My interest in the world of personal development work started when I suffered a classic “midlife crisis” around the age of 40.
Driven by an intuition which told me that I needed support and community to get through this stage of my life, I looked for a therapist who could guide me into the depths of my mid-life crisis, and out the other side.
I now see the midlife crisis as a natural life stage transition (one of many we are bound to go through as human beings, at least if we wish to be whole and complete when we arrive at our death bed). The midlife crisis is best seen as a transition from Warrior to Sovereign archetype, from action in the world to leadership in the world. (Read about these archetypes here.)
I was fortunate enough to find not only a great therapist, but a community of trainee therapists which I joined after two years of deep personal work. I felt, right from the start, that this was not only the correct career for me but that it always been an inevitable outcome of my childhood and later life experience.
I trained initially in Transactional Analysis (TA), and every year of the training course increased my passion for the exploration of human potential. After completing this training, I went on to train in Integrative Therapy with Richard Erskine, a therapist with a deep understanding of Inner Child work.
As part of my own personal development I explored Vision Quests, the ManKind Project, modern versions of encounter groups, therapy marathons, world travelling, and many more stimulating and developmental experiences. All of these in some way allowed me to understand how similar human beings are at their core, regardless of their woundings and life experience.
I have since facilitated hundreds of one to one clients and facilitated over a hundred shadow work groups, both men and mixed gender. And, with my shadow work colleague Marianne Hill, we are now running a training course for those who wish to enter this profession.
The principles of the work
At the heart of my work lies the concept of shadow. It’s a word that has become popular in recent times, but the principle behind it is simple enough: your shadow is made up of all those parts of yourself which you hid away because they were not acceptable to the world around you when you were growing up. Put away where? Into the unconscious mind, or, more graphically, your personal “shadow bag”.
We tend to think of shadow as being composed of dark qualities such as lying, manipulation, selfishness, greed and so forth. But there is more to it than that.
In the socialisation of children, anger, fear and love can be put away in a child’s “shadow bag” if for some reason their expression is not welcomed by the child’s carers. And so can the glorious power and magnificence that shines forth from every human baby; qualities which can rapidly become repressed into shadow if the parents don’t accept these aspects of their child.
So you can see that shadow isn’t just about what society has labelled “dark”; the human shadow contains many qualities, all of which we need – in a balanced form – to be the fullest possible version of ourselves.
Shadow work and shadow work facilitation
Shadow work is a discipline that has grown up since the days of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Its objective is to take those repressed parts of ourselves out of the shadow bag, out of the unconscious, and to give them full and balanced expression once again. This way we can be the person we were always meant to be, before the world got in the way.
Shadow work facilitation is perhaps the supreme skill of all psychotherapy. To take the most wounded delicate parts of a person (their inner child to be precise) and reintegrate them into the whole, requires extreme sensitivity and skill. Not just technical skill, but also skill in developing a safe and supportive therapeutic relationship.
I’m fortunate that my own training started in the world of psychotherapy. To be a competent shadow work facilitator requires patience, experience, sensitivity, wisdom, and I think also an intellectual curiosity about what makes people human.
I’m a qualified Healing The Shadow practitioner, and a full member of the HTS organisation. We seek to train people not in the technology of shadow work as a process to be followed by rote, but in the skill of psychotherapy through shadow work.
We aim to teach our trainees the facilitation skills that make them expert professional practitioners, while also showing them how to build a truly safe and therapeutic relationship, a relationship in which the client can experience deep and profound healing.