Shadow Work: A Seven Day Journey
It was the new moon in Cancer on a humid summer morning; what a perfect time to start some shadow work. I weave from acknowledging my shadow then run away for a few days, or weeks, but I realize it is integral to my path. I have memories that I can't grasp and a past I have always turned a blind eye towards.
Shadow work isn't easy when you have the shadows of the present day. But I am learning to give myself patience as I heal. I refuse to rush the process again, or allowing my only support to come from other people. I need balance, but also I need to trust myself.
I can't hold anger over my head for not facing my shadow self sooner. I am reminded this is my path, and no one else's. I see my progress, my confidence, and strength shine through me. But, I doubt others value my light because it's not as strong as theirs. I know this judgement and jealously is my own darkness, but I also dislike sharing that message of my low-self worth. Some days I will, but others I want to keep my healing between me, my guides, and my higher self.
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.” — Carl Jung, Aion (1951)
Throughout my journey, tarot has been a guide to help me connect with my intuition and learn to understand the makings of my darkness and light. I've been an avid follower of the Tarot Diagnosis for a while now. Their approach to tarot and therapy resonates with me on such a deep level. When they released their 7 Day Shadow Work Challenge, I knew I couldn't ignore it.
"What do I judge in others that I secretly fear in myself?"
The World (reversed) and 8 of Swords (reversed). My first thoughts, are about I've seen myself imprinted in the image of 8 of Swords many times before. But The World? How do does cards reflect the judgment I have on others that I fear in myself?
The World: I see others who have completed their journey, or are well on their way to start a new one; starting new phases where I have been stuck and lost. My progress is slow, while others seem to wake up and have no repercussions for their next step. Why don't they have to plan? Am I the only one with self-doubt? I am seeking closure in cycles of my life, others have obtained this. I fear my lack of success will leave me behind - no one wants my same old stories while they continue chasing their truth.
8 of Swords: Others are free, I am trapped. When I see others being truly free, I feel disconnected from them. I think I haven't worked hard enough, I am destined to be my own enemy. I hide where I am on my journey because the conversation is one-sided - I am not successful and free. I am limited. I am stuck. But when I think about these thoughts that scold my brain, I know I am removing the blindfold and stepping into my power. My mind might be my enemy, but my soul is my guide.
To clarify this message, I asked, "How can I release this judgment around other people's freedom?" Meet The Devil (reversed), my deck whispers in my not-yet-caffeinated brain. I truly don't fear this card, but in this reading, the message was clear and mighty, and honestly a bit scary. Here's what came up for me:
Continue to work on releasing limiting beliefs around myself and my life that distract me from being my true self.
Notice negative patterns in my actions and thoughts that I can break free from.
I need to confront the fears of never being free - I am on my way, in my own time, on my own road.
Share moments of darkness with people I trust, do not fear being an emotional being.
I do see my power coming back, my confidence blazing like a fire, my courage to express my emotions and true self. But I have work to do. And I embrace that. I am staying focused on my journey. This is no one else's. I will support others on their journey as I always have. But sometimes I just want someone to check in on me, I value others so much, and I want to be told it will be okay, I am on the right path, but only I know that. I can't keep seeking reinforcement from others.
When I was younger, I fell into the world of toxic positivity. This can be defined as an obsession with positive thinking; the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic, whether it be the past or present. This positivity became part of my shadow.
This sensitive moment in my life needed love and nourishment, but I didn't understand how to gift that to myself. I devoted myself to only seeing the good in everything. These positive vibes distracted me from the darkness that was filling in my heart and mind, blinding me from seeing the truth in who I am and the lessons along the way. This all-or-nothing thinking was a defining moment in my life where I was proud to be an "escapist".
es·cap·ist /əˈskāpist/ noun: escapist; plural noun: escapists
a person who seeks distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially in the form of entertainment or fantasy.
Though I do not regret these moments of my life, they have helped me seek balance in my fears. The wisdom from my past, the joy and pain of the present, and the beauty but challenges the future will hold. Just because others are in a positive space, and seem to have it all figured out, awesome. I am proud of you. But that's not my story. I am writing the pages on my healing journey, and there will always be moments to reflect, to act, to live. I don't want to only see the light, I want the wisdom of the dark.
At the end of day one, I am so proud of how far I've come. Others' success, completions of cycles, and new beginnings do not define me. I promise to stay focused on my path, listen to what feels right, and ask for help when I need it. I release my dependence on the material world to define my worthiness. I make space to love myself and my uniqueness.
"What self-limiting beliefs do I hold on to out of fear?"
If my journey thus far has taught me anything, it's that I doubt myself.
I was when intrigued when my cards were The Magician and King of Pentacles (reversed). The Magician, how? What do they have to do with limiting beliefs - I aspire to be like the Magician.
There's my answer - I doubt my ability to follow and use my ideas to make my world magical. I doubt my capacity to use the elements, tools, and resources to alchemize my life; to make my dreams a reality. I feel powerless, unworthy, of my spell-making. I think others know what is best for me, their words sway my opinions and I fill my body with fear and doubt that I have the ability to make my own verdict.
But when I step into my magic, my power, my energy, I am whole. I can bring meaning to my life that is abundant, flourishing, and supportive. I am worthy of that. I am grateful I see my power coming back to me. This card is a reminder that I acknowledge my self-doubt and fear, but I can choose to trust the universe and my inner world to overcome that and step into my heartfelt, magical self.
Full disclosure, the King of Pentacles is not a surprise for me here. I have come to the acceptance that I have been driven by society and my own decisions to place my worth in materials and wealth.
It wasn't until about a year ago that I began to change my relationship with my money. I got a new job, I started freelancing, the money poured into my bank account. I was beginning to feel free, financially. People finally paid me properly for my skills. The hours of overwork took over, it was all I could think about. All my self-worth and success came from exhaustion, the depletion of my soul came up, yelling at me to stop, and rest. To get outside, to meditate, to love myself, not only the green and gold floating through the abyss.
I was reminded there is more to life than work, so I took a step back, and now have a better grasp on the balance between personal and career.
Truth is, a comfortable bank account still defines success to me (let me clarify, it is a piece of the puzzle of happiness). I want to be financially secure, for the present, for the future.
But today, I will not let material worth define who I am. Materials and wealth keep my safe, as it did when I was a child. People around me were proud of me for this uplevel in my life - but guess what? Most were still supportive when I said I was being mindful about my workload. I need more than money to be successful, and I will continue to work on releasing that limiting belief.
I am lead by curiosity to ask "How can I release these limiting beliefs that I hold on to out of fear?"The 6 of Swords. Here's to letting go of the past and present circumstances that have been painful; the future has calm, supportive seas. I can move forward and have abundance, success, and magic in ways that let me be my fullest self. The release of materials goods and unsupportive energies will have challenges, but this release will allow me to live the life I want. To be who I want to be. And make decisions that support my inner-being.
Materials will come and go, but my spirit is limitless and vibrant. I trust myself to make decisions that honour my life and dreams.
"What lies about myself and the world do I tell myself?"
The Two of Swords and The Heirophant - what an 'odd' mix of cards, was my first impression.
The Two of Swords message here says that I tell myself my intuition is not enough to make a decision, that my inner world doesn't know what is best for me. I need the approval of others - these are lies I tell myself. With mental clarity and looking at the full picture, I can make decisions that support me. The world is not blinded by my decision-making, in fact, it supports it. I do not believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe the universe will always guide you in the right direction. It's my choice to follow through or get stuck in the mind games of the past.
The Heirophant is not a card I pull often, but I do resonate with the teaching of spirituality and masculine energy with it. Some of the lies I tell myself include that my masculinity is too much, it should be feared, it scares people to be bold. That I can make it on my own; I don't need to share my teachings or skills with others along the way. These are false. I can find success in my communities and stay an individual in the process.
This card reminds me that I should continue to explore spirituality and connect with others that support my vision and beliefs. I choose to continue to master my craft of writing and educate others on how writing can heal.
These also got me thinking about the balance of feminine and masculine energy. The divine masculine can be described as, "very action-based, focused on doing rather than being. It's all about things like structure, logic, and taking charge. Divine masculine energy is at play with things like assertiveness, confidence, speaking up for yourself, and sometimes, fighting the good fight."
Where divine feminine energy can be more passive and willing to compromise, Kilkenny notes that sometimes, "there are things in the world we do need to fight for, and situations where we need to draw a line in the sand about what's right or wrong." The masculine is good at setting boundaries in this way.
So, how can I find clarity and truth from these lies? Four of Cups (reversed). Nothing like a reminder to focus on what is in front of me. By trusting my intuition, divine masculinity and having a supportive community, I can stay in my truth and make decisions that are honest.
This card also reminds me that it's okay to take a step back and make time for introspection. The universe has presented challenges, and it always will. But the challenges are pieces of wisdom. I need to avoid getting stuck on what other people want for me and the past.
Today left me with more questions than answers on the lies I tell myself, but I find that to be a beautiful aspect of tarot for shadow work. The cycle of healing is not linear, it is a spiral. The last two days got me thinking deeply about my struggles, while today asks me to find balance in my energies and trust my intuition.
"What do I fear others are judging me for?"
When I think about this question, I think of the fact I fear people judging my self-expression or if I am 'enough' in their eyes. As much as this stems from childhood and some other experiences in my life, I do want to bring up Chiron.
Chiron is the wounded healer in astrology. It's deeply beneficial to learn about Chiron because it can help us see what wounds (from past life or childhood, or both) that we carry and struggle to escape from. In my chart, it is located in the 10th house Leo. This is a sign that there is a deep self-esteem wound that was caused when I was told I was not good enough to succeed. This could arise from lacking recognition or respect in childhood concerning life's purpose or dreams of what to do with my life. I struggle to see my worth.
Healing this aspect of me doesn't come from other people, it comes when I accept I have nothing to prove - I have to recognize my power and how special my purpose is with the universe.
That being said, my fear of judgment from others can be harsh, sometimes crippling, in my mind. Today's cards are The Empress and Five of Cups (reversed). The Empress energy is a part of what I aspire to embody in my day-to-day life. Given the Heirophant showed up yesterday, I am intrigued about today's spread.
I fear people judge my femininity as a weakness or a threat to them. I fear that I am not creative enough for others' approval (this is where I was reminded of my Chiron placement). I fear people judge my growth; why am I changing? Why am I leaving things behind? Do I really know what is best for me?
I am worthy to be the Empress in my life. My feminity does not make me weak, in fact, it makes me stronger when I combine it with my masculine. Nurturing myself and others, who are willing to receive without judgements, needs balance. It's easy for me to get into a place of overcaring and love and lose myself in the process.
During this healing journey, there have been times where I felt criticism towards this part of me and those moments (why do I care so much? I wish I didn't then maybe I would still be in control of my life). I felt this way because I didn't see anyone devoting their love and care to me on a healthy level, so I went overboard trying to help and forgot I needed my own help and boundaries to do so.
I dance with these boundaries now, not around them. I see the courage in my ability to care, but now I'm working on my self-acceptance. Will people fear me the more I step into my power? Maybe. But my heart says it's time to honour the divine feminine and my true self.
I don't think shadow work would be true without the Five of Cups making an appearance. I fear people will judge me for not devoting my life to trying to fix what is broken. This card reminds me it's time to move on. Others may see this as a failure, but I am reminded that it's my life, not theirs. Their judgements towards me trying to live a safe, abundant life can no longer protect me. I've lived my life in the worries of their judgement, I've learned from it. I want to pick up all the cups and finish the sentence of this part of my story so I can move on to the next chapter - hell, why not a whole new book?
With stories on my mind, I use the Literary Witches oracle deck for some clarity. Teacup and humanity are my cards. The teacup resembles ease, rest, small mind. While humanity speaks of who we are, reckoning with failure, redemption. Taking time to rest and reflect on who I am will help me ease these fears of judgement from others. Finding wisdom in the past, failures included, will help me redeem my self-worth.
"What judgements about myself can I release?"
The start of today's pull left me with more questions than answers. It started with the 5 of Wands. The key themes I attach to this card are competition, conflict, and resolution. I do feel quite conflicted about various parts of me; aspects I question if they are truly part of me or my conditioning.
Who's opinion am I listening to? Am I being heard? Do I need to listen better to myself? How can I improve my ideas or collaborate better? Each part of me, past, present, and future have something to bring to my life, and so do the people in it. But I struggle to be heard, I feel like I can never get my point across, my opinion is invalid. I judge my voice, my strength, my wisdom. Every piece of me has something to offer and I struggle to trust it and express it at all times. Perhaps I am just not designed to pour my heart into everyone I met. I admit I deflect conflict with others - this I am not comfortable (yet) with spilling my heart about to you.
Next, we have the Ace of Pentacles, an interesting card to come up around judgments that I need to release about myself. At first, I question my ability to know that I am worthy of material wealth. Do I still judge myself for material and financial success, even though I know I am skilled and worthy? I feel this card is here today to tell me that I need to release my self-doubt and fear around freedom and happiness (but happiness beyond the coin). I do not need to let my judgement cloud me when new opportunities arise, or when I feel joy. I am worthy of it.
Initially, I wasn't going to pull a clarifier card, but I did so anyway because I've been finding them very insightful thus far.
5 of Swords (reversed). I forgot to mention today's spread is full of cards I hardly ever see. This card along with the other pulls, got me wondering about the conflicts that began to make me feel these doubts. They seem to follow me, no matter how hard I fight. I do worry it will never go away. But, seeing the patterns allow me to release it - I am ready to move forward. I can create a new view by understanding the situations where I doubt myself and ask why. Questioning and expressing how I feel is not a sign of weakness, it comes from a place of love and support. My doubts and silence can be released without judgement and met with understanding. Also, don't let the past stop me from new opportunities.
"What do I need to forgive myself for?"
A word I like to ponder and take action with. I don't know if healing can happen on a deeper level when we don't forgive others and ourselves. There are beautiful synchronicities over the weekend and into today's pull. Let's start with the cards: 7 of Wands and The Sun (reversed).
I am on a path of progress. I forgive myself for any resistance and times where I did not work with my inner fire. All things grow on their own time. Like the wands, life has different stages. I forgive myself for getting stuck in the struggle of feeling small and fighting others people's battles for them, losing myself and my divine power. I forgive myself for not taking things one step at a time, getting overwhelmed and giving up.
I noticed there is a triangle shape on the card. This weekend I was studying Sacred Geometry and I learned that triangles represent fire (as do the wands) and the spirit. It activates moving energy upwards to the Hierarchy of Light. I can't share the rest of the magic I learned, but looking at this card and thinking about the power of triangles, I realize I need to forgive not trusting my spirit and inner light on my path.
for·give·ness /ˌfərˈɡivnəs/ noun: forgiveness; plural noun: forgivenesses
the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.
The Sun really could not show up at a more potent time. Yesterday when I was reflecting on my experience with Sacred Geometry and Astral Travel, I pulled the Death card. For the last year to six months, I have been shedding so many layers are and false beliefs, day by day I feel reborn. I am just starting a new book of life, and this one is fully authored by me. Getting The Sun today, makes me think that I need to forgive myself for hiding my inner light and not speaking my inner fire. There are times I have not stayed true to my fire, I let others be content and ignored what was in front of me. I forgive myself for these moments. And times when I did not see the light and was trapped in darkness - and vise versa, when I refused to admit the darkness.
“The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself; indeed, we should be fully born when we die - although it is the tragic fate of most individuals to die before they are born.”
― Erich Fromm, The Sane Society
All areas of my life need my conscious attention. With my rebirth comes seeing the larger picture of my life, my purpose, my spirit. I forgive myself for times when I did not honour my free will and my choices, where I ignored my own truth. The Sun gives me the strength to embrace self-forgiveness to my inner child, the past, and the present. The Sun is my inner fire reminding me, we're just getting started on the day.
"How can my shadows also be strengths?"
I appreciate this last question to wrap up this shadow self through tarot exploration. Over the last while I have stopped running away from my fears and doubts, and I am taking time to understand where they come from, why they still exist, and what I can do today to learn or heal them.
Somehow, today’s cards were 7 of Wands (reversed) and The Sun (again!). I can’t tell you how much I shuffled my cards before this pull, but clearly, the deck had something to say.
My ability to heal and be reborn is a strength. Being someone who wants to expand and embrace the limitless potential of being on Earth, is possible, but I need to keep working with my intuition and being clear about my beliefs and needs. These cycles of change will always look different.
I pulled the queen of Wands as my clarity pull. I feel sacred – this card has been my inspiration lately. Her fiery transformation, growth, and confidence in creativity help me to clearly see where my shadows can also be a strength. On day four, I mentioned Chiron in Leo. With this card, I am reminded to embrace and express my creativity.
I do have the power to be an individual living from my truth, following my inner fire. I am a survivor from the past and moments of darkness that wanted to swallow me whole. But they didn’t. I can look at my life and fill it with light, not judgment. My path is my own.
“Creativity connects me to my truest self and vulnerability. There is nothing more personally liberating, than reaching for my face and peeling off the social mask that hides my; shadow self, pain and weakness. When I produce from this place of truth, the results transform both creator and beholder.”
― Jaeda DeWalt
These last seven days brought depth to my shadow side, a part of me I would keep hidden from others, but I feel ready to understand it. Obstacles are opportunities – my past decisions and memories do not define me, they only offer wisdom. I do not need to get lost in the path or opinion of others, I am strong and confident to make my own. As much as I want to ask others for help and their opinion, at this moment in my life I need to trust that I know the answer.
My ability to adapt, transform, grow, is not a weakness. My self-doubt and fear of speaking my truth is not a weakness.
My shadows support me, they do not guide me.
I am ever-changing, and that is a strength that burns inside me.