Shadow work and/or working with what is unconscious can help us understand ‘why good people do bad things’ (James Hollis). As small children we all received messages from our parents, care-givers, teachers and other adults about what would and wouldn’t result in us getting our basic needs met and feeling loved. At this young age we were very vulnerable and entirely reliant on others to meet our basic survival needs. In reaction to this we developed ‘core beliefs’ around what behaviours and ways of being and feeling would and would not get us love … and from this we developed ‘survival strategies’ to avoid feeling the pain of feeling unloved.
It is this avoidance of the pain of not feeling loved and the fear that our basic needs will not be met which sits at heart of human’s destructive relationship with the earth, each other and ourselves. In our quest to avoid this pain we are continually acting in ways that as a child we came to believe would protect us from it. For many of us, the most pernicious of survival strategies is that of being busy and in our heads the whole time so that we are distracted from feeling. The sad thing is that in our avoidance of feeling pain, we have also come to distract ourselves from feeling the depths of joy and love and gratitude and appreciation that are fully available to us in any given moment.
As we get to know and understand the core beliefs we developed as children and the survival strategies those beliefs led to, we are able to create some space between them and how we choose to act in each moment. We learn how to cultivate compassion, build a relationship with our ‘inner critic’ and feel, embody and transform our emotions.