Shadow Healing is Self Healing

Shadow Healing is Self Healing

At the outset, the journey of shadow healing is like entering a dark cave, where nothing is familiar and you don’t know what you might encounter. But the deeper you venture into the darkness, the more familiar it all looks, because the cave is you. 

Psychologist Carl Jung proposed that the shadow is either an unconscious aspect of self that the conscious ego does not recognize, or it is the entirety of an individual’s unconscious realm. In short, the shadow is the unknown personality. However, it exerts a considerable amount of control over our behaviors.

As a result, I can’t help thinking of the Wizard of Oz, with the little man behind the curtain pulling all the levers. When the shadow self remains unknown, it’s pulling all our levers, influencing our decisions and directing our actions. In a similar way to the Wizard of Oz, it isn’t until we pull the curtain back that we reveal the shadow’s true nature.

Soul Healing, Shadow Healing

witches talk of being healers, we’re most often talking about emotional and psychological healing. At its core, this is shadow work. But shadow healing is self-healing, which means that the people we heal are actually doing the work. Because of this, I believe we aren’t healers, as much as those who facilitate healing. It’s a fine distinction, I know, but I think an important one to understand.

With physical wounds, the best way to hasten healing is to clean the wound, apply antiseptic, and protect the area with a bandage, but it’s the body that heals itself. When the soul, or spirit, is wounded, a healer creates the environment for self-healing. Namely, we do this by offering safety, compassion, sympathy and honesty. But the healer doesn’t have the power to manifest this type of healing. Ultimately, that has to come from within the one who is wounded.

Inner healing takes great bravery, because you must travel through your own shadowland, and do so with great humility. This is because at some point in the journey you must acknowledge, as Jung proposed, that you have the power to direct your fate—not so much in what happened or happens to you, but how you choose to react to it.

If you aren’t familiar with shadow healing as self healing, I suggest reading The Key To Successful Shadow Work, by Jessical Ripley on Patheos.  It explains the process of facing and dealing with personal wounds, and trauma. Also, it explores the response mechanisms we devise to protect ourselves. In addition, on Patheos, Gwyn, from Three Pagans and a Cat delves deeper into the process in Discovering Self Through Shadow Work.  Moreover, if you have any neurodivergent conditions or atypical thought patterns, shadow work can be especially challenging. At the same time, this self-healing process can be deeply rewarding for the neurodivergent.  For a deeper look into safely navigating the underworld as a neurodivergent witch, from somebody who has walked the path, read Nikki Zang Rosko’s A Neurodivergent Guide to the Shadow Self,

Healing Self Before Others

I should note that I was facilitating shadow healing long before I became a practicing witch. At the time I was growing up, I was the family mediator, smoothing over ruffled feathers and negotiating harmony at home. In friendships I’ve always been a good listener—tell me your problems, share your lost dreams, show me your broken pieces and let me help you put them back together. When I was older, I easily transferred this skill to romantic relationships.

Like many who identify as healers, I fell into believing I had a special quality that attracted wounded souls—as if I was some kind of magickal beacon. The truth is, I was just as drawn to the wounded as they were to me. Ultimately, I had to face my own shadow before I would understand the mutual attraction.

Beacon for the Unhealed Shadow

Sometimes, my efforts to help others went well. During those times, I could bask in my success. Being a savior is heady stuff. Other times, it blew up in my face, with dramatic and traumatic endings that served only to compound the wounds of everybody involved. As a result, my own wounds grew and I was less able to help others. That said, rather ironically (or so I thought), I became even more drawn to offer healing to others.

Though I didn’t realize it twenty-some years ago, my desire to create healthy relationships in my life was perhaps the strongest driving force on my path to witchcraft. But wouldn’t you know it? As it turned out, I couldn’t just wave a magic wand to vanquish others’ pain, let alone my own.

After years of shining a light into my dark spaces and grappling with what I found there, I realized there was no irony in my strong attraction to those who were wounded. I had been attempting to resolve in others, what I was ignoring in myself. Worse, I’d been stroking my own ego, feeding my need to feel appreciated and valued. By bolstering their worth, I was shoring up my own.

For more insights on self worth and ego, read The Magick in Receiving by Lora Evans.

Are You Wearing Your Pain Like a Scarlet Letter?

The fact of the matter is that none of us asks for abuse or assault. Nor do we attract natural disasters, accidents, injuries or the death of loved ones. We don’t wish for parents, partners, and families incapable of giving us the love we need. In effect, we don’t ask for any of this emotional pain and trauma, yet they are the seeds of our shadow self. To be clear, these things happen to us, but are not of us.

Shadow healing transforms into self healing when you acknowledge the trauma. Then, you can take the next step to accept that it is not you and release it. In fact, let’s banish it and ward it if we have to, we are witches after all!

That said, some choose instead to lug around our suitcases of grudges ready to unpack it at every crossroads.  We excuse inappropriate behaviors on our parts as defense mechanisms. As a result, those among us who opt not to do this work, have chosen to be seen as our trauma.

We may as well slap a big, red V-for-victim on our chests. Just know that the longer we water those shadow seeds, the more they grow. Similarly, the more we nurture our own pain instead of supporting our healing, the longer we hide from the truth. Consider the losses and traumas your shadow has contributed to. Do failed relationships litter your life? Are there red flags you chose to ignore, choices you made when you knew better—or even when you didn’t? For that matter, what about deliberate deceit, or purposeful harm that you caused to others? In that case, your letter might be G-for-guilt, or S-for-shame (maybe both). 

The work here is the same. You are not your mistakes. Acknowledge that you have grown, make amends when possible. Forgive yourself. Finally, let that trauma go.

Superhero Syndrome

Maybe we don our shadow like the cloak of a superhero, hiding our true faces behind masks of confidence and bravado. Perhaps we rage against social injustices, loudly championing the underdog when we have no dog of our own in the fight. Then we turn a deaf ear to criticism from any quarter. Although we believe we are fighting the good fight and righting the wrongs of the world, we are neglecting something very important, our own healing. How can we heal others when you haven’t even attempted to heal ourselves?

Wondering Woman

It is important to realize that we all project a full spectrum of personal energy without even thinking about it. As an intuitive and insightful witch I see past your bluster to the little man behind the curtain, pulling the levers, because what you say and how you say it matters.

Furthermore, consider what you don’t say, when you decide to keep quiet.  Keep in mind  how you present yourself—your dress, body language and interactions all creates the experience others have of you. Take note that this is not opinion, but the sum result of another receiving what you send. In short, there’s a difference between who you think you are and whom others believe you to be. 

The Way of Shadow Healing

You may not be asking for help, not in so many words. However, as a witch who heals, I know the signals. I can see an SOS coming from out of the darkness, inviting me in to sit with your shadow self. When I do, the space we create is both a container and a portal, a journey through the looking glass into your own shadowland.

Walking Toward the Light

Over the past twenty-some years of practicing witchcraft, I’ve gotten much better at discerning who is ready to confront their shadow and who is not. Moreso,I understand how to sit with the battle scarred without surrendering my own borders. As a result, I can hold a hand or point the way out of the darkness.  But no other witch or healer can lead you there, nor can we follow along. We are neither savior nor salvation.

Neither am I, in particular, your mother or grandmother. For the sake of my own boundaries, I don’t offer unconditional love. Moreover, I require due respect as Crone. I won’t be the repository for your projected anger, the surrogate for your estranged family, friend, or faithless lover. You can pummel your pillow, or make a poppet for that. I’ll offer a box of tissues for your tears, but don’t expect me to dry them.  

This is all because ultimately the healing has to come from within. I will see your signal and toss you a line. However, you have to be willing to let go of the shipwreck keeping you afloat. Each traveler in the shadowlands must swim through their own depths, because shadow healing is self-healing.

Willow Rose

Willow Rose-Senior Editor, Head Kitchen Witch and BadAss Crone. Willow is a writer, artist and wildcraft witch. After more than 30 years of practicing and exploring many paths, she is distilling her magic to it's purest form—witchery without dogma and practical magic for everyday living. Read her musings here on The Way of Witch, and also at the Agora for Patheos Pagan and on her blog at www.simplewitchery.com

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