by Katelan Foisy
There’s a thing I call “Museum Feel” that I get when I look at certain pieces of art. It’s not a thing that happens often but when you look at piece you can feel it being at home in a museum. It has a special feel to it. It doesn’t matter if I like the piece or not but it will have the “Museum Feel.” For years I tried to attain the feel of it with my own work. I was unsuccessful until about 2012-13 when my work started to shift and I knew I was stepping into my own. Until that time I carried a lot of shame with me. I constantly felt like I was starting over, at the beginning again over and over and over. I felt ashamed that my body wasn’t tight and perfect. I thought maybe that was why I didn’t achieve success. I thought maybe I wasn’t talented enough, that maybe I was just a mediocre artist that didn’t deserve recognition. I started to really look at shame and shadow when I met Sherene and we would talk about Jung’s theories on the anima/animus and the shadow. Carl Jung believed that human beings had four archetypes within them. The Persona, Shadow, Anima/Animus, and Self. They were a part of three components of psyche: The Ego, The Personal Unconscious, and The Collective unconscious. The Ego is our conscious mind, The Personal Unconscious holds memories both conscious, subconscious, and suppressed and The Collective Conscious is the beliefs, ideas, and knowledge we experience as a society. The archetypes fall under The Collective Unconscious. The Shadow consists of personality traits that we choose to suppress or struggle against. Your shadow self is the feeling that surges through you, it can be impulses to do self defeating behaviors, anger issues, urges you may feel ashamed of, shame in general, irrational fears, or behaviors deemed unacceptable by society. It’s important to work with the shadow to gain balance.
Jung believed that we are all born whole and as we experiences things in life we divide first into persona and shadow and then anima/animus and self. As we form, these archetypes the suppressed shadow can create health problems, insecurities, neurosis and cause people to act out physically. Self sabotage develops and we begin to focus on societies acceptance of us. When we happen to fall into the shadow and experience adverse reactions we then experience the shame that comes along with it. This can also be followed by guilt. The important thing to remember is that everyone has a shadow side. We have all lashed out, projected, blamed others for something we couldn’t accept, hurt someones feelings, had issues with certain aspects of ourselves etc. Society and our personas have tried to mask them to help us from being or feeling alienated. One of the problems with masking the shadow especially with today’s “Good Vibes Only” culture is that it has dangerous consequences mainly because it only deals with ideal archetypes. While it’s good to look at these ideals such as being happy and always grateful and kind and gracious who eats clean and prays and meditates as a template that can be worked with it doesn’t really offer us tools or guidance on how to get there. Books on the law of attraction cherrypick certain aspects of the deeper teachings and don’t really allow for the shadow to be recognized or worked with. Instead it’s a series of watered down tasks making you feel guilty if you can’t manifest through your thoughts or even worse victim blaming saying you didn’t want it enough. The law of attraction is meant to be a tool to problem solving through changing the mindset so you can shift your focus from fear to solutions. This is the perfect example of sweeping the shadow under the rug and then not taking responsibility when it rears it’s head.
Shadow work is the act of making the subconscious conscious. It’s painful. It’s acknowledging that sometimes we let the ego take over and suppress the things that need to be dealt with healthily. Meditation is one route, journaling, or finding a good Jungian therapist to help guide you. By exploring the shadow we are understanding the deeper meaning, messages, and healing that the unconscious is trying to teach us. Mine came though in physical form through a dream in 2012 and so I try to work with it visually.
“I dreamt of another land, walking in a complex I was familiar with only in dream time. I was with an old boyfriend who I only partially remembered. I felt awkward and yet kept walking. We were going to our hotel and I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be there with him and I couldn’t figure out why I was there. Worse yet, our relationship was so long ago he was fading.
We got to the hotel. It was cheap, beige, and brown. I hated it and I resented him a little for bringing me there. We sat on the bed not moving, just sitting together stiffly. I could tell he wanted to say something but didn’t. I didn’t want to say anything. I started to get up when something started to come through the bathroom door. It looked like a man but he had saran wrap all around his torso. It looked it was keeping him together. He was scooting on his back with his legs and at first I thought his hands were bound but then he showed his hands. His fingers were long like Nosferatu hands. I wanted to get up and run past him but he was blocking the door.
“I just want to talk to you.” He said under the fluorescent lights. And I knew if I did he’d just bind me too. I sat next to my ex knowing he wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything. I just had to sit there and observe and acknowledge the Shilmulo (vampire)to understand what was happening.”
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