Healing Friendship in Shadow Work
As you prepare to rid yourself of these fearful psychic closets and the skeletons they contain, it is important to understand that Shadow work must never be attempted alone. We are all afraid of that kind of darkness. So, begin to will that you may form a partnership. With this in mind, consider an ancient affirmation from a different perspective. For twenty three hundred years people have reflected on the phrase from the Twentythird Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” The “Thou” refers to God. But I want you to consider yourself or your healing partner as the “Thou” as you walk together on this journey to emotional wholeness.
This isn’t playing God; it is reflecting Him. In my years of counseling, it has been confirmed repeatedly that anyone who shares the love of this Higher Power and the incorruptible part of their True Self can legitimately fill the role of the “Thou.” You or they can be the partner, the companion you need as you approach the frightening shadows. What a transforming experience it is to take the hand of a friend when confronting pain one couldn’t face alone.
The Wisdom of Knowing That We Don’t Know
Briefly, let’s return to the marine introduced in the first chapter. I had no doubt that the tormented Viet Nam veteran seated across from me had been guided to my office. Not because my methods are necessarily better, but because what I do and what I have experienced made me right for him. Precision guidance offered by the Holy Spirit arranges all details. It alone knows the infinite number of choices, experiences, and variables that make you you. Any therapist or healer who believes they know what another person needs for healing is suffering from dangerous delusions of grandeur. When the Delphic Oracle was asked, “Who is the wisest man in all of Greece?” she answered, “Socrates, because he knows that he knows nothing.” That awareness linked to the Voice for God in him gave Socrates his peerless wisdom. That same wisdom is yours and mine. It is the gift given to anyone who doesn’t claim to have ego answers, but is willing to listen to the Self in them that is privy to all necessary knowledge and guidance for healing. This is the reason I felt prepared to walk into the hell hidden in this embattled veteran’s heart.
Facing The Shadow With Nonjudgmental Love
“Is there any man you know whom you can trust, that you know believes in you, loves you and would always be there for you?” I asked. I referred him to a man because it was the gender of the one who had left him devastated. As a result of his trauma, he had made his inner masculine his enemy. He hated his manhood. The mind frequently draws a blank when asked to recall a trustworthy person of the antagonist’s gender. Recognizing that whatever is emotionally acceptable can be used as a vehicle for healing, I added, “You can draw from any source. It can be a hero from religion or an historic figure like Gandhi. It can be a friend, an uncle. Anyone.” Surprisingly, his response was immediate.
“Yes, that’s Jesus. I can trust him. I know he loves me.” I wasn’t at all sure that at this point he could trust Jesus; it is easy to mouth such words when your heart doesn’t believe it. Many Christians would find it difficult or impossible to invoke the presence of any man, even Jesus, after enduring the paternal cruelty this man survived. Guilt by association usually overrules any such trust; but by an act of amazing grace, he found the hand of a Friend to hold.
Now comes the moment of truth. Whether we harbor seemingly benign resentment or towering rage, we must face our pain honestly. It is senseless to drum up anger to appear determined and equally disastrous to dilute or disregard the deadly hurts we don’t want to face by rationalizing that they are not that important. Neither of these conditions would afflict him.
I asked him to close his eyes and find himself in a safe and beautiful place. When there, he was instructed to meet his ideal person. He asked Jesus to appear, and he did. I was amazed. He, then, was asked to go back to the place where he had been sexually abused. Only he would see his trusted companion. He was ready to revisit his childhood nightmare. He had known no such help and protection as a child.
do you find yourself?”
Hatred Equals Mental “Murder”
What transpires next is not for the faint of heart. Excising a malignancy never is. The ego uses pancake makeup to cover the deadly emotional lesions. It never deals honestly, therefore therapeutically, with heart issues.
Everyone has a whole cosmetic kit of rationalizations and denials to cover up the shadow of death Freud discovered. As a result, we are constantly coming up with personal and societal solutions that don’t solve, blessings that don’t bless, and cures that don’t cure. His chosen companion, Jesus, equated all harbored anger or hate with murder. He knew that softpedaling this fact would be license for mental murder. It is not the fist or trigger finger but the mind that creates the murder scene of every deadly crime ever perpetrated. He was equally unequivocal about the fact that, like pregnancy, there is no such thing as a little anger. Anger implies a divided state of mind. The ego rationalizes, “I have every right to be angry.” The Spirit replies, “You have every right to be happy.” Make an enemy of anyone and you make an enemy of yourself. That is why Jesus made no distinction between the homicidal maniac and the homicidal nice guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but would hold in “civilized” contempt someone who offends him. Both states of mind are equally deadly and must be faced with the honesty and commitment to the healing process the boy in the bedroom was about to display.
“Where is Jesus?” I asked him.
“He’s in the corner of the room near me.”
“He has a sword in his hand. Do you see it?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Take it. And don’t let your father touch you again.”
I knew what would happen next. I had no idea of its intensity. He was being given permission to express his ugliest thoughts in a nonjudgmental setting. I was about to witness what had been replayed in the feedback loop of his subconscious memories since childhood. In this context what he was about to do is not an act of violence, but an act of confession. Made to someone who refuses to condemn. This alone allows healing absolution.
“Do you have the sword?”
“Stop him.” He knew what I meant. His mind had played over the words ceaselessly within his subconscious Shadow, “If you put your fing hands on me again, I’ll kill you!”
Sitting in front of him, I held a large pillow on his lap. He raised both hands holding his imaginary sword. He paused. Then his first blow exploded onto the pillow. It shot floorward through his spread legs. I’m reasonably strong, but it was easily torn from my grip. I quickly retrieved the pillow and braced it on his knees. He swung again. Then he rained one blow after another on the image of his father. Poignantly, with his first blow, a little boy’s voice screamed in cadence with them, “Why daddy? Why daddy? Why daddy? Why daddy?”
He continued swinging. Two, three, four minutes? I don’t know. They were minutes filled with timeless horror. His face and arms were drenched with sweat as this vendetta came to its last blow. Trembling, he sobbed, hysterical in my arms. The rage was spent. I spoke softly, “Let Jesus hold you. He’s here for you. He loves you.” In that moment I had no idea if he was capable of any response. A minute or so later I asked, “Where is your father?”
“He’s just a pile of flesh on the floor. He’s mincemeat.”
“Ask Jesus to shine light on the pieces.”
“O.K. Yeah, there is this light shining on the pile....”
The Miracle Of Seeing Things Differently
At this point he was ready to see things differently. Perception will always give way to the vision of the soul when one wants elusive healing more than familiar madness.
“What’s happening to the pieces?
“Why is he crying?”
“He’s sorry for what he did to me.”
“Can you forgive him?”
He said through his tears, “Of course I can.”
Any therapist who witnesses such healing, whatever their philosophic persuasion, secular or religious, knows that it is numinous. There is an awareness that the process came through them but not from them. There is the sense that an event larger than anything psychotherapy could generate has played out before their humbled presence. So it was for me in that moment.
How To Find A Healing Companionship
We will look more closely at the process of forgiveness in the next chapter. It usually is a process, not a moment. We will discover, however, shortcuts to forgiveness and its product: peace. First, we need to establish creative companionship, the foundation for all forgiveness. The key to finding such healing companionship or friendship is quite simple: Be one.
In founding Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson applied the principle operating within healing friendship: To give is to receive. He reached out to a fellow drunk, a physician, to join him in his quest for sobriety. The doctor said he wasn’t interested. He told Wilson that he had tried other alcoholic recovery programs. None had worked. Wilson explained to the M.D. that he hadn’t understood. He wasn’t asking him to get help but to give it. He was asking for his friend’s support. The physician accepted. Together they found sobriety. Among the thousands of sober drunks who owe their lives to him, this cofounder of A.A. is known simply as “Dr. Bob.”
To have a healing friend, we must will to be a healing friend. Do this and you will never walk alone in your quest for inner peace. A worthy description of the role of such friendship is found in these words composed by an unknown author in the middle east:
A friend is someone to whom you may go,
And pour out all the contents of your heart,
Chaff and grain together,
Knowing that with gentle hands,
They will take and sift it,
Keep what is worth keeping,
And with the breath of kindness,
Blow the rest away.
Such friendship is priceless. Our ego considers it worthless. It wants to be the Lone Ranger. Without a Tonto. It lives in a world of mistrust. It is terrified of sharing its dark images and the ugly feelings that live in them. But share them we must, if we would be healed. The way out of this catch22 is the will to be a friend. We draw the needed friend to us through our willingness, and our feardominated inner child, who won’t approach the Shadows alone, now feels safe enough to do so. When the friend steps forward and takes your hand, fear subsides. Then the Shadows can be addressed.
The Friendship Factor In Workshop Healing
For forty years I have had the privilege of facilitating workshops that focus on emotional and spiritual healing and growth. Frequently, I have been asked why they produce such deep and permanent healing. A major reason is this friendship factor. Unconditional acceptance of the group generates intimate trust. Intimate trust must be established before intimate exposure of Shadows is possible. Within that Light, healing is not only possible but profound.
At our annual winter workshop in Mexico, a memorable example of such healing trust occurred. Held at a beautiful retreat center overlooking the Pacific Ocean, our twentytwo participants were gathered for the morning session; it was day three. They came from different parts of the United States, most of them strangers to each other, and just getting acquainted. The trust was growing. The setting was festive with a lot of lighthearted laughter. A comfortable shift in mood would take place when someone would open up to the group. One could sense the caring, the collective will for healing. The walls of ego resistance were falling.
Across the circle a lovely young Chinese woman spoke. “I must tell you all that if I had the courage, I’d walk over to that balcony railing and throw myself over it.” She looked toward the veranda with a drop of forty feet to the rocks and surf below. No one doubted her sincerity. She defined exotic beauty and grace; made a sixfigure salary, and had recently married a man who adored her. However, none of these bright spots on her landscape could penetrate the Shadow suffocating her.
In our dialogue, the memory of her father surfaced, a prominent business man, who had been emotionally and physically brutal. At a yearandahalf, in a fit of rage, he kicked her hard enough to lift her off the floor. After treating her, the doctor instructed her mother to get her out of the house before something worse happened. She was sent to live with her loving grandmother.
Preparing for the faithimagination process, she chose this Buddhist grandmother as her Christfigure. Subdued, she tearfully imagined what her heart had felt for years: an obsessive hate for her father. She had no difficulty imagining him dead; most of her life he had remained dead to her. When asked to shine Light on his lifeless form, she saw only darkness, even with her grandmother beside her providing comfort. Her heart needed a compassionate man with her in this moment of recreation. “Mai Ling,” I said, “do you know any man you can trust, who would love you and never let you down?” Much hung in the balance. Help her, please, I silently prayed.
Suddenly Mai Ling opened her eyes, pointed across the room and whispered, “I can trust him.” The man was Dan Gomez, one of the directors of the popular television series,“Unsolved Mysteries.” She had only known him three days. How did she know that he was a man of compassion, and integrity? He was. But how did she know? Because our inner Guide always leads us to what and who we need. It is the heart tuned to the Holy Spirit that has authentic reasons that reason cannot know.
The Miracle of Perfect Guidance
This kind of workshop was new to Dan. He is a Catholic dropout who only a day earlier had rediscovered a spirituality he could authentically embrace. But when Mai Ling chose him, he moved with the confidence of a seasoned therapist. With no instruction, he walked across the circle to her. He took Mai Ling’s hands in his and gently lifted her to her feet. When he embraced her, she burst into wrenching sobs. Then she began to speak in the language of her childhood. Regaining her composure, she sat down. Dan sat beside her with an arm around her shoulder.
Mai Ling was smiling. She with Dan had walked into the Light together. I asked if she would like to share what she had been saying in Chinese. “I was saying, ‘Father, I forgive you; father, I forgive you. Father, I love you; father, I love you.”
There is a significant sequel to this story. That same year Dan received a Father’s Day card. From Mai Ling.
Neutralizing The Ego’s Shadow Authority
The Holy Spirit will always provide what is necessary for healing. Although there was a gender specific need for Mai Ling and the necessary “father” was present in the circle, such a gender requirement is not always necessary. The critical value of any friend is the neutralizing the ego’s authority.
The primary illusion of the human spirit is that we as individuals are separate, unconnected. Eric Fromm stated in a lecture at Stanford University that the great repression of the subconscious is not sex but loneliness. This is the basic insanity of the human race. The friend who sees beyond your weaknesses and mistakes and affirms your worth, provides the way out of this madness. Finding such a friend is your first step on the journey Home. That person who wills your highest and best activates a soul awareness. They are not attempting to be complimentary or kind. Looking beyond your flaws, they see your true Self, and the veil of illusion can start to lift. Breaking out of your solitary confinement you discover the power to love yourself as this friend loves you. Willingness to love unconditionally breaches the smokeandmirrors wall the ego has erected to maintain its separatist illusion which, in turn, permits soul empowered healing.
The Helplessly Shadowed Find Help
When David first came for counseling he felt alone in his pain. He had no emotional or spiritual support system. What he had going for him was brutal honesty. He hated his hate and wanted it out of his life. Fed up with himself, he had come to that decisive moment when neurotic pain exceeds neurotic payoff.
Always there is a subconscious payoff in painful behavior. Instead of facing our Shadow, we externalize it, projecting it onto someone or something making the situation or person the cause of our unhappiness. So we do something to get even with our projected enemy. If our perceived enemy is the requirements of a job, we do it poorly or get sick so we don’t have to go to work. If we see our boss as the enemy, we badmouth or badthought him or her and wish them out of our life. Such silly but emotionally deadly scenarios are legion. However, as long as we think our problem is out there and not our inner Shadow, we continue to attack someone else and wound ourselves in the process. Each ugly thought or action increases the pain. Until we can’t stand it any more. That is what makes all pain a friend in gruesome disguise. It makes us ready, soon or late, to receive healing.
But make no mistake, pain isn’t the Messenger. It is the ugly doorman who opens the door to the Messenger when we are ready to listen.
David projected his shadow onto his wife. He hated her. Now, after some dialog, he was aware that his real problem was that he hated himself. He was ready to welcome the Messenger. Speaking with a refined British accent, he said, “I left my wife because I was ready to kill her.” This frightened him. No novice to psychotherapy, he knew that the problem was in him. The blame game no longer held any pleasure. His rekindled honesty refused to buy the P.R. spin he had put on the situation for years: I just want to be out of her life. Stripped of this façade, he knew what his real feelings were; he wanted her six feet under. The pityparty version of his feelings. “She has hurt me so badly.” “I’ll never be able to trust her again.” had been exposed for what they were: a coverup. The mask was off, and what he saw was too ugly to live with. “I don’t care how long it takes, I’m going to continue in counseling until I find some answers,” he said.
I felt an immediate bond with this young man. As I listened to his story, I had to shift from sympathy to a therapeutic listener. We walked together through the minefield of his English childhood. His pain was palpable, but he had taken that first step toward his healing: he was facing his Shadow.
A SoulCreated Companion
His mother had no idea how to be a mother. Her cruelties left David feeling helpless and hopeless. With little discussion, his Shadow was identified. Now he had the task of facing the feminine specter within it. The next step, finding an “ideal woman,” was a major obstacle. His memory bank was empty. There was no woman anywhere at any time in his life he could trust. This left him exceedingly vulnerable.
He continued his visualized journey into his past. In our second session, he found a knight in full armor to assist him. The help this figure could render was minimal. The knight, of course, was his own crustaceaned male feelings, a domesticated Darth Vader. The image held none of the nurture he needed. Weekly we would return to moments in his past searching for some way to forgive what he felt unforgivable. Memories would trigger deeper memories causing a tsunami of grief to flood over him. His screams could be heard on the sidewalk outside my office.
The needed soulcreated solution happened two weeks later. David had his face buried in his hands when he suddenly said, “I see a beautiful woman standing in front of me. She has dark hair and a lovely face.”
“Is it Mother Mary?”
“No, it is not Mary.” His tone was emphatic. As a “recovering Anglican,” he wanted none of my religious mumbo jumbo.
“Do you recognize her?”
“She is no one I know.”
“Can you trust her?”
The Heart Healed By The Soul
David, on that sublime level of consciousness resident in everyone, had created a custommade solution. Now, with his anonymous mother figure, he returned to those scenes of childhood devastation. Dark events were illuminated by her love. In only three sessions, he walked out a free man and, as we shall see in the ninth chapter, free to find unimagined success in marriage. He still returns once or twice a year for what he calls his “annual tuneup.” Six years later he remains a changed man, loving the feminine in himself and in his wife.
Soul Creation Versus Ego Fabrication
This visualization process which calls up figures to assist us all seems like a sophisticated make believe. It is that and much more. To say that the lady who miraculously came to David’s rescue is just his imagination begs the real question about its origin. Imagination was the vehicle through which she appeared. It was not the source. To understand its power we must return to the distinction between ego fabrication and soul level creation.
The author of pulp fiction is using imagination as truly as Shakespeare. The long forgotten musical score of a punk rock acid head is the product of imagination as much as the works of Mozart or Beethoven. The cute drawings of our fiveyearold granddaughter proudly displayed on our refrigerator came from her imagination just as the masterpieces of Van Gogh and Monet came from theirs. However, no thoughtful person would confuse the works of genius with pedestrian products of imagination.
The ancient Stoics believed that at the heart of the universe was Quality. It was their word for God. Part of us identifies with this definition of deity constantly. We see the quality or beauty of love; a sunset, selfless service, joyful sharing, the courage of the New York firemen, or the masterpiece of the genius. There is no way to “prove” their quality, their beauty. We need no proof. What comes from the soul speaks to the soul. We simply know that we know that we know that we have experienced Quality, Infinity, Beauty. God.
Of course there is a degree of power in simple imagination. It can be used in success motivation making one physically prosperous and emotionally impoverished. It can make one a team player in business and a goaloriented achiever. It can move molehills of motivation, but it is powerless to move the mountains of dark memories and unforgiveness that stand between us and our peace of mind. That demands soul power. It requires that we be passionately committed to finding that Quality within ourselves.
Your Divine Genius And FaithImagination
What the world calls genius is the power to tap into the Source of all inspiration and hold what is given until it can be communicated. The resulting product a great idea in philosophy or spirituality, a great discovery in science, a major invention or the masterpiece in art, music or drama came from the One who made you a masterpiece.
Deep within every person is divine genius. When dicovered, it can make life a masterpiece. It causes a basic shift in one’s thinking. No longer does one live in a world of seeingisbelieving. Now believing is seeing. Believing the wisdom that descends from the genius part of you becomes the substance of your life. This believing sees the healing power of love and delivers whatever is needed to the level of your imagination. This believing gave birth to the nurturing woman who entered David’s consciousness. Faithimagination sires every healing image born in our subconscious. It pictures the beautiful and true for the subconscious which only perceives in emotional pictures. This fact lies behind the ancient definition of faith: “Faith is the substance (from the soul) of things hoped for, the evidence (the soul picture) of things not seen (with physical eye).” This is why faithimagination works when all else can only fail.
Stephen Covey, in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” makes clear the distinction between common ego efforts and visionary soul perception. Quoting Drucker and Bennis who say, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing right things,” he explains the distinction: “You can quickly grasp the important difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.
The managers are behind them sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedural manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in new technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.
The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation and yells ‘Wrong jungle!’”
Translated into our discussion, the machete wielder is the part of you that keeps doing what it has done to keep on living. The manager is your ego, seeking out “better” ways to do what you have always done while remaining unhappy and unhealed. It keeps scurrying around trying to grow a garden in a killing field of misguided emotions. Wisdom reminds us that it is always the unguided person who functions with misguided emotions.
The Leader is your soul, the genius part of you, which has the wisdom to seek divine guidance. It finds the high point where it sees what to do and how to do it to achieve the goal of peace and happiness. It has the courage to call down from its vantage point to your busy ego, “Wrong jungle!”
David discovered his Leaderself. If he had been content to settle for adjusting to the jungle in which he lived, the route so many take, he would be an overtherapized neurotic, still hacking away at the creeping kudzu of his anger, going nowhere.
to Chapter IV
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