Shadow work in depression hacks

As part of a certification course I’ve recently forced myself to read “Owning your own shadow” by Robert A. Johnson.

This was on the way, literally on the train to a lengthy and intense extended family visit back in Poland.

The book initially irritated the logic-and-facts oriented part of my mind with its vague metaphysical assertions and hugely symbolic language (from a Jungian and Christian tradition) that I didn’t relate to. If it hadn’t been part of a course, I would have put it aside after a few pages.

However, post factum I realise I’ve been digesting some of the content, piece by piece, during the entire visit. It helped me to notice and ponder the fact that I’m probably quite (genetically) similar to some of the family members that I can’t stand (for one most of us being aspies / on the super-verbal side of the autism spectrum). I could observe some of their shadow qualities that explode in your face as soon as you meet them, and ask myself if I have them (I would pray strongly lesser degree, but who knows), too.

Charming qualities like being chaotic/disorganised, unprepared/improvising, unintentionally but strongly intrusive (that includes with touch), irritable and fighting out of a lack of flexibility/fluidity, the pervasive quality that has no name which makes a person declare plan A but do plan B randomly – I guess unreliability; a general low correlation between words/promises and the actions that actually happen. Talking on and on about your own topics while forgetting stuff that needs to get done or other people.

Emotional extortion/taking everything personally – if you don’t visit and perform specific gestures means you don’t love me.

This is irritating as heck, and has always irritated me to the point of avoiding visits to the autistic branch of the family. The non-autistic branch didn’t necessarily provide more rapport, but did definitely provide structure, routine and predictability – solid, grounded countryside/homesteading traits. That made me feel much more secure.

The shadow book inspired me to see that the traits that drive me nuts are ones which I share in part, stuff that others might see in me, others that have less of it. People who are more grounded. I try not to spray all this stuff around me like splinters – though under stress I probably do.

— here the end of the post, including its point, got deleted and I’m rewriting it —

So bottom line is, perhaps in part inspired by this reading and reflection, I tried to keep open mind and heart as much as possible. Mostly that, as I don’t think my external behaviour changed — I still needed to rest, distance and withdraw a lot of the time.

There was also the usual portion of drama after a few days, though on my side perhaps on a different tone than previously — shifted from rage more towards grief — which left me stressed and exhausted; but oddly, not depressed.

Also, coming back from family survival camp, I noticed a marked absence of depression for over a week. There isn’t “happiness” or anything rosy instead; it just feels more like a groundedness, standing on both feet, as if there’s an energy circuit from the earth to the body which somehow started to function, and conducts both unpleasant sensations, pains and some pleasures, but above all substance.

Where before, everything was lighter, more dynamic and colourful (and shiny?) but perhaps somehow “half” (like a vertical divide in one’s field of vision with one side blacked out).

I’m writing about this mostly to investigate it a bit, feel into it, in the presumably futile hope to deepen the experience and make it more accessible to myself in the future — savour it, but from all I know savouring experiences (and perhaps reflecting on them along with feeling more into them) also ingrains them more deeply.

I do prefer this experience of “channeling” or conducting (a bit like an electrical current) unpleasant sensations and rough emotions while still having access to all sides — the ugly along with the beautiful — and staying somehow in the middle — to the unpleasantness and pain of depression; I think mostly because the river of pains, angers, griefs, aversions, dislikes, annoyances, irritations, etc., when it flows, still provides a kind of invigorating sensation of flow — an aliveness and dynamism that is good in combination with the grounding that is provided, presumably, by not keeping one leg up in the air anymore in order to avoid all these.

This is in principle simple, yet I think of it as a temporary summer fruit of years or decades of slowly and pretty blindly gathering the tools required to not have to run away so much and sense the experience of both the past and the present, the aversive, the dreadful, yet without being fully uprooted.

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