If we are awake and aware of our constant discussion about the triggers, biases, and patterns we need to remain mindful of those to which we remain unaware. These shadowed parts of ourselves as learners are the moments of experience that we have dis-identified as parts of ourselves due to them being identified by us as “bad” or “wrong”, as parts of us that will get us in trouble. These denied parts of our Self are so shadowed that when we see them in others they may instigate irrational anger, disgust, hostility, or envy and jealousy. The Shadow Self is still within us, as memories in both our mind and our body.
The Shadowed Self in the mind is never seen clearly, it is always covert, feeding us ways of thinking and seeing the world from the shadow of our self. The secret voices in the back of our mind telling us we are “stupid” or “embarrassing”, they may tell us we are “good” or “right” as well. These thoughts can be formed so quickly from moments of emotional experience that we try to rationalise and handle so we can cope. We construct a range of emotions attached to the behaviour we displayed, emotions that we have created and attached to the behaviour
I don’t want to look!
The importance of learning to notice these mind shadows of self can not be underestimated. For us as adults, working with these young minds, we need to be awake to our own patterns, not to be lost in them. If we are lost in them we will just react blindly and in the process we may be unwittingly building new shadows in our students, projecting out onto them rather than working through our own Self Stories. Our thoughts lead directly to behaviours from us, actions that we make and phrases that we speak.
As the thoughts cascade through our mind, our body responds with alacrity. Our shadow will often manifest in our body without us having any idea, with clenched fists, hunched shoulders, a furrowed brow, wide eyes. As children we learn to hold the emotional response in a body pattern, helping to hide the thoughts and constructed feelings. We hold those shadowed parts of ourselves in our body memory and they are communicated through our behaviour.
Noticing these body triggers and learning to pay attention to them can give us huge insight into our thoughts. We rarely give ourselves time to notice these small body responses, and the power of mindfulness and intentional breathwork is essential to start to access these body triggers. The story in the body allows us access to the patterns in our mind and therefore an opportunity to notice our behaviours.
Practices to support your Awakening
How does my body hold my story?
Shadow work is always done best with the support of a therapist or a trusting other, helping to ensure that you can manage the work and what happens as shadows are reintegrated or dispersed. For us to explore as educators it can be exciting to work on our somatic cues.
Our interoceptive and proprioceptive networks are so powerfully un control in our first few years of life. They form responses that are then given words to describe and then layered with more patterned behavioural responses. Noticing these is a powerful first step. So, find yourself a good trigger and be prepared to notice.
- Are you feeling nausea?
- Is your chest or throat tight?
- Do you want to stamp your foot?
- Are your shoulders taut?
- Explore what your body is doing in that triggered moment and document it.
Your next step is to ask those around you if they see any of those somatic responses in your interactions? You will need to tell them you want them to notice when it happens as for most people, these small minute readings of another happen without thinking, formed from preverbal experiences. How do they interpret you in those moments?
Your final step is to notice if the body responses fit your conscious awareness. Are they how you want to present to the others around you? Are they still relevant to you now? The process of sitting in your body awareness is a beautiful one and unfolds us like a crumpled paper dragon to be released to fly again.
Once we have identified our connection to the shadow pattern we can draw it into our awareness so that we don’t let it take us so that we are not lost in it. This will allow us to give our children the space to ask us for what they need and for us to reply knowingly rather than blindly as a shadow response.
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We have a range of online courses that can support your exploration
Learning to both acknowledge our own needs and those of the child in front of us, that’s the goal
Each moment in our interactions is precious and important
For a nurturing educational process, we must work with Acknowledgement Principles.