September Highly Recommended Read
This month’s recommended book is Dreaming through Darkness by Charlie Morley. This book was recommended to me by a positive psychology colleague, friend, and Jungian shadow expert Dmitry Gourov. I am so glad I read it and can’t want to share it with you here.
The concept of the shadow – aspects of the personality that we choose to reject, deny and suppress – is of course universal.
Some people argue it is possibly the most important concept in psychology because the shadow in effect divides the mind. On the one side, there’s everything your conscious mind can’t admit about itself: the shadow self. On the other side is your conscious self-image some people also call the mask!
Carl Jung said that the shadow contained positive and negative aspects and argued that getting to know it was vital for true self-knowledge.
Charlie Morley takes us on a highly accessible, brave and deeply practical exploration of our shadow self. Using Tibetan Buddhist teachings and lucid dreaming work, he guides us through practical work to bring light to the parts we may have rejected as dangerous, taboo, shameful or simply too difficult to handle.
3 Reasons for liking this book
Reason #1: Invitation into a greater love of self and others.
The book in essentially an invitation into greater self-love. To love is to unconditionally welcome and make space for all aspects of ourselves. Until we journey towards greater self-knowledge, acceptance, and transcendence by working with our shadow self, loving others is impossibly hard. Everything we can’t accept in ourselves we will project outwards only to judge it as bad and faulty in others. Can you imagine a greater barrier to love, connection, and intimacy?
What I really liked from the start is therefore how this book is organized. The writer takes you on a logical progression towards greater levels of integration. First, you’re invited to explore and meet the shadow. Then befriend it. And, finally transform it so that rather as something to know and put aside, you can channel into greater creativity, personal power and authenticity. In other words, by working through this book, the reader is invited into powerful psychospiritual growth.
Reason #2: Emphasis on shadow self as a source of powerful and useful energy and aliveness
Many people associate the shadow with the undesirable traits one needs to hide. Charlie shows us how an unconscious shadow self traps vital energy and leaves us disempowered. He makes an excellent case for why exploring this side of ourselves is freeing and empowering.
We suppress and deny not only the things we are potentially ashamed off as bad traits but also our greatest gifts and talents. We may do this out of fear of being judged as too brilliant or magnificent. It seems that the shadow self can keep us playing small in an attempt to keep us safe. We may also want to avoid accepting the responsibility that comes with discovering one’s true potential or special gift. But doing this keeps us split inside.
As a coach who does not shy from therapeutic coaching work, I love seeing that magical turning point when my clients begin to reclaim parts of themselves they have previously denied and in the process, grow in confidence, aliveness, and power. It is incredible to watch and I’d like more people to discover this. An early exercise in the book where one is invited to explore the dark and golden shadows is particularly effective.
Reason #3: Excellent exercises
I really loved some of the activities mentioned in the book. For example, Charlie invites the reader into exploring the ancestral shadows that may come from our family members. While I’m more familiar with these concepts through my training in family constellation systems and transgenerational trauma work, this is essentially the same terrain.
I found the author’s invitation to discover the humanity of our parents incredibly powerful and loved the interview your parent and thank-you letter idea. I also enjoyed reading about the background to the masks and mirror work which we use in our MTC retreats. Seeing this work through the Toltec and Buddist lens was illuminating.
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.” — Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, 1938.