When we talk about shadow work we often reference Robert Bly’s notion of the “shadow bag”. When we were young, we were given messages that certain parts of ourselves were not OK, were less lovable, or were not safe to be seen with. So we put those parts of ourselves...read more
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The Shadow of Love – What Gets in Your Way?
Given yesterday was Valentine’s Day, I am inspired to write about the shadow of love and some of the healing modalities we use in Shadow Work® . In the Shadow Work® model of archetypes, the Sovereign and the Lover combined make up what we call the connection loop. For more on the background theory of the model see this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRKggJAQPks.
The wounding messages of the Shadow around love are “I don’t love right” – in the lover quadrant, and “I’m not lovable,” in the sovereign quadrant. Most of us internalized one or both of these messages sometime growing up. So how does that play out in our love lives?
Often if we have these wounding messages, we might have a big critic that attacks ourselves or those we love. I am currently in training with the Gottman Institute, an organization that has worked with and studied relationships for 40 years. Two of the main indicators that a relationship is headed towards disintegration are criticism and contempt. When we find ourselves criticizing our partner, there is usually something we have not owned in ourselves. One of the keys to healing our love wounds is around cultivating acceptance of ourselves and others. I will describe the process of ideal support that cultivates acceptance below.
Another way these wounding patterns play out is around the way we bond. Many of us have an attachment style that is either anxious, avoidant, or both. That simply means that we didn’t get our initial attachment and bonding needs met from one or both of our parents, and we are either anxious that we won’t get our needs met, or we think we won’t get our needs met so we avoid intimacy, or we go back and forth between the two!
So, what do we do with this dilemma? The first place to work with this is within ourselves. We call the repair work in the sovereign lover loop “ideal support.” Ideal support enters in when our little lover self (child) needs to hear the messages that s/he never heard. Often, we took on as children that we had to “perform for love.” We had to be good or do the right thing in order to be loved. Most of us long to hear that we are lovable just for who we are and there is nothing that we need to do to earn love.
Try on that message. When you have a few minutes, imagine that you are holding your child self and you are the support your little one has always wanted. Remember a time when your little one needed some love and care that s/he didn’t receive. Allow yourself to feel those feelings, and see where it lives in your body. Now, tell your little one what it needs to hear – with love and acceptance. I love you. You are perfect as you are. There is nothing you need to do to earn love. You are lovable exactly for who you are.
This can feel like an uncomfortable exercise at first, it might feel contrived or false if you are not used to giving yourself ideal support. Keep with it – this is a primary tool that begins to heal the split in the connection loop – and heal the shadow of love. Sometimes it is hard to give the support and sometimes it is hard to receive it. If you make this a practice, you will start to heal your own heart wounds so that you can come to a place of deeper love for yourself and others.