At the Fall Equinox, the sun enters Libra- the sign of relationships and balance. This season initiates our journey of descent into our own personal underworld, where we meet with our shadow self.
There is no better way to meet our shadow than in the world of relationships. People we connect with in life, whether friends, co-workers or intimate partners mirror to us aspects of ourselves. Some of these qualities we are delighted to encounter, while others not so much.
Generally, the qualities we despise or are irritated by in others point to aspects of ourselves that we’ve repressed, rejected or denied, which then become part of our shadow. The shadow self follows us around, asking for attention and acceptance. If we do not heed its call for attention, it may actually start to drive us through life unconsciously. When this happens, we may end up in situations we regret, living life in a way that creates more pain and anguish for ourselves (and others) rather than healing and opportunity.
The shadow requires that we meet it. Acknowledge it. Embrace it. Dance with it from time to time. They are our forever companion, after all. We can’t simply get rid of our shadow. Denying its existence only makes life harder. Over time, the shadow can become our friend and ally.
We all carry human traits that we don’t like. If we like to think of ourselves as a selfless, hardworking person, we may relegate our inner self-centered, lazy tendencies to the shadow. When we do this, we encounter these qualities in others until we accept them within ourselves. If we accept our own human tendency to be selfish or lazy, we are less likely to be bothered by these traits in others.
We may repress positive traits as well, which can become part of our shadow. For example, we may deny or repress our confidence, out of fear of not acting humble enough. Then we may find we are attracted to confidence or repulsed by it in others we meet.
If you are single and find you are constantly attracting people with certain traits into your life and they keep triggering the same issues within you, there is likely some shadow work to do.
If you are partnered and get stuck in loops of the same old arguments, or collect resentments over time for the same behaviours, there is shadow work to do.
Basically, if you are human living in the world with other humans, there is shadow work to do!
Relationships as a path of Spiritual Growth
If you are interested in your own spiritual growth, I highly recommend being in an intimate relationship. All relationships can push our buttons, but the closer they are, the deeper the healing can go.
I have been with the same partner for over 19 years now, and I feel my marriage and being a mom has probably brought me the most spiritual growth than anything else in my life. A day doesn’t go by when I am not encountering my shadow. Every day I am asked to look in the mirror and tolerate/accept/dance with what I see.
The snarky sarcastic rebuttals my teen throws my way often cause a reaction in me. Then a split second later, I see my own reflection in her. She’s so much like me. I was a snarky sarcastic teen and still am now! I must take my own medicine and remember that this is how she asserts her independence. This is one of the ways I still do, too.
My husband’s frustrating absentmindedness is another mirror. When he has forgotten yet another important detail or isn’t paying attention to the present moment, I curse his blissfully unaware existence. I feel burdened taking on the responsibility for all the mundane details. Then, I realise how much of a daydreamer I can be too. I can easily avoid the world in front of me, and often prefer to. Maybe I could let myself daydream a bit more.
I am not a Jungian expert nor have any sort of formal training in shadow work, so obviously I would first suggest you see a pro for doing deeper shadow work, especially when it is rooted in past trauma.
Alongside seeing a therapist, or when that option isn’t available to us, we can use Tarot and journaling to help shine a light on our darkness. These self-healing tools can help us become better people, cultivate stronger relationships and create a happier life.
First, here are some reflection questions you can journal with to get a sense of what aspect(s) of yourself you repress, deny or relegate to the shadows. These traits can actually be positive or negative.
- What positive traits do the folks I am attracted to usually carry?
Positive traits we desire in others can also be parts of our shadow. We can access these parts of us if we choose. Often a partner will bring these traits out in us as well.
- What traits about the people I get into relationships with do I find hard to deal with or unacceptable?
These are traits that we may be denying or repressing within us that unconsciously take the driver’s seat sometimes- especially when we are upset or stressed.
- Who do I sooo NOT want to be like? Why?
This person may be a more extreme example of your own shadow. Yes, its scary to fathom this. But, be open to there being something there to work with.
- How do I behave towards others when I get really stressed or triggered?
Often, we express our shadow when we are in a highly charged state.
- What’s the positive side of these shadow qualities?
For example, selfishness transmuted into its positive form can be self-love, self-confidence or self-respect. Are these traits you could cultivate?
Tarot Spread for Relationship Shadow Work
Here is an example of a Tarot spread you can use with your own deck to support you in navigating a current relationship. You can do this spread for an intimate partnership or for friends/coworkers/roommates or anyone who is pushing your buttons!
Card #1: Self- Aspect of self we need to be aware of in current situation.
This card shows the part of ourselves that is active within the current situation. How does this card make you feel?
Card #2: Shadow- Aspect of self we project onto the other and need to accept within ourselves.
This is an important card. It shows the issue we are grappling with, the energy we are avoiding within ourselves or what is blocking us from relating with ease. How does this card make you feel? How does it show up in your relationship? Is it something you feel ready to accept and integrate within yourself?
Card #3: Support- Cultivate this to support Card #1.
This is an energy within you that you can access now to support the current situation or your role within it. How would taking a step in this direction affect how you feel?
Card #4: Integration- Energy to help us dance with and integrate our shadow.
Cultivate this energy to help you deal with card #2. It is the key to integrating its energy within you and your life. How would it feel to bring more of this energy into your situation? How would it change your relationship with yourself? How could it change your relationship?
For me, my spiritual path is not about always trying to attain a lofty ideal of being or behaviour. It’s about wholeness, acceptance and finding peace with being human. Dancing with our shadow is an integral part of accepting the harsher realities of earthly life. Even if our spirit is made of complete love and compassion, we are living a human life. On earth, the laws of spirit don’t always translate.
As the ever-useful quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin states:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Are you interested in shadow work? How does your shadow show up in relationships? Do you consciously seek to meet and accept it?
May Libra season bless you with self-love and understanding, grace and flow.
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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.