Diving into Your ShadowBag, part 2: #Quest2015
…filled with the unacceptable parts of your life. The parts of your soul, psyche, and self and were deemed unacceptable by powerful “others” – parents, teachers, leaders, friends, lovers. The list is long.
Opening my shadow bag revealed eyes staring back at me–accusing, guilt-inducing, shame-filled eyes. Eyes of former parts of myself I’d cut off, discarded, ignored, forgotten for moments or decades. The eyes that most compelled me to take them out of the bag and really look into them were the bright blue eyes of my youngest adult daughter, Molly, a woman very soon to become a momma.
A daughter I once contemplated not having. (You can read more about that story and more about Eric Klein, the genius behind this perplexing #quest2015 prompt here.)
But in the hours that followed publishing the post, I kept thinking more about our shadow bags, especially as women who’ve experienced sexual wounding. It seems our bags are overflowing with mucked up, stinky layers of shame, guilt, what if’s, how-could-you’s, years of silence, and so many other should-have’s that push our bags to the bursting point.
Who would want to reach her hand into that slimy mess?
Yet, if we are truly invested in healing, it’s important for us to gently and firmly pull these shadow bag memories and feelings out so we can take a good look into them.
And why should we risk triggering and more pain?
Because doing so helps us along on our healing journey, helps us to let go of those sticky threads holding us in the past. By journaling or talking to trusted others about our shadow bag contents, we not only unburden our stories unto someone else or our journals, but more importantly we create a new personal narrative about that memory or feeling, the creation of which is a powerful force in healing from our wounds.
So, here are a few suggestions for opening your #shadowbag and delving into it:
- Only pull out one memory/feeling/pair of eyes at a time. Yes, the bag may be begging closer inspection. But, working through more than one at a time is just not a wise idea. Instead, you might start a little list of possible issues to work on later.
- Set aside some time to fall back into the memory. What I mean by this is to intentionally honor this journey you are about to embark upon. Make sure you have privacy, maybe a hot cup of tea or coffee, light a candle, maybe play some soft instrumental music. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself in the present moment. I have found that when I intentionally honor this time, knowing full well it will be difficult, the journey back into a memory always eventually rewards me. Always.
- Revisit this memory in your mind. Go back to a scene, what do you see, what are you wearing, who are you with, what season is it, what year is it, what else is happening? Linger here for as long as you like.
- Write it all down in your journal, this safe, private sanctuary for your words. Write until you have nothing else to say. Or, set a timer for 20 minutes. The writing muses love and honor time limits.
- When you’ve completed writing, take a few moments to go back and read through your writing. What new insight do you have? What new understanding has surfaced about the memory? Write it down.
- Lastly, if any of this gives you the feeling that you are really going to flip out, follow Dr. James Pennebaker’s Flip Out Rule:
If you feel as though you cannot write about a particular event because it will “pus you over the edge,” then don’t write about it. Deal only with those events or situations that you can handle now. Additional traumatic topics that you can’t get to now can always be dealt with at a later time.
Immediately after writing about your shadow bag memory, you may feel relieved, lighter in spirit, or you may also feel just plain awful. All of this is normal. Just notice how you feel without judgment. And know that the awful feeling is often the sign that your soul is shifting, your narrative is transforming, your heart is expanding.
We need not be terrified of our shadow bags. They often contain the nudge to move us along on our healing journeys towards wholeness and Wonder-Hearted living. Exploring them on the pages of our journals is one holistic way we can gain not only self-knowledge but also courage to be our very best selves, to be thrivers and not merely survivors.
Here are a two other great writers sharing their #ShadowBag stories that are worth reading:
Crackling, Sparkling Ephemera with Vanessa Jean: Saved by Taylor Swift
Laundry Line Divine with Suzi Banks Baum: Starting Where I Am, In the Dark
Until soon, I wish you peace, blessings, and a New Year of joy and hope.