Tag Archives: amygdala

Facing the Shadow

sydney-vivid-lights-festivalFacing one’s shadow psychologically is a good thing. Yet we fear facing a period of rough emotional weather. (And indeed, intense trauma is sometimes best dealt with in small manageable packets using somatic therapy.) Pretending the shadow isn’t there is SO tempting, but it doesn’t make it go away. Stuffing uncomfortable emotions and thoughts has costs: depression, PTSD, binge eating, emotional explosions, physical violence, ennui, avoidance…Facing the darkness is where the creative energy lies. Darkness will create. The level of awareness that you meet it with will determine whether what is created is beneficial or not.

Facing the shadow is the place where shift happens. “Embracing the darkness” is a technique that I use that relies on the same elements of the mind that creates dreams. The technique relies solely on the discomfiting sensory-related imagery (rather than thoughts) that emerge in connection with a disturbing memory or dream. Transformation happens by becoming “one with that image” – by “embracing” what one fears until images of transformation appear in the mind’s eye. The fogs lifts, a rainbow appears, a child sings sweetly, the scent of flowers perfumes the imagination.

Why does this work? I suspect that it works for several reasons. The amygdala (the part of the brain connected with the flight, fight or freeze response) “thinks” in symbols & sensory images, not words. The amygdala has immediate access to regions of the brain connected with touch, sight, hearing, and smell. It houses the emotional memory system. “Embracing the Darkness” also uses the principles of desensitization used to treat phobias by facing fears while in a state of relaxation. By using the “language” of the amygdala, the emotional charge around frightening and disturbing memories may be discharged and transformed. This month, I invite you to try this technique for an introductory session of $75.

There are other ways to face one’s darkness: Trying new things that are a little scary, pushing at the edge of your comfort zone, recording dreams, writing stream of conscious thoughts daily, and processing a painful memory that has surfaced with your counselor. I use a technique called “the Dive” to process painful memories, including recent situations. The Dive incorporates aspects of Focusing, Traumatic Renegotiation, the Enneagram, Somatic experiencing, and depth Psychology. A current experience is processed and a related early memory is processed, resolving the current and the old unfinished business, leaving one more present and relaxed. The goal is greater access to essential states of being: more peaceful, joyful, loving, serene, empowered, wise, intuitive, valued, Courageous, or greater ability to commit. Paradoxically, this shift comes from facing inner darkness.