Emily was closing her eyes and told me she felt really heavy around the head.
She kept saying she felt “like a big dustbin”
She felt useless, empty, “like I have nothing to give”.
This is the story of Emily and the very symbolic imagery that her Unconscious provided to relate her inner experience, having "learnt" at a deep level, as she had, a false story about her value, which had profoundly damaged her perception and sense of Self.
Here's how we worked with it to allow it to unfold, and shift, so that Emily could start to regain her power, through finding and summoning her courage, strength and compassion.
Just as I've been working on preparing a course called “Reclaiming the Shadow of the Feminine” lately, I had a session with this client yesterday in which a clear “Shadow” part of the Self spontaneously emerged for us to work with.
We started the session with the intention to work with feelings of inferiority that Emily (name changed) was experiencing.
Those were very familiar feelings. In that instance, they had been triggered recently by another mum that Emily felt was avoiding her and had averted her head as she was taking her children to school.
Tuning into those feelings was what made Emily say she felt "like a pile of rubbish".
She felt a lot of shame and frustration.
She was connecting with an aspect of her childhood conditioning coming from her parents, in particular her father's, way of treating her.
She felt very confused. She was experiencing that "sensory memory", in her body's felt sense, of being made to feel like she was nothing, but at the same time, that there were a lot of expectations placed on her, and that she had to be really amazing.
As I guided her to visualize this with inner imagery, Emily said she had an image of a part that was floating in space, a big pile of rubbish, which didn't have a body.
“It looks really permanent, like it's always been that way, and it can't change”, she said.
Emily was feeling indifferent towards it, “Because it looks not really important. It's made of bits of old paper, banana skins – stuff that's not needed.”
"What am I supposed to do with that?" She was asking. "I don't know what to do!"
Emily felt very confused and almost panicked about it.
I guided her to simply be present to how she felt about the fact that there was that part “in her”.
I explained that it was a disowned part that looked like rubbish because she (Emily) had been taught to feel that way about a part of herself. It had been “cast away” in the Shadow and had started to look “ugly”.
“As long as the rubbish is there, I can be overlooked by others.” said Emily “My feeling is, I have to hide it. And I also judge it in myself.”
I invited her to touch it and to tune in and explore everything she felt about it, including all her “negative” thoughts.
“The rubbish is not too bad”, she shared, “it's just the fact that it's always there... That makes me feel powerless. And it's very shameful – I don't know what to do with it. I kind of would like to get rid of it... I'm confused with what is “the right thing to do”... But I can't show anyone. It feels heavy and annoying.”
I invited her to not try to “do” anything “with it” but to simply be really present and stay focused on the experience of her own feelings, and to feel into how that part was feeling.
Leaning towards it, rather than pushing it away.
“She can't speak, she doesn't have a mouth. But she has a face now. She feels like she's a big failure, and like she's really annoying. She wants to shut down, and feels nervous.”
Emily went on: “The “pile of rubbish” part feels scared, terrified actually. She's ashamed and guilty.
She's used to feeling those feelings on her own so it's unfamiliar that I'm here with her now."
As she continued to bring her presence and to listen, Emily reported some changes:
“She has a face now. She looks like a damaged person. A face but no body. She can't speak, she just looks out.”
I was amazed once more at how literal the symbolism of the Unconscious always is. These aspects were describing a lot of Emily's experience, of not having a voice but having to be on the look-out, of feeling damaged and not embodied.
“She can't feel anything, there's no connection... She just doesn't want to be seen so that people won't hurt her. She doesn't even know if she wants to live, doesn't really have an opinion.”
Then suddenly Emily exclaimed “I just made a connection... Looking through the eyes, I see a body – it's just a cuddly baby's body!”
Emily was in tears now. “Just a baby who needs to be cuddled! It can't be that hard, surely!” She was almost indignant.
And then: “She has been so used to it, me not seeing her. She's been wanting connection, but feeling cautious in case it never came, or was taken away.
After a while of giving the baby the affection and love that she needed, and reassuring her that it wouldn't be going away now, I asked Emily, what was the rubbish like ?
“It's no longer looking like rubbish”, she said. “It's like a a grey cloak. It has protected her, kept her warm and kept her invisible to the eyes of the world. It's protected her from harm. But it was so tight and she couldn't move, she was completely constricted inside that.”
I invited Emily to let her baby part know that she was safe now, that all those years of the past didn't have to be relived.
“She has you and the love and safety of your present-day adult self to hold her whenever she needs.”
I then asked Emily to look and see what the gifts of that part may be? Emily said she was now smiling, playing – even though she was not sure how to, she was feeling safe and laughing.
Her gifts, which Emily now felt much more connected to, were joy, playfulness, and a sense of safety.