Many of us Western women have a sense of being tapped into a collective memory of a time when it was punishable by death to live in one's dark power. Many of the remnants of that distant past continue to reinforce the internalized belief that our shadows are a liability- that the vast expanses of our deepest corners are dangerous at worst, useless at best.
I've grown tired and weary of hiding my shadows and pretending that they don't exist. It takes a lot of energy to snuff out that aspect of myself, and the varied ways it's tried to stay alive have convinced me that consciously showing our shadows is much less dangerous than keeping them hidden. Actually, I believe now that neglecting their need to be honored for their unique beauty and value does a disservice to our worth as women. Hiding the inconvenient, uncomfortable parts of ourselves out of the fear of being a difficult woman doesn't work. It actually makes us more of a pain in the ass (to ourselves and everyone around us). As Brené Brown says in her famous TED Talk, you can't "selectively numb". When you compromise one source of power, you compromise them all.
But there's caution that needs to be taken. The fear of letting these parts of us be known exists for a reason. If not mindfully integrated with respect, these darker powers can overwhelm us, taking control of our behaviors, exploiting our energy to take action without consideration. Manifested as both the masculine energy of destruction and the wild feminine energy of proliferation, when it shows up in either form it has the tendency to play out in cruel, unrelenting ways. When our shadows go unknown and then are released, they can get the best of us, working counter-intuitively to our whole, true selves.
The necessary approach is a simple one, yet demands our full attention. We must befriend this aspect, or archetype, of ourselves. For me, it's the Fierce Mother- the brooding, swirling deep energy that's called upon when something is completely out of line with my truth. It's the anger that boils up out of my fierce sense of protection of my children, my home, and the earth. It's the holy force of knowing how deeply I hold what is sacred to me. Out of balance, that energy shows up as self-sabotage, abusive anger, and holding my loves ones inappropriately accountable for my inner sacred work.
Ultimately, we all are responsible for the integration of our own pain and shadows. When we don't know them well, we can lose ourselves in the blaming of others and compromise our truth by way of neglecting our boundaries. When we practice compassion with our darker aspects and send love into those unseen spaces, we illuminate our ability to both own our shit and act from a place of radical self-love.
When we rob ourselves of our wholeness, every aspect of that wholeness is diminished. There is a synergistic, accumulative quality to authenticity that the world needs. Just as being our real, whole selves inspires others around us to do the same, when we get to know and love our shadows, we inspire our essential goodness. Our shadows can be our teachers and a source of strength and power. In fact, they are essential tools in doing the work of healing ourselves and the world.