Shadow Work as a Path to Deep Healing
Have you ever wonder why it is that despite all you know about how to get along in the world, despite the efforts you make in your home and work life, and in your spiritual practices, you may still not be seeing lasting results? Recent research into the workings of the human brain may be shedding some light on why we may still find ourselves living a sub-optimal life, stuck in old patterns of thought, feeling and action regardless of our best efforts.
Growing Up Human
Despite our best efforts, no human environment can fully and unceasingly reflect the Divine truth of our children back to them. Some environments come close, while others fall woefully short. It is now widely accepted that childhood’s earliest years are the most impressionable, but the emerging field of Interpersonal Neurobiology suggests that it may be even more important than once thought. The convergence of several key factors has led to this conclusion:
• Young children are so deeply dependent on their caregivers for survival that parental/care-giver response to their attempts at communicating needs is tantamount. Infants often display trauma responses even during relatively small lapses in need fulfillment.
• Young children have not yet developed the ability to think abstractly so everything is interpreted in concrete terms, further they are still differentiating themselves from their care-givers and the larger environment consequently everything that happens is seen and felt by the child as deeply personal and “about them.”
Difficult early life experiences may continue to haunt us, even after years of conventional therapy because the unconscious limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world we take on in moments of trauma actually create associated neural architecture that, when triggered in the present day, inhibits the ability to make the conscious choices that align with deepest desires and our personal faith and spiritual principles.
The transformational 21-day practice called The Q Process™ helps participants understand and reflect on their biology (how the brain and perception works) and their psychology (the challenges of the past and how they create meaning) to uncover unconscious, limiting patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior set in motion in childhood which may be still operating by default.
Transcending The Past
As individuals, teams, and communities become aware of these hidden beliefs and ingrained neural firing patterns they can be transformed and released. Family and church members, company employees, organizational leaders, and even organizations themselves can become free from old hurts and incomplete and erroneous perceptions that keep them from manifesting their greatest good.
Research by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and others suggest that our evolution can be fast-tracked if we develop a mindfulness practice that allows us to become aware of physiological and psychological patterns. Mindfulness can be defined as “a way of being,” a practice of being in “moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness,” of consciously “taking a second look at our first impulse, thought or reaction, and as a “practice or path of healing.”
The Mindfulness Center in Southern Maine identifies the five core skills of mindfulness as: 1) Clarifying, setting and reaffirming intention: What am I practicing? 2) Cultivating a witnessing awareness: developing meta-cognition, state awareness, and practicing outer non-reactivity while witness the inner landscape; 3) Stabilizing Attention: staying focused, placing attention on your intention; 4) Strengthening Self-Regulation: settling negative energy intentionally, bringing the whole brain back on line; and 5) Practicing Loving Kindness: calming the inner critic and self-judgment, practicing non-judgmental awareness and kindness and compassion for yourself and others.
The Q Process™ integrates these five principles in a 21-day structured reflection tool to reframe triggering experiences. The 21 days are made up of three (3) seven-day phases. Phase One focuses on critical thoughts or discordant behaviors that may have been directed outwardly. Phase Two focuses on any critical thoughts the participant has directed inwardly (self-criticism, self-judgment) which trigger shame, anxiety, etc. from old firing patterns. Phase Three follows both internal and external triggers into the past to find a memory associated with the pattern and uses a meditative visualization to loosen its emotional associations allowing the neural firing pattern to shift.
Creating a New Future
As people become more practiced with the worksheets, they are able to gain incredible insights into their core self and their core wounds. They are able to separate their newly emerging sense of self (as defined by a way of being) from the habitual “selves” that have their roots in unmet childhood needs and that have often been strengthened and made more rigid in adulthood. Old patterns are revealed; a new way of seeing the self emerges. Understanding dawns and a new sense of freedom is the result.
Some participants report immediate success in differentiating themselves from their patterns and this brings some relief. They see they have a pattern, but they are not the pattern. While it is not the objective of the 21-days to bring about a cessation of all habitual behavior, it is intended to offer participants an opportunity to develop a new way of “seeing” life, one in which they develop a witnessing presence, where they come to observe themselves, even in real time. They are able to identify “worksheet moments,” saying things like, “I’ll have to do a worksheet on this!”
They often report the memory work has had a profound impact on how they view the story of their past. They are able to create new meaning which better supports their intention and feeds back into the emerging sense of being. Of course the work carries on after the 21 days are complete. However, if done with diligence, a new mindfulness has been cultivated.
Many people will choose to do the 21 days a second time to strengthen the emerging patterns and continue weakening the old. After gaining experience with the process, participants report they are often able to reframe their experience mentally and only need the support of a worksheet in more challenging circumstances.