Our deepest wounds often begin in childhood. These places of woundedness create a groove or a place of damage in our psyche and when something similar occurs, the new experience flows easily into the old groove, just like a river through a canyon. Over time, they frame our own personal belief system about life and inform us of what we believe about ourself. As they originate in wounds, these inner beliefs are often distorted and unhealthy. A river flowing takes the path it knows best, continually carving the grooves of the canyon ever deeper.
These deeply flowing wounds create Shadows. I am referring to ‘Shadows’ in my own personal interpretation. It does not quite fit the classical Jungian approach. A Shadow, as I define it, is an unconscious aspect of myself which the conscious ego does not easily identify with. In other words, an unconscious, conditioned response. While these responses often begin as self protection, when unconscious, they tend to be more impulsive, addictive or reactionary. The clue of their presence is when I say to myself: This does not feel like me.
I first began to explore the concept of my own personal shadows about 25 years ago. This is when I began to understand my addict. One night I was sleeping in the forest above Big Sur in California. That night I had a powerful lucid dream of a Black Wolf who called to me, she was sick, malnourished and caged. I knew I was seeing my addict self in the dream. Using analogy as a tool for self understanding resonates with me. I chose (or she chose me) the Blackwolff as my addict Totem.
With the help of many great teachers and guides over time, I have grown to understand and integrate the Blackwolff into my being. This is what I know; I will always tend towards addiction and while the ‘what’ varies, the impulse, the Shadow is the same. ’Where you stumble there lies your treasure’, I also know, inherent in the Shadow, is the answer to integrating it. The definition of integration is: ‘Having all parts working together well’. I think integration is an excellent word when we speak of how to live healthy and whole with our Shadows.
For 25 years I have visualized the Blackwolff trotting along at my side. Now healthy, strong, with a beautiful coat, sharp hearing and keen eyes. Her value is that when she begins to growl, I know my addict is showing up. As long as I keep her at my side and fully in the light, she informs me. She is one of my greatest allies. The wound the Blackwolff sits on is: ‘I am not good enough’. I believed this was my deepest wound. Yet in the last few years something has been stirring even deeper.
I have written about ‘love post traumatic stress’. I first began exploring this ‘unconscious conditioned response’ during my first relationship after my husband died. Since then ‘love PTS’ has shown up minimally with some relationships and not at all with others. I thought I had a sense of how it operated. Then last summer I fell in love. I allowed myself, for the first time since my husbands death, to love deeply enough to begin to imagine that this was a man I could/would share a commitment with. I believed him when he said he wanted the same thing with me.
Hindsight is so very clear. I see now the indications were always there that his own wounds would cause him to run and run he did. This is where a well integrated sense of my ‘love PTS’ would have been my discernment. Would have been my informant, just like the Blackwolff always has been.
Yet here is the ultimate irony: After he left me, the ‘love PTS’ Shadow came snarling out of the closet. And while I had imagined what this Shadow was, I really did not fully understand it until now: This is my deepest Shadow. This is my Grand Canyon. And it took every one of my fears to ‘come true’ for me to get to the bottom of the canyon, to figure out how and why the river flows the way it does. To look my deepest Shadow, directly in the eyes.
It too is a wolf. As I use metaphor to integrate this Shadow, I know this is the Redwolff. Red because it centers on the Heart. And Red because I have had two amazing four legged family members (interestingly, they both came to me already named) my beautiful red horse and my beautiful red Alaskan Malamute both named Redboy. Because I also know that while the Blackwolff is a female, the Redwolff is a male. The Divine masculine seeking union with the Divine feminine… In my Heart. Shiva Shakti.
My deepest wound, and thus my deepest fear, which is at the core of the Redwolff, is abandonment. Or perhaps more accurately stated: A feeling of being invisible. The sense of not being seen. It is a fear rooted in the paradoxical belief that: If I am abandoned, I will not be seen... And conversely... If I am (really) seen, I will be abandoned.
It began when my birth parents, for what ever good reasons they had, left me at the hospital where I was born. A nice couple (the only parents I have known and who I call mom and dad) adopted me. Due to the horrors of her own childhood, (she was an incest survivor) my mother kept a perfect house of order but her entire life, was emotionally unavailable. Yet my father made up for it. He was who taught me to love BIG, to love with all of my Heart and that is how he loved me. He saw me… She did not. And regardless, I have always felt not a part of that family, I have always felt like I did not belong there.
My dad died of a massive heart attack, I began CPR on him, remembering between breaths to tell him ‘I Love you’. My mother died 20 years later, emotionally unavailable to the end. I was fortunate to share a remarkable love with my Beloved husband Joe. I also breathed his last breaths with him when he died in our home of cancer.
I could list many other experiences of abandonment that carved out the place in my life where I feel invisible. That carved out my Grand Canyon. Not just with experiences of the Heart but with any interaction, that when I have shown my vulnerability, I was 'abandoned'. Or an interaction where, if I am anything other than present and useful, I was not seen. Invisible. Quite different than death or being rejected by a lover, yet my interpretation, flows easily into that groove, carving... carving...
The problem with Shadows that are hidden is this: How many of those experiences were the actual intent of the person involved or how many of those experiences were only my perception, as I slid easily into the flowing river of a deeply etched canyon?! And the question to ask myself is this: How would my response or lack of response differed had I not simply slid into a well worn interpretation? Only the integrated discernment of the Redwolff, walking at my side, healthy and in the light, will answer those questions for me. The Redwolff will assist me with the clarity of discernment.
The Redwolff and the Blackwolff are very close… The roots of addiction, the fear of abandonment and feeling invisible… Will continue to merge. If I walked in the sun right now you would see strands of red/blond, brown/black and much grey in my hair. The Greywolff is my place of complete integration. She is my Heart. She is an expression of my dharma (purpose in life).
I have faced my deepest fears and danced with them in 'the interim time'. Now with time and perspective I know that because of this difficult experience, something huge has shifted within me. Understanding and integrating the Redwolff, is a tremendous gift to my soul.
The Blackwolff is very much about self-doubt and how I treated and mistreated myself. The Redwolff is the gatekeeper, the discernment of my Heart. Having a discerning informer at the gates of my Heart, is not just for 'protection'... Quite the contrary, in a real sense the greatest gift the Redwolff will offer, is the tenacity to open my Heart even wider.
I have only one mission in life and that is to Love Well… Redwolff will be a strong ally.
At one point in my struggle, attempting to understand love post traumatic stress and it's deeper roots... I reached out to a Beloved man friend, who loves me dearly and well. To him I revealed my tender, soft vulnerable belly. My broken Heart. This is part of how he responded with lovely wisdom, a poem in its own right:
“You know it's all a flow… A rise & fall. People come in and flow out… They etch our hearts and then vanish in the night… But we have the evidence of presence when we feel the etching… That can’t be UNETCHED. It is there forever, with each breath. Believe me… You may be silent but you are never never never invisible. I see you. Please keep me in your sacred shelter as one of your million witnesses. Etching away…"
I am sitting in my east window, looking out at the almost full moon. It will be full in two days and I am going to a gathering at a friends house to sit with a fire under the full moon. To the fire we will release that which no longer serves us. I will be releasing the trauma of this experience and embracing the gifts. I will always risk for love…
We are all filled with longing for the wild.