The Shadow Aspects
Aug 09, 2015
Post # 1
Embracing the Shadow Aspect
You probably can not go through any magic website or forum without stumbling upon the topic of finding one's animal totem, spirit guide or spirit animal. I like to think the spirit animal is not there in a literal sense, but exists as a portrayal of of the individuals positive traits, goals, desires and archetypes. Finding one's spirit animal is more akin to identifying the locus of the external ego and projecting it onto an animal for convenience, to create and object to work with; personifying things which otherwise remain hidden. Animals aren't the only thing you can use to create this thought-form, you can use objects (keys, doors, castles), food (eggplant, ginseng, fruit), or aspects of nature (ocean, waves, sun, wind). Creating a personification of your positive traits, identities and goals is extremely beneficial for beginning to learn about one's self and for growing both spiritually and as a person.
However, despite animal totems being a popular subject, the flip side of this process is not nearly as widely discussed. While positive aspects represent things that we think too much of, and act on too little, the shadow animal, or aspect represents things we act too much on and think too little of. I personally feel that shadow aspects are far more fluid than their positive counterpart. They can be personified by things or creatures that you fear, or even things that you have respect for. The shadow aspects embodies your fears, desires, negative traits and challenges, the edge that people fight against and shamans embrace.
How to Find Your Shadow Aspect
(note, can apply to finding your + aspect)
Benefits and Working With The Shadow Aspect
Begin with creating a list of positive and negative traits, for now just try to be general (too shy, greedy, procrastinator, etcetera), enlisting the help from people close to you you makes this process much more genuine. It is important not to create excuses for these negative traits, there is no need to be defensive. You must be completely honest. This is for your own benefit.
Move on to creating a simple list of goals, desires, challenges, guilty pleasures. This can range from physical and mental challenges to topics. (dealing with pain or insomnia, anxiety, completing school in a healthy way, over or under eating...)
Meditate on them. Bring your issues and positives up in your mind, weight them each equally (even if you know some affect you more than others), think about how they affect your life. Do they inspire you? Do they make you strong, or do they make you weak? How do they affect how you deal with others? Make sure you acknowledge each of them. Do not ignore them, the person who ignores their own inadequacies only proves themselves ignorant of their own incompetences. Sometimes it helps to re-assure yourself that it is completely normal for everybody to have negative traits. While some are much more easy to embrace than others, some are incredibly difficult. Do not give up. It may seem easy when written down, but the difficulty of this process is entirely up to you.
Anyway. Next is personifying these aspects, and attributing them to an object, creature or concept. When finding your shadow aspect it is best to pick something that brings up a great deal of emotions, it must be something you feel strongly about and holds much significance to you. A way to make this process easier is to narrow your selection down to a few choices and research them, try to connect their traits and symbolisms to yours.
Once you have an aspect picked and you understand it's properties you can begin inheriting it. For example, my shadow aspect is a spider, a creature that I am fairly uncomfortable being around, however grudgingly respect. I am connected to my aspect through proverbial webs. The spider, depending on the species, can be poisonous and aggressive or passive and protective. I need to work on being more assertive and build healthier connections with people, figurative webs. Actively pursue positive traits of your aspect, while associating your negative actions with your aspect when you do them. Make sure that you understand that it is you doing these actions rather than pushing the blame on your aspect. Build a comprehensive profile for your aspect, the more intricate and intuitive it is, the closer you are integrating them. Associate emotions you may wish to use with your aspect, so that if you wish to draw on that emotion again, you have it stored away. In a way, you are building a bank.
Creating a shadow aspect is a tool for you to use to better know yourself. In shamanistic religions in particular, the most important part for any shaman is to be incredibly knowledgeable and comfortable with yourself before helping others on their spiritual paths. A lot of people find it is easy to set goals and to accomplish them, not many however work to overcome their inadequacies. Having a shadow aspect may help you overcome great fears and gain control of your negative traits.
When working with the shadow aspect, it is important to not only acknowledge the traits that make up the whole, but to embrace them. In order overcome negatives, you must inherently know
them, to be comfortable knowing that they are as much a part of you as your own skin. We do not work to be rid of them, but to know when to act upon them and when to subdue them.
Creating thought-form is also a also a convenient way to create a temporary 'emotional storage system', when in need you can draw or deposit certain traits, or use them to organise your mind. For example, even though the spider is my shadow aspect, when I need to be serious and careful with my words, I often 'invoke' the spider, I borrow some of it's wisdom and manipulations, it's aggressiveness. The same can be done for depositing, when I know I need to be clear headed and calm, I can temporarily store unneeded emotions in the spider until I can deal with them later. Do not
use your thought-form as a permanent source of power or a dump for things you do not wish to feel or confront, this is incredibly dangerous and detrimental. In a way these Aspects can act as a type of thought form (however, I call them such anyway), it reminds me a bit of invoking deities. The shadow aspect in particular reminds me of Loki, confronting yourself and inspiring change.
Common Misconceptions and Traps
Positive vs. Negative
A common misconception is that representative thought-forms only embody positive or negative traits, however that is a lie. A positive aspect can be equally dangerous as a shadow aspect can prove to be beneficial. For example, lets say that your spirit animal encompasses courage and self expression, but if one indulges in these things too much they might find themselves acting before they think. These aspects can prove to be more archetypical than is comfortable, so be careful to acknowledge both the benefits and the bane of each trait.
Fluidity and Change
Another stereotype is that once one gets a spirit animal, that that is their representative aspect for life. This is also complete fabrication. Aspects are the personification of the current self, with both the past and the present in mind. You can certainly keep your fetch for as long as you update the emotions and connotations fuelling it. You can also mash traits of your aspects together, say you think that courage and your connection to your own energy and the energy around you is a strong point, you may have a lion with a mane of leaves. However suddenly changing your aspect representation is certainly a good way to inspire change and create a clear cut way of transitioning from one stage of your life to the other. You must understand that you are constantly changing, whether it be our mood, beliefs, goals, and personality.
A common trap to fall into is trying to keep the balance between both aspects, to remain neutral, or keeping a foot in both pools. It is true that maintaining balance between both aspects is important, people often forget that neutrality is not a goal, we are not the mediators of a war that wages within ourselves. These aspects are a tool of self understanding, the epitome of understanding and using this tool is to be able to switch fluidly between aspects, to understand yourself so completely that you can use every trait and aspect of yourself to your benefit.
Disinheriting the Aspects
I think I may have discussed this briefly before. Do not do this . Your aspects are you, they are a part of you, they are your emotions, ambitions, traits personified (hence the word I use, aspect). Do not , use them as an excuse or an escape away from parts of yourself that you are uncomfortable with not proud of. Do not shove all your negative traits and emotions into your aspect only to disinherit it to try to rid yourself of them. This trap is mainly done with the shadow aspect, but can also be done with the light aspect. You must accept them, if you use them as a bank, you must acknowledge that they are still apart of you, an external locus for the internal self.
Becoming The Aspect
This is similar to the above, however done more often with the light aspect. When working with personifications, it is very common to actually inherit some characteristics from your aspect (more common when using animals as totems) or temporarily embody it, this is not a problem. However sometimes when an individual clings and relies to much on their aspect they try to 'become' their aspect and in essence they are rejecting the reality of their own balanced personality and traits to adopt 'ideal' one's. These people usually become disassociated with the world around them or behave erratically, often swinging from great moods and incredible productivity to incredible depression (similar to manic depression). Once again, you must understand that your positive aspect is entirely fuelled from yourself, there is no need to idolise your positive aspect or to abhor your negative one. This is also incredibly dangerous to do because, as stated above, people change and so can your thought-form, it is very detrimental to cling to some perceived halcyon. Becoming your aspect often leads to breaking it entirely, and the individual is best to start over from scratch less they face uncontrolled madness :p .
Questions, comments, concerns and experiences are all welcome!