by Hillary Rain
In the song “Falling Slowly” Glen Hansard sings,
You have suffered enough and warred with yourself
It's time that you won.
I believe one thing that keeps us warring with ourselves are the secret stories we lock away. We line the soft inside of our bones with them and wake up surprised when our bones become brittle. We tuck them into our cells and try to muffle ourselves so they don't leak out into broad daylight. And we spend our years artfully dodging questions and tossing furtive glances, wondering who to trust. And when we accidentally trust the wrong smiling, pretty face, we renew our vows to our secret stories ... til death do us part.
And one day, it will.
There's no way I can know the specific course of action best for you, but insert necessary disclaimer here: please see a mental health professional who can help you. Keeping your secrets in the dark gives them unwarranted power. Ultimately, love, shadow-work is like breaking a deep curse. And when this happens, when you are free to make empowered choices for yourself, you can move forward into life. You can begin to live free.
One way to take a powerful step towards freedom is to rebel against the force within you that insists on silence.
This is hard because that force knows you almost better than you know yourself ... it knows your worst fears, your phobias, your burning shame ... and it will use them against you, perhaps all at once! It will make you tired. You will feel as though you are in a stupor, sluggish, and that all you need is sleep. You will find distractions, whatever that means to you ... a movie, sugar (raises hand slowly), a margarita with double tequila.
It's important to be gentle to yourself and whenever possible, to not do this alone.
Soul mirror—a creative prompt for shadow-work
One way you can take a step towards healing is to answer this prompt: What haunts you?
What have you tried to forget about but is always there, visible in the corner of your eye? What shadows you? What speaks harshly to you, pushes a hot tear down your cheek when you're laying in bed at night? Call it out ... call it by name. “I see you!” you say. Don't listen when it snarls back, “it doesn't matter.” Yes it matters! And the more it says it's “no big deal” I want you to treat it as a Big Deal.
You are leaving denial. You are learning to trust yourself.
What haunts you? Write your shadow story. You can explore it as fiction, if you like, to help get the words out. This will make it easier to look at your story objectively. It will help work around fears of speaking out and quiet down the shame.
Write it in first person, then read it out loud, slowly and with great tenderness.
To honor my passion for deep shadow-work and what I do as a soul-doula, this is part of a series of soul mirrors ... thoughtful quotes and questions designed to be felt, experienced, or expressed through writing, photography, altars, movement, poetry, and more. They might be simple or elaborate. If you choose to follow along, feel free to adapt according to your own soulful needs. Please note: I am not a licensed professional counselor. Please see a mental health professional before engaging in shadow-work.