Read on to find out more about why we believe it is important for therapists to have a way of working with their client’s shadows – and also an understanding of their own shadows.
If we are not aware of our client’s shadow sides these can obstruct therapeutic work and we can sometimes end up with a sense of working against our client rather than with them – despite our best efforts.
Alternatively we can have a sense of doing great work with a client during each session – yet after they leave, nothing changes in their life, and old patterns quickly return and dominate.
One way to make sense of this is to use the idea that we are all made up of many different parts, which all have different thoughts and feelings. Among all these different sides of ourselves we will find there are some parts that are opposed to each other, and are pulling us in very different directions.
So for example, if someone comes to work with us because they want more intimacy in their life, there will almost certainly be other parts of them acting against this wish – parts that are terrified of intimacy for example, or parts that value time alone, or don’t trust others, or are unsure of where intimacy might lead.
If we work with the client in their wish to create more intimacy we are, at the same time, working against all these other parts. This can result in us feeling like we are working against our client (or they are working against us!)
Alternatively we may find we work very effectively in the session in collaboration with the part wanting change, but in the outside world the parts that didn’t get a voice in the session return even more strongly, undoing all our good work.
This tension dissolves if we make sure to recognise, encourage and honour all parts of the client. We can then allow the internal conflict within the client to come alive in the room. Facilitating these conflicting parts to interact directly with each other in a safe way brings about new solutions, which are integrated in to the whole of the person’s being.
In Healing The Shadow we work with the definition that our shadow parts are sides of ourselves that we have cut off, repressed or deny. Because these sides are habitually hidden away it is unlikely that our clients will present these parts of themselves to us without a high level of encouragement and safety.
Undertaking some form of shadow work training gives you the skills to embrace your client’s shadow sides as they show up. This allows them to trust that they can show all parts of themselves in the session, not just the bits that are ‘making progress’ or ‘wanting to heal’ or ‘feeling positive toward the practitioner or towards the process’.
Learning to embrace your own shadows also engenders greater trust from your clients. As they sense your acceptance of your own humanity they then receive the unspoken message that you will also accept all of who they are. In fact, getting to know your own shadows is probably the single most important work you can do if you wish to improve your practice.