task of the lion is to kill a dragon, and the name of the dragon is “Thou shalt.” On every scale of this scaly beast, a “thou shalt” is imprinted: some from four thousand years ago; others from this morning’s headlines. Whereas the camel, the child, had to submit to the “thou shalts,” the lion, the youth, is to throw them off and come to his own realization.
And so, when the dragon is thoroughly dead, with all its “thou shalts” overcome, the lion is transformed into a child moving out of its own nature, like a wheel impelled from its own hub.
No more rules to obey. No more rules derived from the historical needs and tasks of the local society, but the pure impulse to living of a life in flower.
For the camel, the “thou shalt” is a must, a civilizing force. It converts the human animal into a civilized human being. But the period of youth is the period of self-discovery and transformation into a lion. The rules are now to be used at will for life, not submitted to as compelling “thou shalts.” It comes the time for using the rules in your own way and not being bound by them. That is the time for the lion-deed. You can actually forget the rules because they have been assimilated. You are an artist.”
So take this parable as inspiration on your journey through your shadow self to the complete, whole and beautiful true self.
Each day we have opportunities to do this difficult work and as we humble ourselves into it we will find all kinds of strength we did not know we had to carry us through.