02 Apr What’s hiding in the shadows?
This is the kind of content you can expect from my book, Into the Light, a memoir and self-help guide (it will be available in 2018).
For some time now I have been trying to make sense of the duality that exists within me: the dark and the light. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to project my good girl image on to the world but I’m less inclined to share my darker, innermost bad self with the world because I’ve been afraid of my own shadow. Until now, that is. I’ve recognised through the intense inner work I’ve done that I’m not one without the other – I’m not light without dark, not feminine without masculine, not joy without sorrow – and if I want to be a fully integrated being then I need to learn to love and accept all aspects of my human nature.
Easier said than done I know, but if I’m honest the part of me that I find endlessly fascinating is uncovering my ‘dark’ side – what Jungian psychologists call the ‘shadow aspect: everything of which a person is not fully conscious.’ Like most people I disowned my shadow aspects because I judged them as bad, wrong and shameful (often that message gets programmed into us from birth). Yet those were some of the very traits that helped me survive in the world.
But there came a time in my maturing process when I had to admit that my ‘bad’ behaviour was no longer serving me because, frankly, I was out of control. It’s a work in progress for sure, but these days I’m more able to make peace with the fact that all of these traits exist within me and are an essential part of who I am – my shame, guilt, anger, jealousy, hatred, neediness, vengefulness, narcissism, my need to manipulate and control, selfishness, addictions, greed and stinginess.
Part of the journey to wholeness is to own the shadow so that it does not own you. It’s when we deny our darkness that it can overshadow the light and then your whole life becomes one spectacular shit show. It may even destroy you. I don’t say that lightly. You only need to look at the current political landscape to see how denial of our shadow as a species is threatening to destroy our planet.
Can I let you in on an aspect of the shadow that may not seem so obvious but, when running the show, can totally destroy your life and everyone else’s around you? I’d go as far as to say it is humankind’s collective wound – it’s our LOW SELF WORTH: never feeling good enough, always feeling as if we have to be anyone other than who we are to prove our worth in the world. And what is the fuel that drives the belief that we are not good enough? FEAR. Collectively we are killing ourselves from a place of fear to prove that we are worthy of love – just look at the insane rates of burnout, cancers and suicide.
I was a workaholic for a very long time, and proudly so. I wore it as a badge of honour. I didn’t mind ridiculous deadlines; in fact I thrived on them. Being productive to the point of collapse gave me a rush like nothing else. The more frantic and dramatic the demands on me the better I felt. I was hooked on the adrenaline. Then I crashed hard in 2013, and I thought I wouldn’t come back from it. Since then I’ve had to work incredibly hard to shift my beliefs and programming on not feeling worthy plus only a million more little buggers, but boy do they go deep, and I have to keep at it every single day.
But I had to do something, because my low self-esteem and the fears linked to not feeling worthy have led me down some treacherous paths in my life, and I’ve made some incredibly bad choices as a result. I had no idea how deficient I was in the self-love department, and how my self-loathing was informing most of my decisions. My operating system from childhood was set on fear: fear of not being loved, fear of not being accepted, fear of being abandoned, fear of not having enough money, fear of not being safe in the world – shall I go on?
That’s why, when I had my breakdown a few years ago – burnout really is the modern-day term for a nervous breakdown – I had to take a serious look at my life, or I risked facing an early death. I’m spilling it all here in case you can relate: I realized that a part of me (my damaged child) really didn’t want to live. And I was doing a fine job of almost making that happen. You see, I’m not saying that working is a bad thing, not at all. I love working; I think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world to share our gifts with the world, and to earn a living from it. What I’m saying is that I had to examine whether I was pushing myself from a place of fear (not feeling good enough) or love (feeling as if I am worthy of sharing my gifts with the world). It always comes down to intention and that is something that only the individual can answer. What I can tell you is that our childhood programming is powerful, especially when you add to the mix our societal conditioning, religious conditioning and family patterns – is it any bloody wonder we’re all grappling with some form of mental illness?
It’s why I needed to start uncovering what was hiding in the shadows.
Last year, I felt inspired to produce some comedy sketch videos, which sounds pretty innocent until I decided to take a closer look at them – it’s convenient being my own psychoanalyst – and I thought, “Holy fuckballs, Kelley! Why do you hate men so much?” That’s because my female characters all had one thing in common: they wanted to hurt and humiliate men. Do you want to know why that’s been lurking in the shadows of my unconscious mind? Do you want to know why I feel so qualified to talk about our shadow? Here’s where it gets super dark.
For the past fifteen years, I have been healing the sexual abuse that I endured as a young girl at the hands of my father. I had repressed the memories, which is very common for abuse survivors, and they only started to surface in my early twenties. I’ll go into more detail about how that played out in my book and in blogs to come. That’s why I’ve felt unsafe around men; that’s why I’ve wanted to hurt men (I’m not afraid to call it –I’ve unconsciously wanted to kill my father for what he did to me) and that’s why I’ve battled to have healthy relationships with men. My father set up a dangerously dysfunctional programme in me from young, and it’s one that I have been learning to break for the past two decades. Each man that has entered my life has been my greatest teacher and healer, but often at the expense of my poor, tormented soul.
You may know my story already as I have shared it with a few people over the years, but not many, and that’s because I wasn’t sufficiently healed to feel safe enough to do so. But I want to talk about it now in the hopes that we can all understand our shadow aspects better – our own and others’ – so that we can heal what remains buried in the recesses of our mind. Incest is the darkest thing I have grappled with as a human being. It has been nothing short of torturous. That I have survived it mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically is the greatest miracle of my life. That I have healed from it to the degree that I have is the highest achievement of my life.
What may shock you, though, are some of the reactions I’ve had along the way: outright disbelief to the point of being shunned; people I love not offering any kind of support and people more eager to know all the sordid details than offer compassion. I’ve even had trained professionals tell me that “no child is innocent, Kelley. It takes two to tango.” But the cruellest reaction I had to deal with was my own mother turning her back on me, denying any knowledge of the abuse and leaving me to make sense of the horrors of my childhood and put the pieces of my life back together, alone. This has been by far the hardest part of the journey, and has taken an especially long time to reach a place of forgiveness.
I am not naïve. I must prepare myself for many mixed reactions as I start to talk about this more and more. I cannot control what lurks in other people’s ‘shadows’ and how they may be triggered when confronted with one of the harshest and surprisingly still taboo topics on the planet, even though it is happening in more homes than you can possibly imagine. But we must break the silence. We must acknowledge humankind’s darkness and our insatiable need for power over others, especially the vulnerable and the weak. Do you see how our low self worth is playing out in this case? The only reason we feel we need to exert power over others is when we perceive to lack power ourselves, and we perceive to lack power because we perceive that we are worthless.
Our children need to be protected, and only when we as adults can own what lurks in our own shadow and heal those deep wounds can we truly protect the innocent. Because my mother didn’t acknowledge her own history of abuse, she was unable to protect me. She was too afraid to look. I don’t blame her, I almost broke from the experience, but we must bring the family secrets out of the darkness and into the light if we are to break the cycles of abuse in our families and heal our collective wound. We must do this urgently.
What is the antidote to fear then? Duh, LOVE, of course.
The goal is to accept that we are both dark and light, and that we are worthy of being loved just as we are. We need to learn to love all those lost, fragmented, ‘bad’ parts of ourselves and heal the wounded inner child who lost his/her power and is trying so desperately to regain it in all the ‘wrong’ ways. This is the journey we must all take. The goal is not to be happy all the time and deny our sorrows or our misery; it is to be whole.
Our shadow has so much to teach us. And so does our light. I will not stop talking about my story and many others’ stories in blogs to come, sometimes seriously and sometimes seriously, but always sincerely. My path has shifted. I am now called to take on a new role and share my insights and teachings on healing from childhood abuse and trauma; to assist others on their spiritual path; to offer counsel, coaching and workshops and to write books that will inspire and encourage others to live their truth.
Thank God that my suffering has not been in vain, and that men and women (and I really encourage the men to reach out) can now benefit from both my dark and my light. This blog is dedicated to every brave soul whose life has been marred by childhood trauma and/or sexual violence, and is struggling to put the pieces back together. I wish you so much love, inner strength and courage in your recovery. Do not suffer alone. Healing is possible and help is at hand.
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I am currently completing my memoir and self-help guide, Into the Light.
It will be available for purchase in the coming months. You are welcome to pre-order it by emailing me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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All my Light and Dark