I Tried A Shadow Work Course & It's Changed The Way I Show Up In Relationships

I Tried A Shadow Work Course & It's Changed The Way I Show Up In Relationships

When I was introduced to shadow work outside of my work as an editor or social media introspections, it was during a conversation with a woman I met through Instagram. Over drinks during our first in-person meeting, she told me about the personal transformation she underwent as a result of enrolling in a shadow work course and said that the woman I encountered that evening would have been so different had she not done such deep inner work.

I saw it as a sign to invest in myself. 2023 for me, has been about being intentional with feeling more grounded in my sense of self. This looked like being consistent about my fitness journey for the physical and mental benefits, saying “yes” to cultivating new connections and friendships, establishing routines, and spending more quality time with myself. I didn’t realize it then, but I was experiencing a major life shift. Shadow work making its way to my path felt like a push in the right direction.

It would end up being exactly what I needed because days after my discovery call with my shadow work guide Jordan Jeppe, my relationship ended. All of this growth I’ve been ushering into this new season of life, and I didn’t think about the loss that could come with it. I was sad, but I reached a point of acceptance at the end of my relationship. I was grateful for who he was and who we were together, but I realized how complacent I had become and how tired I was of the emotional labor I carried and the over-giving I had been doing.

I took it as a sign to switch my Mariposa course with Jordan from Intro to Shadow Work: Discover Your Shadow to Celibacy: A Journey to Deeper Self-Love. Although I love myself and can say that with so much conviction and confidence, there were patterns of behaviors that, even in healthier situations, seemed to pre-determine the relationships I attracted in my life, the role I played in them, and the length of time I’d decide to stay there without much thought or consideration of how I feel and what I need.

Despite being a grown woman in her early 30s, my inner child was subconsciously controlling my narrative. To break the cycle of certain patterns that presented themselves in my work, my relationships, and with myself, my internal world needed to change if I wanted to see a change in my external world.

Little did I know that investing in Jordan’s shadow work course was one of the best gifts I could ever give myself. Amid the work of old wounds, I am finally beginning to heal, here are some of the biggest lessons I have learned so far.

There are levels to boundaries.

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Social media will have you thinking boundaries is the default card you pull when you’re faced with something, someone, a circumstance, or a request where the answer is, “Naw, I’m good.” While I’ve loved the way people have been empowered to say no whenever something is not a resounding hell yes or been able to aptly cut off and readily block people who cross a boundary, I have been relieved to learn that boundaries have levels.

Since I am aware that the way I communicate isn’t as “direct” as I sometimes like to think, I loved the idea of boundaries being a three-step process versus a “one-strike, you’re out” sort of concept it has long since been associated with in my mind.

In one of our early one-on-one coaching sessions, Jordan put me on to a color-coded system for setting boundaries, as specified in Melissa Urban’s The Book of Boundaries: Set the Limits That Will Set You Free:

Green Boundary: low risk, and the gentlest language. Assumes the other person wasn’t aware they were overstepping and wants to respect your limits. Your boundary language is clear, generous, and very kind. Leaves any potential consequences unsaid in the spirit of good faith. Example: "For the health of our friendship, I'd like to ask that we take a week to be no-contact. I need time to process and ask that you respect my request."
Yellow Boundary: elevated risk, and firmer language. Used as a follow-up if your green boundary isn’t respected, or if historical interactions with this person indicate the threat is higher. Yellow may also include an intended consequence, if appropriate.
Red Boundary: severe risk, and your most direct language. At this point, your health, safety, and/or relationship are in jeopardy, and your language must reflect the severity of the situation. It’s still kind, but this is their last reminder and makes it clear that you are prepared to hold your limits. State the consequence plainly here and be ready to enforce it.

Game. Changer.

There is a thin line between being emotionally available and emotionally unavailable.

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For a long time, I thought just because I was a person who was open meant that I was someone who was vulnerable, and therefore since 2 plus 2 equals 4, I was also emotionally available. The answer is not quite. If you identify as a people pleaser, chances are, you are not as emotionally available as you think.

I was rudely awakened to this fact during my course that I am, in fact, emotionally unavailable. My people-pleasing shadow and my codependency shadow tell me so. But also, insecure attachment style types like fearful-avoidant (disorganized), dismissive-avoidant, and anxious tend to be emotionally unavailable to an extent as well. Where I naively believed I couldn’t possibly be codependent because I loved my alone time and independence, I realized after taking stock of what codependency can manifest as in a partnership that, it's me, I’m the problem, it’s me.

Some signs of codependency in a relationship include:

  • Taking things personally
  • Doing most of the emotional work in the relationship and feeling overly responsible for it
  • Trying to “save” or “fix” the person you’re with
  • Having a fear of or issues with abandonment
  • Not being able to identify your wants or needs in the relationship
  • Worrying excessively, especially about how the other person feels
  • Obtaining your self-worth or self-esteem by being of service to others
  • Having difficulties with setting healthy boundaries
  • Internalizing someone’s upsetness or “negative” emotions as something you’ve done
  • Focusing on others more than you focus on yourself
  • Feeling guilty about saying “no” to others or shame about making mistakes
  • Having trouble communicating your true feelings to others
  • Putting yourself and your needs last
  • Losing yourself

Simply put, if you’re deflecting your feelings, holding yourself back from expressing vulnerability or love, monitoring and managing the emotions and responses of your partner as a means to keep others happy over yourself, you might be emotionally unavailable. It’s impossible to be emotionally available if you are not allowing yourself to be emotionally seen and cared for in the equation of your dynamic with another person because they take up all the emotional space in your world.

Allowing my feelings to be seen has been an internal process as much as it’s been an external one, as I’ve learned to label the feelings I have, sit with them, and even acknowledge myself verbally with the statement, “I see you. I'm acknowledging you. I'm here for you.” Validating my feelings within myself has helped me in communicating them to others as well, especially when it comes to my needs getting met.

As a result of becoming more emotionally available, I have felt myself become more vulnerable. It can be a scary thing, but I now understand that I can’t have the connections in my life that I seek if I am unable to meet them as a result of not meeting myself deeply enough yet.

There is a need to affirm “This is not mine to take on” as a continued practice.

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I shed my first tears pretty early on in my one-on-one sessions with Jordan as I uncovered what it was that first led me to step into the “people pleasing” role I had given myself and had been replaying throughout relational and work dynamics in my life. It was a childhood memory that I shrugged off as it was the way it was, not realizing how much power my unintentional parentification would have on me years later.

Getting to the root of that was the first step of unlearning behaviors I picked up because I subconsciously felt like it was how I received love from other people, and it would lead me to lean on mantras like, “That’s not my job” or “This is not mine to take on” as a tool to help me navigate the discomfort I sometimes felt when detaching from other people’s thinking, their moods, or their feelings. It also showed me the subtle ways I gave my power away in work, friendships, family dynamics, and love by acting instead of being.

I am still learning how to let go of my default of overdoing, overthinking, and overanalyzing – really just absorbing anything that’s not my thoughts or my feelings. I am now practicing what it means to not anticipate responses and over-function as a means to keep myself safe. I am finding safety and security by reminding myself I don’t have to look for my sense of self in how others think and feel. I can’t control others, nor do I want to. My responsibility is me and I am safe with me.

Among the most significant lesson for me so far has been you don’t have to hide from your “shadows.” Shadow work is about understanding that in order to transcend beyond the life, expressions, and beliefs that are subconsciously playing out, you must learn them, name them, and embrace them as a means to usher in self-acceptance and, therefore, your wholeness.

Through the intentional program comprised of the steps of Awareness, Acceptance, Reprogramming, and Embodying, I’m Rihanna right now because “I feel like a brand new person.” I am still healing. And though I know healing and growth will forever be a journey, I feel like a more aware and more realized version of myself.

I feel transformed.

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