On acknowledging the darkness within...


I recently held the last of my women’s circle workshops before we set off on our travels; the theme was self-worth. Every circle, I like to offer up a selection of Goddess cards as something fun before we start: I ask the attendees to pick the one whose image most resonates with them, and often it delivers an insightful message that is relevant to that particular moment. My choice was Lilith, the Middle-Eastern goddess of abundance, fertility and fecundity but also of death and transformation. Lilith “challenges us to look upon our dark side and incorporate it into our wholeness so that great beauty can blossom forth”. This goddess was particularly pertinent because I have been thinking a lot recently about my dark or 'shadow' side – the hidden bits of my character that lie behind the mask I choose to show others. I didn’t come across this willingly of course; as usual it was revealed to me by my children. After being the brunt of a particularly relentless run of bad attitude, rudeness and being ignored, plus countless futile attempts on my part to mediate between pointless bickering and them being horrible to one other, I had exploded. All because my middle one wouldn't finish her homework reading. It was the straw that broke the already very fractured camel's back. So far so normal. But this time it wasn't a normal explosion. It was an enormous one. So huge that it took me ages to recover physically and mentally because something felt very deeply wrong. So wrong that I had to go and create some time out to reflect upon and journal about what had happened. Why had I lost it so badly?

The answer was that it had become a power struggle. My middle child refusing to read had left me totally and utterly powerless. I felt out of control and wanted it back. So I did the only thing that an adult can do in these situations other than become physically violent: I resorted to a superior command of the English language. I manipulated my advantage into verbal abuse and said some really mean things. In a really mean voice. A hissing, nasty, vicious one. I was hurting and didn't like that feeling so I wanted to spread the load. I wanted her to hurt too.

And whilst journalling about all this, I realised that I was a bully. And even worse, I was a mother that had bullied her children. This realisation brought up a host of painful emotions: shame, regret, fear and grief. I was ashamed of myself as an adult: I should have known better, and I was ashamed of myself as a mother: I should have been the children's moral rock and instead I had behaved far worse than them. I regretted that I could not undo what I had said, and I feared that it might have scarred them permanently. I was also very sad: in trying so hard to be a ‘good’ mother, I had lost control and ended up being the very opposite.

I spent quite a while afterwards feeling really bad about myself: for being a totally rubbish mother and even worse, for not revealing it. Not because I wanted to hide the fact but because there is no real way to discuss these things: exactly how do you bring it up and with whom? There is the always the fear of moral outlaw and the lurking spectre of social services. Being a bad mother must be the world's biggest taboo - and I hated that no-one knew just how bad I was. I felt like a fraud.

And then I came across a brilliant passage in my current book, The Shaman’s Last Apprentice. He was describing the medicinal plant Ayahuasca as “a tool to help you find yourself, to know yourself, by destroying the image of who you think you are, and illuminating the truth.” This stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking about my recent outburst as an opportunity to face the person I AM rather than the person I thought I was. It wasn't easy.

We all hold an image of who we think we are. And this can often become confused with who we think we would like to be. We wear various masks to disguise the discrepancies and can get so good at denying those parts of ourselves that don’t fit the chosen ideal that we can almost get to a point where we feel they don’t exist. Until, that is, they are thrown up in our faces by an unconscious trigger. Being faced with the extent of my desire to cause hurt through emotional and verbal cruelty was a shock. Firstly because we are taught that it is not ‘nice’ to be cruel and secondly because it is hugely taboo to even bring up the fact that a mother might not follow the impossible archetype of forever-patient, forever-loving, forever-forgiving, nurturing and kind. But we are not robots. We are human. And humans express a range of emotions that are not always socially acceptable and don’t always conform to archetype.

But even if it isn't easy and is in fact deeply uncomfortable, it is crucially important to acknowledge the full extent of our personalities – our darkness AND our light - because this is what makes us unique. As the shaman of the book says later: “it takes discipline, and a strong and courageous person to accept who they are. Many people do not have the courage to see themselves, because they have unconsciously accepted the images and stereotypes created by society. They have forgotten to honour their unique potential, and particular strengths and weaknesses, fearing that deep part of themselves that we keep hidden from each other.”

Indeed, it is the fear of our dark side that keeps us from embracing it. But “if" as they say, "you don’t own your story, it owns you”. So I am working on owning the darkness within - the part of me that is cruel and vicious, manipulative and bullying - so that it doesn't erupt in me in the unconscious, uncontrollable way it did. I'm not sure I'm quite there yet. But since “trying to incorporate it into my wholeness” as the goddess Lilith encourages, I have felt less triggered by the same scenarios and have been able to act more like an adult and the mother archetype. I'm not sure I'm quite at the "great beauty can blossom forth" stage but my behaviour has actually been more patient, nurturing and kind.

The kids still trigger me of course. And I still shout. But I am getting there. And whenever I feel bad about myself I remember that we are all works-in-progress. And that, thankfully, children don’t hold a grudge.

What are the parts of you that you keep hidden from others? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. If this post resonated with you, please do share it with other social media and feel free to sign up to receive posts by e-mail by clicking subscribe! Don’t forget you can also follow me on facebook, twitterinstagram & bloglovin.

On listening to your dreams...


I used to think that my body was just a vehicle for my desires: my mind wanted to achieve certain things, my body executed them. It wasn’t until I was really ill last September with a recurring flu that would lay me out flat with a high temperature for about a week a month until February (yup – 6 whole months of it) that I realised the body is far more than a group of muscles at our mind’s beck and call. Our body is actually the messenger for the soul / heart. I always remember when I first heard the word disease pronounced DIS-EASE. It was a revelation. Of course! If we are not at ease with ourselves, this is manifested in the specific part of the body that can teach us most about it. Often, we only need to look at our particular symptoms to find out where we need to redress the balance. No surprises to most people that know me that mine would usually point to ‘letting go’. By working on this and each time seeing just how many levels this could be felt on (and also consciously "not working” – part of letting go is obviously not to force things), I have been amazed to see most of my symptoms literally disappear. (If you want to know more about this, check out the following list of symptoms based on Louise Hay’s incredible insights).

I am reading a book at the moment (the Shaman’s Last Apprentice, by Rebekah Shaman) about a Londoner that travels to the Amazon to meet the man she believes will become her teacher. When they discuss disease, he has the following words of wisdom for her:

“Disease comes when a person fails to listen to their calling. It is the spirit’s way of expressing that it is unhappy and in pain, and that it can no longer be ignored. We all have a guiding voice within that leads us through life. These guiding voices are our dreams, messages and visions. The need to make money stops people from following their dreams. Then people get sick. Illness empowers the spirit to be heard and to show the way to a more fulfilling life, for however long that is.”

I knew the bit about disease but I hadn’t ever clocked the other bit. The crucial bit! The bit about NOT getting sick. And that is to listen to and act upon your dreams, messages and visions. Much of the time we are too tied up in our mind chatter to hear it and too busy ‘being busy’ to take the time out to do so. We are also often fearful: scared of change and of letting go of our current creature comforts. But if we don’t listen to our own dreams, we end up following someone else’s. And that is just a waste. A waste of the unique spark of energy that fuels your specific blend of fabulousness. Which is destined for unique, fabulous things. If only we take the time to hear our hearts and give our dreams the respect we owe them by following them.

As soon as I read that particular paragraph a couple of days ago, I reflected on what my heart has been telling me for a long time, on my secret dream that I haven’t been following or believing in properly (even though I first heard it when I was about 8) because it seems too far-fetched and a bit silly and maybe a bit arrogant too. But I took the bull by the horns and booked, then and there (at a quarter to midnight) my first foundation course in classical shamanism taught by the author of another incredible book that shook my world.

I am beyond excited. It will either be a complete revelation and take me on a journey that I haven’t yet dared to embark upon, one that I wasn’t yet ready to take, or it will not resonate deeply and it will lead to something else that IS my true calling. Either way it is a step in the right direction. A step along the way of the heart.

So I took up the challenge. Now it's your turn! I dare you to join me: what is your secret desire / dream / vision? What small step will you take today, to help that come to fruition?

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