Meeting Our Inner Predator

In Shadow Work we explore the different parts of the person that make up the whole. We all have many different parts each with a different point of view, different ideas about our life and different feelings. Some of them carry very strong emotion. For example many of us have a part that can push on through and get things done when necessary, most of us also have a part that loves to laze around and do nothing! We may have a part that enjoys socialising and another part of us that loves solitude, or a part of us that is very confident and another part that is really quite shy, or a very sad part that comes out sometimes and a very angry part that comes out at other times. Everyone is different and all the parts are unique and have their own flavour and character. In Shadow Work one of our aims is to get all of these different parts working together. They are all a necessary part of the whole and when all our different parts work together towards the same goal life can feel much more harmonious and have a greater sense of flow.

However, doing this work we sometimes find a part of us that seems to be completely destructive. It criticises us harshly and frightens us with ideas of judgement and punishment. It seems to not want any good for us, destroying our confidence and taking away our joy. In shadow Work we call these parts ‘Predator’ parts. They seem to stalk us and want to destroy us. They are very clever and very powerful and often beyond our control to reign in. It can be extremely hard to practice self love, self care and compassion when a part like this is holding a powerful position inside us.

The Qualities of the Inner Predator

If things feel particularly tangled, knotty and stuck for you, and attempts to move forward in your life are just not working it may be that there is a predator part of you at play. Some people experience this as a critical voice constantly telling them negative or frightening things. Other people experience it as a dark cloud just behind them or to the side – there are many different forms it can take, but it is always a frightening, anxiety provoking part of us and it is very hard to argue with or shake off. It can be very cruel to a small vulnerable part of us, preying on our weakness. This can sometimes mirror a situation from our early life experience where we were treated cruelly in some way by someone who had power over us. That cruelty now seems to be living inside us. We instinctively want to get away from this side of ourselves, and sometimes we can feel very ashamed and not want any one else to see it. Often this part can want to be cruel to others in the same way it is cruel to us. These are all qualities of a ‘Predator’ part. We may feel frightened to have such a side to us – something so cruel and destructive, we may be very scared of letting it out of the bag. What might it do if we let it run wild? – our instinct is to keep it down.

Here we are facing one of the key paradoxes in Shadow Work. Experience shows that when we try to hide away a part of ourselves it just doesn’t work in the long term. We use so much energy to try to hide it, or run away from it that we create a huge amount of tension – and in the end it just comes bursting out anyway – it’s a bit like trying to hold a beachball under water. But when it pops out we immediately hide it away again, we don’t want to look at it, we don’t want to draw attention to it. Surely that will just give it more power and more of a hold over us…… So what can we do?

Embracing the Inner Predator

It turns out that relegating a part of us to the shadows actually ends up giving it MORE power over us. This is the paradox – hiding or running from parts of ourselves we don’t like actually allows them to grow bigger and more powerful rather than getting rid of them. If we send it in to our unconscious we have no control over it and it can then cause even more havoc, running the show from behind the scenes. It turns out that the way to take control of a such a part of us is to turn and face it. To speak directly to it and to find out what’s in there. This can bring up a lot of fear, and is best done in a therapeutic space with the support of someone who is used to working with the shadow. If we deliberately allow out this side of ourselves and get to meet it – in a space where it can do no harm and there will be no real world consequences, then we can take the power back. We can take back control by fully owning this as a part of us and then we can get to know and understand it. Once we’ve built a relationship with this part we can harness its power and begin to use it in effective rather than destructive ways.

For more information about Shadow work visit:


The Predator is associated with the Magician Archetype in Shadow Work. To watch a talk about the Magician Archetype follow this link:

The Magician Archetype






How Can I Know What’s In Shadow For Me?


Our shadow, by it’s very nature, is out of our sight. Either it is completely unconscious or it is right out on the periphery of our consciousness. The shadow consists of parts of us we have hidden away and are trying hard not to see. One way of thinking of this is to imagine that we have a bag which we drag along behind us, and in this bag we have hidden away all the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to show to the world – the parts we have cut off, repressed or denied. This bag forms our shadow. We can’t see it, and we hope against hope that others can’t see it either.
So when we want to explore our shadow side we have a problem – although we may have an uncomfortable feeling that something is hiding there in the shadows, we have no direct way of knowing what it is. At some point in our lives we have hidden it from ourselves. This article offers ways you can explore what might be in shadow for you. Since we can’t see our shadows directly, some detective work is required. Below I describe five ways that we can use to help us spot our shadows:

What we judge in others

Firstly we can look at what we really judge in other people – the qualities that really irritate, annoy, or enrage us. Take the example of anger – If, as a child, I have been told I mustn’t be angry, or I have learnt that anger is dangerous or hurtful, then I may have decided to put my anger in to shadow. I tossed it away over my shoulder in to my shadow bag, out of sight to me and out of sight to others. I tried to pretend I didn’t have anger. Now, one way of looking at this is that when we toss the anger away over our shoulder we can miss the bag altogether – instead, the anger travels all the way around the world and shows up in the person in front of us! This is the idea of projection. We are disowning anger in ourselves and projecting it on to the people around us, where we judge it strongly. It really grates with us when they allow their anger to be expressed – that just seems so wrong! We want to squash it down in them in the same way we squashed it down in ourselves many years ago. Please note, when you have this response it doesn’t mean the person in front of you isn’t an ‘over the top’ angry person, they may well be, it just means that it will really bother you in a way that it may not bother others who might be able to hold it more lightly.
In Shadow Work we believe that the healthy clean expression of anger can be helpful to us, and if we don’t have access to our anger we can encounter all sorts of problems in getting along in life. So if we notice ourselves judging angry people it doesn’t mean we need to start behaving in extremely aggressive or hostile ways, it just means we may want to look at our own connection with our healthy anger:

Is this something I’ve lost touch with?…

Have I disowned my anger?….

Are there times when it might be helpful for me to express my anger?

What’s it like to say to yourself
‘I get angry sometimes’?
This could be a first step in re-claiming this part of yourself.

Similarly with other qualities, such as selfishness for example. If we judge selfishness in others what might we be disowning in ourselves? It’s possible that you may have thrown other things away in to the bag – by mistake as it were – along with your selfishness. Putting yourself first, believing you are important, and having a sense of self worth are all sides of selfishness that you might find missing in your life, that might be a good thing. So you can ask yourself:

Am I losing something by denying my selfishness?…

Are there times when it would be helpful to be able to put myself first, or to have a sense of my needs being important?…

What is the kernel of gold that I may have thrown away along with my selfishness?…

What’s it like to say to yourself:
‘I like to put myself first sometimes.’?

The invitation here is to unpick things in this way. Notice something you really judge in others. Ask yourself if you have cut off that part of yourself and ask yourself if there is anything of value here that you might like to reclaim.

What we admire in others

The flip side of looking at qualities we really judge in others is to look at the qualities we really admire in other people. Sometimes this is known as the golden shadow. Let’s take the example of confidence. We may really admire people who have confidence, who can speak up in public, act or sing, or take on a challenging role at work. In our childhood we may have got the message that we were annoying or a nuisance if we spoke up, or we may have been told our gifts didn’t amount to much. We may have been told we were too big for our boots or too bossy. One way or another we may have got the message that it wasn’t ok to be bright and to shine. We put our confidence in to shadow in order to get along and be accepted by those around us. So when we see someone else with confidence we really admire them. We think ‘I could never be like that… they seem to have something magical that I don’t have.’ Well, in Shadow Work we believe you DO have confidence, it is a natural part of us all, but it has been hidden away for a long time, and some work will be required to re-claim this part of yourself.
The invitation here is to look at things you really admire in others and ask yourself if this is something you have put in to shadow. You can then start to own this in yourself. With the example above, you could try saying to yourself ‘I am confident. I could do what they’re doing.’ and see what it feels like. You don’t have to believe it right now, but rather just play with it and notice how it feels to speak like this. This could be a first step to owning your golden shadow.

What we do by accident

Another way we can get a hint of what might be in shadow for us is to notice things that we do by accident. It’s not actually possible to get rid of a part of ourselves, and if we squash something down for long enough at some point it will come bursting up and out. This usually happens without our deliberate intention – we just can’t help ourselves. Another way of looking at this is to say that the bag we’re dragging around with us, where we’ve hidden our shadows, is not hermetically sealed. However hard we try, at some point what’s in there will come leaking out. This can be very shocking and confusing for us. It is common to hear people say ‘That’s just not me – I don’t do that kind of thing!’ Yet they did, and in Shadow Work we believe it is them, just a part of themselves that they have hidden away for a long time and lost touch with.
Anger again is a great example. If we spend our whole lives trying to be calm and balanced, gentle and thoughtful – not having any anger in us – there will come a moment where that is unsustainable. Something has to give. When something catches us off guard we may snap at someone, say something hurtful, or even lash out in rage, immediately regretting it a moment later. We quickly regroup and get back in charge of our anger, but the incident is confusing to us. ‘What happened there?…I’m not an angry person!’
Another example could be someone who is very happy-go-lucky, never gets upset about anything and is always cheerful. It may be that one evening something doesn’t go quite right for them, an event they were looking forward to gets cancelled, or they may have an accident and spill something – some minor incident has them crying uncontrollably. They find themselves overwhelmed with emotion. They feel silly and embarrassed and don’t understand where this might have come from. They may think ‘I’ve got nothing to be so sad about.’, yet their overwhelming response suggests otherwise. It’s possible that something very sad happened when they were young and there was no one around to help them process their grief. It may be that sadness was met with little sympathy in their childhood, or it may even have provoked disapproval or punishment. Alternatively it may have been their role in the family to keep everyone cheerful, so they had to learn to put their sadness to one side. There are many different ways in which someone may have come to lose touch with their sadness. After so many years of not feeling this side of themselves they may have stored away a well of grief that feels scary to touch in to, it is so unfamiliar. Yet it will eventually find ways to express itself that take the person quite by surprise.
Another very public example of shadows coming out by accident is that of the groom who leaves their bride standing at the altar. This person may have put all their doubts and fears around being married in to shadow and not allowed themselves to acknowledge them. This means they haven’t been able to explore these feelings with anybody or work them through. Then the day arrives and they just find themselves unable to go through with the ceremony, not really understanding why. This happens totally by accident. They would never have planned it this way.

Again, the invitation here is to ask yourself if maybe you have put your anger/sadness/fears/arrogance, or whatever else it is that has taken you by surprise, in to shadow. Then, as a first step, see what it feels like to say ‘I get angry sometimes.’, ‘I get very sad sometimes.’‘I feel frightened sometimes.’, ‘I think I know best sometimes.’ or whatever is relevant for you. Reclaiming conscious ownership of these parts of yourself is a first step in having control over these behaviours and stopping them from bursting out by accident.

Leaking through our body

Another way our shadows can leak out by accident is through our bodies. It is usually other people who will notice this, as we are likely to be completely unaware of what is happening. For example a friend may tell us that we look terribly sad, when we ourselves are not aware of feeling sad. Or we may be talking confidently, while our body language and facial expression betray our hidden fears. We may be doing our best to be calm and patient with someone, yet our fists may be clenched, demonstrating the anger inside us that has no outlet for expression. These things are beyond our control and out of our awareness. However, if someone does point them out to us, or if we notice them when for example, we watch a video of ourselves then we have the option to explore things further.
If my friend tells me I look terribly sad I could reflect on whether or not there may be something I am very sad about that I have pushed away in to shadow. Did something happen, maybe a very long time ago, that I have not wanted to feel? If someone tells me I look angry, even though I’m feeling very calm and loving, I could ask myself if there may be anger about some past event that I’m not expressing.
It’s important to only take notice of what rings true for you. Other people’s observations can be helpful, but they can also be clouded by their own shadows and unowned material.
Our bodies may speak out in other ways too – by giving us migraine, rashes, backache or more serious illnesses. It is always worth exploring what unowned part of us might be trying to find expression through our body. Again, please be aware this is for your own interpretation only. It is never wise to put too much trust in others interpretation of our bodily ailments.

Compulsive behaviours

Things that we do compulsively can also offer a glimpse into our shadow world. Over eating, smoking, gambling, cleaning…. any habit we have that we just can’t seem to stop gives us clues as to the parts of us that are driving things from behind the scenes. Parts of us that we haven’t owned can have a lot of power over our actions. Consciously, we may want to lose weight and be fit, yet we just find ourselves eating automatically in a way we can’t control. Here we might want to ask – what is going on for this hidden part of us that wants us to eat? Is it feeling like it needs nourishing or nurturing?…. Does it want pleasure, sensuality or comfort?…Is it fed up with obeying all the rules we impose?…. Can we listen to this part and try to find out what it really wants? Similarly, if we find ourselves compulsively cleaning we could ask what it is that this part really wants – Is it requiring order, or safety?…Does it need a sense of control?…Is it a frustrated energy that needs an outlet?…. How could we meet the needs of this hidden part of us in a more wholesome and conscious way?

Over time the above five explorations may well reveal some insights for you as to aspects of yourself that you may have put in to shadow. This can be painful work. There are always good reasons for us to have hidden parts of ourselves away. There may have been much pain, fear, shame or guilt associated with these sides of ourselves. As children we have to do everything we can to survive and to get along with those around us, so it is sensible to hide away sides of ourselves that seem unwelcome, overwhelming or unsafe. Yet in adult life we can find we really miss out when we don’t have access to the full breadth of our personality. We may find we get constantly walked over and can’t stand up for ourselves because our anger is in shadow, or we may find we don’t take opportunities in life because our confidence is in shadow. Alternatively we may find ourselves stuck in a relationship or job that isn’t nourishing us because we have put our own needs in to shadow and we spend all our time pleasing others. Or we may find we can’t have successful relationships because we have put our need for intimacy in to shadow. There are many ways our shadows can cause us to live a difficult or limited life and for some people there comes a time when they decide the pain of discovering these shadow parts is worth the potential gain. They want to have their life back under their own control and to be able to form rich and nourishing relationships with those around them. Shadow Work is here to support people who are going through this process, and although painful at times this work can be incredibly joyful as people break free from past restrictions and experience the relief of owning and inhabiting the whole of who they are.


For more information on exploring the shadow please visit Marianne’s website:

Good People – Embrace Your Inner Trump!

Why is Donald Trump so popular when so many people find his attitudes abominable? What is his secret appeal? Are we all drawn to him in some way but too ashamed to admit it?? What are the hidden forces at work here that allow someone who is abhorrent to so many people get so frighteningly close to power?

Let’s look at this from a Shadow Work perspective. One way of defining our shadows is this:

‘Parts of ourselves we have cut off, denied or repressed.’

That is, parts of ourselves that we are not comfortable with, or that we’re frightened of – that we basically try to pretend aren’t there. ‘Not a bad idea!’ I hear you cry. But, unfortunately, the difficulty with pretending that parts of ourselves aren’t there is that these parts then actually end up having even more power over us once they’ve been consigned to the shadows in this way. They enter a murky, less conscious realm and start running the show from the back seat – where we have little or no control over them.
Further still, we can picture it like this – when we don’t like a part of ourselves, we take it and toss it away behind us. We try to hide it from ourselves and others. We try to get rid of it. The problem is, when we throw it away with such force – it travels all the way around the world – and pops up in the person in front of us! We can’t get away from it. One way or another it will find us. This is known in therapeutic terms as ‘projection’. For example, if we’ve decided we are not an angry person, then we will spend all out time trying very hard not to be angry. This will be difficult, as anger is a human feeling and we all experience it. What we will notice however is that, if we’re denying our own anger, we will find we are constantly coming across angry people. They’re everywhere!. We will be particularly judgemental of the people around us who are angry, and we will find them very difficult to deal with. They will upset us a lot – and it will seem like we’re always attracting them. This is the principle of projection, what we don’t own in ourselves we will see around us in the world and it will annoy us a lot and may even be harmful to us. Robert Bly, author of ‘The Little Book Of The Human Shadow’ has this to say:

‘Every part of our own personality that we do not love will become hostile to us. We could add that it may move to a distant place and begin a revolt against us as well.’

Shadow Work draws on ideas from many different traditions and healing practices, including certain aspects of shamanism. One of the ideas that I have come across in Shamanism is the idea that we all contain in us the seeds of a little bit of every single human attribute. We have a bit of a king in us, a slave, a policewoman, a thief. We have an inner cyclist in us, or gymnast, a cook a politician, a bully a victim and so on. Certain attributes get expressed at certain times in our lives and others don’t. Not expressing a part of ourself doesn’t necessarily cause us problems, but denying that it exists does. If we are in denial about certain parts of ourselves then one way or another they will end up causing us difficulties. The invitation is to reclaim these lost parts of ourselves if we are to become whole again.

‘I am human, so nothing human is foreign to me.’ Terence

The theory goes that if we can accept in ourselves the things we judge and hate in others then we will be better able to deal with such people when we come across them and less distressed by their presence.

As Carl Jung said ‘Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.’

So maybe this is worth a try – after all these are desperate times! Can we embrace our own ‘Inner Trump’?

Here’s a list of some of the things for which he has been most criticised:
Wanting to build a wall to keep Mexicans out
Wanting to stop muslims entering the States
Having multiple affairs
Being misogynistic
Opposing gun control                                                                                       Being anti-abortion – wanting women who have abortions to be punished
Calling global warming a total hoax
Criticising renewable energies
Supporting increased defence spending
Advocating violent confrontational ways of being

Please note, this investigation is not about a moral judgement. We may well have decided certain behaviours or beliefs are wrong, or immoral. This doesn’t mean we don’t feel that way ourselves sometimes! So even if you are morally totally opposed to everything Trump stands for, it is still worth asking yourself if there is even a tiny part of you that would ever say or do or feel the things he expresses.

Just take a moment. Take a deep breath and soften your resistance… and look at the list above. See if there is anything in there that you might have a just a tiny little bit of in yourself, however small.

If you can find something in the list above that is living inside you then stop for a moment. See if you can just allow it to be there, without trying to push it away or disown it. See if you can even understand a little bit why this part of you might feel the way it does.  – Well done! – you have now embraced you inner Trump.

If we can all find a little bit if Trump in us, and own it as our own, then, the theory goes, we will stop projecting this out in to the world, and Trump like characters won’t need to exist to soak up all our un-owned shadows.

Although it’s hard to believe, changing our inner world can have a very real effect on the world around us. I see this every day in my work and have come to trust it. Sometimes the changes seem almost magical – seemingly impossible to explain – other times change can come about in quite tangible ways.

If we carry in our own shadow some of the ‘badness’ that we see in another then we are likely to judge them very harshly. If we actually want to bring about change in the world then harsh judgements are not always helpful. They’re coming from a ‘shadowy’ place where our own shadow is impacting on our responses. We may well be right that the other person is doing something ‘bad’ whatever that may be, but we will be in a stronger place to affect change if we own any similar ‘badness’ in ourselves and work to accept it. Accepting in doesn’t mean we act from this place – No no! but it means we are able to feel comfortable in acknowledging that we have elements of this in us, even if we choose not to act on them It also means that we can be forgiving of ourselves if we do slip up from time to time and behave in certain ways that we’d rather we didn’t.

Similarly, accepting that we have certain sides to ourselves that we’d rather not have doesn’t mean we don’t take action to try to change the things we see as ‘bad’. Not at all, in fact the opposite. When we are less consumed with our own powerful judgements we are more likely to be able to affect change. We are coming from a stronger place, a solid foundation of knowing ourselves well. From this place we can act with dignity and power and speak with true authority. In this way we are much more likely to bring about effective change in the world.


For more information about exploring the shadow please visit Marianne’s website:

Are You Leading From Fear Or From Joy?

This article provides an opportunity for you to reflect on your leadership.

Whatever kind of leadership role you hold, from organisational roles to parental roles to the challenges of leading yourself through life, this article will offer a framework through which to explore your leadership style.


Below is a sign that is displayed in my local (and very excellent) fish and chip restaurant:

chip shop (1)

I have a little chuckle at this sign every time I go in to the shop, and I imagine most other people respond in this way too. It’s hard to imagine someone taking exception to the joke, and saying we really should support and respect our leaders. Leaders are not popular in our society. Very few of us have respect for our leaders or believe they are genuinely trying to lead us in the best way possible for all. They attract a huge amount of criticism and mistrust and are the butt of many jokes. Words that might come to mind are, privileged, out of touch, uncaring, self absorbed, ineffectual, bullying, manipulative, money grabbing, untrustworthy, corrupt, sleazy and worse.

Now picture the elders in a tribe. Any fictional tribe that you can bring to mind – don’t worry about whether or not such a place has ever existed. What words would you associate with these leaders? Maybe fair, thoughtful, wise, calm, strong, trustworthy. Similarly, now bring to mind an ideal loving parent – we may think of caring, supportive, forgiving, boundaried, fair, protective, attentive, listening, encouraging.

These imagined elders and parents have all the qualities that most leaders would say they aspire to – yet the higher up we go in organisations or political structures the less we tend to see these qualities. And even in some small organisations leadership doesn’t look anything like this – with bullying and manipulation being more the flavour of the day, or alternatively a ‘hands off’ approach where there is no presence or genuine leadership. Similarly with parenting, which could be thought of as the most important leadership role we can ever carry out, we often see manipulation and control, over the top anger and bullying or alternatively, a lack of boundaries and an ‘anything for a peaceful life’ approach.

Why is this? It’s as if being placed in a position of leadership people morph in to something different. Their integrity goes, along with the original passion and commitment with which they took on the role. People get channelled in to behaving in particular ways, and as the pressure piles up their good intentions get lost, instead they’re swept up in a struggle to prove their worth, gain esteem and stay in control. They end up leading from a place of fear.

This is so widespread that it is about more than the individual leader. It seems to be a societal wound that we carry together. Indeed, I believe this wound does not just belong to leaders, it also belongs to the people they lead. It is a situation colluded in at some unconscious level by all involved. What is causing this ‘sick’ leadership?

The Sovereign Archetype

In this article I am going to try to answer this question with reference to the ideas and beliefs behind Shadow Work, and I’ll describe the shadows that can come in to play as we carry out our leadership roles. Finally I’ll take a look at possible changes that we can make on a personal level in order to begin to heal this ‘sickness’.
For the purpose of this article I’m loosely defining a leader as the person ‘in charge’ of others, the one who guides others, makes decisions and takes overall responsibility. For the sake of simplicity I am going to talk about the ‘Leader’ (The person ‘in charge’) and the ‘People’ (those being led by the leader in whatever given situation). I’ll use this to encompass the whole variety of possible leadership roles that we could be discussing here – parent, teacher, leader of a group, leader of an organisation, leader of a company, politician and so on. I believe this article is also relevant for each of us on an internal level as we consider how we lead ourselves through life – is there harmony between the part of us that leads and the parts that follow? How does this dynamic work? Do we bully oursleves, bribe, criticise, or give up on ourselves? or do we encourage and support ourselves and say ‘Well done!’? It is worth exploring these internal dynamics and discovering how effectively we lead ourselves. This is likely to give insight in to our Leadership in the outer world.

I am going to organise this discussion of shadows according to the four archetypes that we work with in Shadow Work –

The Magician,
The Lover,
The Warrior and
The Sovereign.

We believe that we need access to the healthy qualities of all of these four archetypes if we are to live our life fully and have a sense of wholeness. However in this article I will focus most attention on the Sovereign archetype as this is the one that we associate most closely with Leadership.

A summary of each archetype is given before the relevant sections. You don’t need to know anything more about the archetypes in order to go ahead and read the article, but it may be helpful for you to have an explanation around what is meant by the ‘Gateway Emotion’ that is listed at the end of each summary. The Gateway Emotion is the emotion that we need to be willing to feel if we want to have access to the healthy qualities that this particular archetype has to offer. It’s as if feeling this emotion opens up a gateway to these qualities. If we’re not able to feel the gateway emotion we won’t be able to fully live this side of ourselves. I’d also like to introduce here the concept of the ‘deep wound’ in each archetype. These are also listed at the end of each summary. We believe that that there are certain deep wounds that we can carry as individuals, often due to the circumstances of the family and society in which we are brought up. Archetypes can be caused to go out of balance as a result of these deep wounds. Each wound will cause a different archetype to become unbalanced. If you’re interested in exploring all of this further there are links at the end of this article that will take you to a more detailed 12/15 minute talk about each one.

So let’s start with Sovereign:

Healthy Sovereign – Our Sovereign is our inner Queen or King. The loving parent inside who guides and blesses us as we travel through life. This is the heart that cares.
Our Sovereign holds the vision and passion for our life, it is the part of us
that knows what we really want, and will encourage and
support us as we work to make our plans a reality.
Deep Wound – ‘I’m not good enough’
Gateway Emotion – Joy

In Shadow Work we believe leadership lies in the Sovereign archetype. If this archetype is wounded and out of balance we will lose our capacity to lead well. Interestingly, we will also lose touch with our capacity to ‘be lead’ well – to be effective members of a group, organisation or workplace, supporting and respecting our leader.
The wound that harms the Sovereign archetype is the belief that we are not good enough. This belief develops if we haven’t received the support and blessing we need in our life to believe that we are good enough – worthy, loveable and deserving of respect and care, – exactly as we are, without having to do anything. If we don’t have this belief then we have nothing to rest back in to. We need to be able to rest back, knowing we are held, loved, cherished and believed in – just as we are. From this place we can feel true confidence and find the strength we need to carry out our role. I liken this to the ‘Seat’ or ‘Throne’ of a Leader. A place in which we can sit and act from with confidence because we know we are blessed.
When we can sit back and relax in to ourselves, knowing that we are good enough, then what we do comes from a place of choosing – a place of wanting to – because it brings us joy. If we can’t sit back and rest in ourselves, then what we do will come from a need to prove our worth, or to get others to like and approve of us. Essentially this means we’re acting from a place of fear – fear that we are not good enough.

The Chinese proverb below captures this well:

‘Tension is who we think we should be, relaxation is who we are.’

If we can’t relax into who we are, because we believe that who we are is not enough, then we will always be tense, and we’ll be leading from this tense, fearful place. Our leadership will have shadowy qualities, and so will the way we allow ourselves to be led.

If you look at the Sovereign summary above you’ll see that Joy is the gateway emotion to the Sovereign archetype. This means we will not be able to access our true leadership (Sovereign) skills unless we have access to our joy. This doesn’t mean we need to be joyful all the time. Of course not. Carrying out our leadership role will include times of deep sadness, powerful anger and paralysing fear – and we will need to get the support necessary to move through these. What it does mean is that our disposition towards our leadership, our default position if you like, is one of joy. We feel joyful about what we do. We believe in what we are doing and we feel good about it, in the same way that we believe in ourselves and feel good about ourselves. Both of these things bring joy. If we are in touch with our joy and sense of goodness then we will naturally lead well, and we will want to bless and support those around us. We will give our gifts and our time freely and joyfully. If we’re enjoying what we do it will nourish and feed us and we will be less likely to get tired and burnt out. Our duties will feel less like ‘work’ and more like ‘life’.

Inflated and deflated Sovereign

So we can see that, if we’re carrying this Sovereign wound of ‘Not good enough’ then this will impact our ability to access our healthy Sovereign side. Instead we end up either inflating our Sovereign side – to try to PROVE how ‘good enough’ we are, or, alternatively, we deflate in our Sovereign qualities – giving up, and accepting a place if inferiority and the frustrations and hopelessness that go with this.
Typically those of us who inflate will be drawn to Leadership roles and those who deflate will become permanent (but often reluctant) followers.

The following are characteristics of the Inflated Sovereign: Going it alone. Risk taking. Shining for approval. Super hero. On fire, Blazing. Needs to be the biggest and the best or else they’re nothing. Performing for love. Giving everything to the cause. Not accepting support. Martyr – caring too much for those you lead and sacrificing yourself for them. Not resting or caring for yourself. Never taking a day off.

These people are working hard to disprove the belief they carry. They’re trying to prove to the world that they are good enough.

The following are characteristics of the Deflated Sovereign: Hopelessness. Lack of confidence. Resentment. Cynicism. No fire in the heart – ‘I can’t’, ‘It’s too hard’, ‘I’m tired’. A sense of betrayal. Wanting to criticise and bring down those in power (whilst not willing to step up and take power themselves)

These people are giving in to the belief that they carry and saying to the world, ‘You’re right, I’m really not good enough. I’m worth very little.’

This may look like two totally different sets of people, yet there is much less difference between the two categories than may first appear – they are bound together by the identical wound that they carry – a belief that they are simply not good enough. Indeed individuals may flip between these two places, between inflation and deflation. For example a person may be in a leadership role at work where they exhibit some of the inflated traits, but at home their partner leads, and they follow and exhibit some of the deflated traits.

What is missing here is support. As I said previously, we believe that poor leadership comes from wounding in the Sovereign archetype which is caused by not believing we are ‘good enough’. This belief comes from a lack of support, a lack of blessing which in turn leads to a lack of self esteem and self belief, and a deep lack of confidence.

This is a wound that many of us carry as individuals, and it is also a wound that is compounded and encouraged by the society that we live in. We are simply not given the message that we are good enough, just as we are. It starts when we are first born. I remember watching in shock as a friend’s mother told her young baby, who was crying for milk, ‘You’ll just have to wait till it’s feeding time. When you’re bringing in the money, then you’ll be able to dictate the routines of this household.’ This poor child (although clearly too young to understand this communication) will certainly not be growing up to believe he is worthy just for being him – that he will be loved and cared for no matter what. Only when he is bringing in the money will he have value, and only then will his needs be taken seriously. Many babies and children pick up a similar message, with parents not having the time to hold them or give them as much attention as they would like, but instead the child is praised for being ‘good’ or ‘quiet’ or for ‘helping’ or achieving in some way or for looking neat, or pretty. At school we are also required to perform if we wish to be approved of, and this is quite relentless throughout our childhood, with a constant requirement to improve on previous grades. There’s very little opportunity to reach a point where we are told we can rest – we are good enough. Advertising too tells us that if we want approval we need to work hard constantly – to have perfect bodies, skin, cars, houses, muscles, breasts and so on. We are not getting the message here that how we are is good enough – quite the opposite in fact. We’re being told we need to work hard and achieve or perform in order to be accepted and to be ok. To find a partner who will love us we need to starve ourselves or exercise relentlessly, or work hard to earn enough money to buy flashy cars or other paraphernalia. We need to go through prolonged beauty routines or have surgery, hair removal – the list is endless and the message is clear – for goodness sake don’t just be yourself – that’s just NOT ok. You’re not good enough just as you are. When people bring this wound in to their leadership they will find it hard to lead from an authentic place – to admit to their human limitations, to ask for guidance when they’re unsure, to ask for time off when they’re ill, to ask for support when they’re overwhelmed.

Equally, the People will not WANT their Leader to behave like this – to show any vulnerability. The People are, by and large, carrying the same Sovereign wound. They want their leader to be the one who, by some superhuman effort, achieves what they cannot – is able to reach perfection. They won’t want a leader who is like them – who has vulnerabilities, insecurities, indecisiveness, bad days etc. If they can’t stand these aspects of themselves and see them as failings, then they will not be able to tolerate a leader who is like this. They will be looking for the ‘missing’ parts of themselves in their leader, and they will demand perfection, strength, authority etc. But this is not possible. Everyone makes mistakes, even the strongest person has moments of weakness and the most authoritative person has moments of indecision.

So the dynamic is set, with both the Leader and the People buying in to a situation where the Leader is required to be superhuman. This, (being clearly impossible as he/she is human!) requires the Leader to hide certain aspects of themselves, their weakness, vulnerability, sickness etc, and so they are forced to to put these aspects in to shadow. It also requires the ‘followers’ to hide their gifts and strengths, so that they can be led, (and because they mustn’t step in and help out their leader, that wouldn’t be playing the game!) Hiding their gifts and strengths also ensures that they themselves will never run the risk of being put up in that place of impossible demands. The People expect impossible things of leaders and then sit back and watch as the cracks begin to show. They are quick to judge a leader who is failing and they struggle to see their leaders as human beings. The Leaders will often happily buy into these projections rather than questioning them, they will work hard to live up to perfection and super human requirements as this is their way of trying to show the world they are good enough.

What happens if we’re not leading from Sovereign?

If we can’t rest in our true sovereignty and authority then we will resort to using contorted versions of the other archetypes in order to push through our leadership role. I’ll describe what this might look like by going through each of the other archetypes in turn, starting with the Lover:

Healthy Lover – Our Lover is the part of us that feels, it connects us with what is going on
inside. This part connects us deeply to others and allows us to be intimate.
This is the spontaneous, creative, dreaming side of us that enjoys
nature, play and sensuality. Our child-like qualities
lie here, along with our vulnerability.
Deep wound ‘I don’t love right’
Gateway Emotion – Grief

If we do not have strong healthy Sovereign energy we may inflate our Lover side and try to lead from this place. This is especially likely if we carry the lover wound – a belief that we are not lovable, or that we do not love right. We may try to be intimate with those we lead and get our connection needs met from them. Examples of this might be a boss having affair with an employee, a teacher having a relationship with a student or a Parent sexually abusing a child. We may try to be ‘friends with everyone’ or to be liked by everyone. We may not be able to set boundaries or to be the adult. We may suffer from a lack of critical thinking. We may not be able to access the gravitas that is required for the role.
This isn’t because there is anything ‘wrong’ or ‘inappropriate’ about our Lover side, it is simply that this is not the side of ourselves that healthy leadership naturally comes from. We may certainly use some of our lover skills – of dreaming, creativity and an ability to connect deeply – in parts of our leadership, but this isn’t the appropriate place to be coming from the majority of the time. It works better to get our Lover needs met elsewhere in our life and this in turn will help us to feel more complete and whole and will enable us to lead from a more joyful place.

Healthy Warrior – Our Warrior is the part of us that can bring about change in our lives
and can step out and take action in the world. It is responsible for setting
our boundaries and saying ‘No’ and ‘Stop’. The warrior has integrity
and courage and speaks the truth. Our Warrior protects us,
and those more vulnerable than ourselves.
Deep Wound ‘I don’t exist’
Gateway Emotion – Anger

If we don’t have sufficient Sovereign energy another option is to inflate our Warrior to help us lead. This will result in us leading from a bullying place: Authoritarian. Not listening. Not being flexible. Stonewalling and not listening. A confrontational challenging manner. Forcing ideas through. Shouting and fist beating. We’ve seen this style of leadership many times in films – abusing those you’re meant to be supporting and leading.
We’re more likely to resort to this kind of Leadership if we carry the Warrior wound – not really believing we exist, or we are real. If we carry this wound we will want to be taken notice of – needing to prove that we exist. It will be hard for us if people disagree with us or question our leadership or our decisions. We will be over forceful to try to avoid our fear of being invisible.
Again, there is nothing wrong with our warrior side, indeed, we will undoubtedly need to call on our healthy Warrior sides at times during our Leadership. However it is not the correct place for our leadership to be coming from. It is something we want to be able to call in when necessary. We sometimes liken this to an imaginary Queendom with the Queen and her military. The Queen needs to call on the military from time to time, and they provide an essential role, but the Queen is the leader and firmly in control. She is the one with the authority. The Military carry out her will – but they are not running the show.

Healthy Magician – Our magician is the part of us that can step back and see things from
many different points of view. Our magician can help us to re-frame situations and
see things differently. This side of us is responsible for assessing risks and
keeping us safe. Our intellect lies here, along with our ability to
transform our understanding of ourselves and the world.
Deep Wound ‘I’m bad or wrong’
Gateway Emotion – Fear

Another alternative if we don’t have sufficient Sovereign energy, is to rely instead on our Magician, inflating this side of ourselves in order to help us lead. In this case our leadership may be: Manipulative. Threatening. Paranoid. Underhand. A reign of fear. No one trusts you. Turning people in the organisation against each other. A lot is unspoken. Deliberately unclear and confusing communication. Smoke and mirrors.
We are particularly likely to rely on this kind of Leadership if we carry the wound of believing we are bad. If we have come to believe there is something fundamentally bad or wrong about us then we will find it very hard to be straightforward and clear. We will always be trying to hide our ‘badness’ in lies, threats, underhand behaviour – anything so as not to be exposed and seen for what we believe we really are. Many politicians are a good example of this type of Leadership, with the practice of ‘Spin’ being a perfect example of using Magician skills to deliberately obscure the truth.
If we’re Leading in this way we are Leading From fear. We are driven by fear rather than feeling our fear. Of course there are things to fear – we may do something that makes us look foolish, others may be better than us and usurp us, we may fail, we may make terrible mistakes and so on… But we need to face this fear and somehow make friends with it rather than avoiding feeling it and being driven by desperately trying to avoid these scenarios. This is what is meant when we say fear is the gateway emotion to our Magician side. We need to be prepared to feel our fear if we are to have healthy Magician qualities. If we are not able to feel our fear then our Magician will come out in the damaging ways described above.

I love the quote by Margaret Mitchell

‘Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realise what a burden it was.’

Fear of losing a reputation is a big corruptor of genuine leadership. We need to be comfortable with our own fallibility if we are not to fall prey to these fears. We need to know how to ask for help when we’re out of our depth. Everything in life changes and we need to be able to embrace this and face the inevitable changes in our role.

‘Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.’ Anais Nin

Balance and Paradox in Leadership

In our close animal ancestors we see the behaviours of ranking – of each animal having a specific place in the herd or group, and of leading – where one animal leads the group during a particular period. We also see the Alpha female and Alpha male phenomenon where a particular animal will be given a ‘top’ position. In Shadow Work we believe that we, as humans, still carry these instincts to rank ourselves with respect to others, to want to be the leader, or to want to shine, to be the big one. We also carry the parallel instinct of wanting to follow, to be small, not to have responsibility. These are the animal instincts that we associate with the Sovereign archetype. We believe it’s important to recognise and understand the animal instincts that we carry as humans rather than denying them. Many of us feel shame about the part of us that wants to shine, that wants to be the biggest and the best. Similarly many of us carry shame around our wish to follow, not to have to think or take charge, but to rest in someone else doing that for us. However the idea of some kind of hierarchy, with people holding different positions, seems to be part of our nature, just as we see it in nature. Rather than rejecting these sides of ourselves it’s better if we get to know them. If we acknowledge and get to know know these instincts in us then we are not unduly influenced by them, but can embrace the positive qualities and let go of aspects that don’t serve us.

So it seems we carry a natural instinct to either follow, or to lead, and it seems things work better for us when we have a chance to experience both of these sides of ourselves. We are then in touch with our full humanity. We need to have times and places where we lead, and times and places where we follow. If we fix in to only one of these positions then we are repressing a part of ourselves, and this leads to shadowy behaviour. Those who are fixed in an ‘always leading’ position develop behaviours such as overconfidence, arrogance, overworking and not listening to or trusting others. This is because they never getting a chance to be a follower, to learn from another and to rest in another. Those fixed in a following position develop behaviours such as shyness, lack of confidence, not speaking up, resentment, bitterness and backstabbing, because they never get the chance to shine and to own their own power.

So if we are in a leadership role it is important that we find times and places where we follow, to keep the balance of humanity in ourselves. Interestingly there are two other Leadership qualities that also have this two sidedness to them, and require us to have a balance of each. The first of these is listening and speaking. Listening and speaking are two sides of leadership. Two sides of the same coin. An effective leader needs to listen as much as they speak. Their speech – their word – only has authority when it carries the wisdom that comes from listening carefully to all the People, and to any external advice that is relevant. The second two sided quality is the giving and receiving of support. Leaders are only true leaders if they are blessed and supported by the People. They are also only true leaders if they are able to bless and support the People in return, rather than using, abusing, bullying, coercing, belittling or ignoring them.

The paradox here is that to be a good leader we need to know how to follow, we need to know how to listen and we need to know how to receive support – these are as much an intrinsic part of leadership as are leading, speaking and guiding and supporting others.

So this gives us three simple ways to do a health check on our leadership –

is there a balance of supporting and being supported?
is there a balance of listening and speaking?
is there a balance of leading and following?

The beginnings of change

There are obviously shifts that need to be made on a societal/social level to bring about the changes needed in our leadership. However on an individual level we can start by getting in touch with the part of us that knows we are good enough just as we are, and there is no need for pretence, hiding, manipulation, bullying, or any of the other potential shadow behaviours we may express in our leadership. This can often involve first getting to know the part of us that believes we’re NOT good enough. The part that may be harshly critical or shaming or simply hopeless feeling. If we get to know and befriend this part – bringing it out of the shadows, then we will have a better chance of believing in our goodness and beginning to lead in an authentic way. Another important step towards believing in our goodness is receiving support and blessing from others – having people around us who reflect back to us our innate goodness, who believe in us no matter what and will stand by us. A good first step in this direction is to find a mentor, supervisor, counsellor or therapist who is seen on a regular basis. If we can get the support we need in order to believe we are good enough then everything in our leadership will begin to change. This, in turn, will affect those we lead and everyone else whose life we touch, as they experience us acting from a place of self worth, authenticity and true confidence. This is a radical act in a society where we have been taught from birth to believe that we are not good enough.



Archetype Links:

The Sovereign talk –

Magician talk –

Lover talk –

Warrior talk –

Shadow Work information:


What We Learned At Boarding School


Yes, that’s the key word,
the most awful word in the
English tongue. Murder doesn’t
hold a candle to it and hell is
only a poor synonym.
~Stephen King~


There are as many different experiences of boarding school as there are ex-boarders, and experiences will vary enormously depending on the nature of the school, the family the child comes from, the child’s personality and the age at which they started boarding school. There is a whole range of individual factors which, of course, make each person’s experience unique. In this piece I explore the strategies that many children use to help them cope during their boarding school days, and I describe the possible shadows that may result. Please bear in mind when reading that some children find ways of coping that are different to those described here. Whilst some children may seem to thrive at boarding school most, if not all, find that the survival strategies they develop there limit them or cause them difficulties later in their life. If you yourself attended boarding school you might find that some of what’s written here resonates with you. However please remember that your own experience is always more relevant than ‘theory’ – which is at best a helpful map of the territory, and at worst inaccurate and unhelpful. As Carl Jung himself said – ‘Learn your theories well, but put them aside when you confront the mystery of the living soul.’

So firstly, what is ‘The Shadow’?

Shadows are formed when we cut off, repress or deny any part of ourselves. We all form shadows during our childhoods, they are an essential part of adapting to the world in which we find ourselves. For example, if our parents tell us it is wrong to get angry, then we may take our anger and hide it away in order to gain their approval and love. We may try to convince ourselves that we don’t have anger, it is not a part of us. This decision will help us to survive our childhood in the best way possible. So Shadows are formed as we react with entirely appropriate, sometimes lifesaving responses to the situations in which we find ourselves. They are the absolute best decisions that we could make at the time and they allow us to survive (and even enjoy) what might otherwise be intolerable.

However, as we reach adulthood and are freed from the constraints of our childhood, we find that the decisions which helped us when we were younger can start to hold us back in later life.
If we continue with the above example where a child has put their anger in to shadow, it’s important to understand that it is not the anger itself that forms the shadow. Anger is an entirely natural and necessary part of us. Anger helps to let us know when we are being treated badly or when our boundaries are crossed, and it gives us the energy to take action and stand up for ourselves and to protect those we love. It is not anger that is the shadow here. It is actually losing touch with our anger that is the problem, and it is the behaviours we employ in order to keep our anger hidden that form the shadow. These behaviours will have worked well for us throughout our childhood, but they may start to adversely affect us in adult life. We may not be able to fully experience and enjoy life because of the parts of ourselves we are denying. For example, if we’re denying our anger we may find that we’re not able to stand up for ourselves in adulthood, that others are constantly ‘walking all over us’ because we don’t know how to set our boundaries effectively. We may then find ourselves erupting in rage at some point because we’ve ‘had enough’. This kind of explosive anger can adversely affect our relationships. Alternatively we may use passive aggressive, controlling or manipulative behaviours to get our way and the people around us may find this difficult. Either way we’re likely to run into problems because we don’t have access to our clean, healthy anger.

If we have put something into shadow in this way then we may reach a point in adulthood when we want to re-claim this side of ourselves in order that we can live a happier and more fulfilling life. We can see, with the above example of anger, that re-claiming healthy anger would mean we’d be able to set our boundaries more clearly and respectfully and stand up for ourselves with strength and dignity. This would lead to healthier relationships with others and ultimately we would feel better about the kind of person we are. Re-claiming an aspect of ourselves after having had it in shadow for so long is no small task. This is what Shadow Work is about, and there is a wealth of information on this subject in the links at the end of this piece.

So Why look at the boarding School experience in terms of the Shadow?

The idea of the shadow tends to speak strongly to ex-boarders as they have often been left with a sense of having split off large parts of themselves in order to survive and to get along in boarding school life. The Shadow Work model offers a framework for understanding what happens when we split off a part of ourselves, and the Shadow Work processes offer the opportunity to re-claim these lost parts of the whole. For these reasons the idea of the shadow can be particularly helpful for ex-boarders as a way of making sense of their experience and providing possible ways forward.

The Child’s Experience

Below I describe some possible shadows that can arise from the boarding experience. These are organised according to the four archetypes that we work with in Shadow Work – The Magician, The Lover, The Warrior and The Sovereign. We believe that we need access to the qualities of all of these four archetypes if we are to live life fully. A summary of each archetype is given before the relevant sections. You don’t need to know anything more about these archetypes in order to go ahead and read the article, but it may be helpful for you to have an explanation around what is meant by the ‘Gateway Emotion’ that’s listed at the end of each summary. The Gateway Emotion is the emotion that we need to be willing to feel if we’re to have access to all the qualities that this particular archetype has to offer. If we don’t have access to this emotion we won’t be able to fully live this side of ourselves. If you’re interested in exploring the archetypes further there are links at the end of this piece that will take you to a 12/15 minute talk about each one.


Magician – Our magician is the part of us that can step back and see things from many
different points of view. Our magician can help us to re-frame situations and
see things differently. This side of us is responsible for assessing risks and
keeping us safe. Our intellect lies here, along with our ability to
transform our understanding of ourselves and the world.
Gateway Emotion – Fear

Children who are sent to boarding school face a unique situation. In the first instance they are to be separated from their parents for long periods of time. Most children instinctively see this as a ‘bad’ thing to have happen. In fact for many young children it is quite beyond their comprehension, and boarders often find that the reality of their situation only really sinks in as they watch their parents walking away, or driving out of the gate. For others it’s only after several days or even weeks that they finally realise their parents are not coming back.

Being left with strangers, for what may seem like forever, a child might panic,… scream,… fight to get back to their parents. Their worst nightmare is happening. For a young child this can feel like the loss of life itself – loss of the life giving connection that their parents have always provided. However, a child left at boarding school rarely displays such heart-wrenching emotion. Their feelings, if expressed at all, are much more muted. They are likely to be struggling with a very particular dilemma…

The dilemma

A child being sent to boarding school is generally told by those around them that this is a ‘good’ thing – that they are lucky, privileged, and will have a great time. This can be confusing if their natural response is to want their parents, and being sent away seems to them like a ‘bad’ thing. So, children in this situation face a dilemma that goes something like this:

1) Have my parents done something bad or cruel in sending me away?

2) Or are am I bad or wrong in some way for not appreciating this experience?

Each child will have their own version of this conundrum, as their minds try to make sense of what’s happening. As adults of course, we can appreciate that the question is not so simple. But a child who is struggling to make sense of the key question ‘If they loved me, why did they send me away?’ will almost always explain this by choosing some version of option 2 above. They start to believe there is something wrong with them.
They may decide they are innately bad or faulty for not being able to enjoy their boarding school life, or they may think that being unhappy demonstrates weakness or betrayal on their part. Alternatively they might start to believe that they did something bad at home, and this justifies their parents sending them away.

But why would a child choose to believe that they are bad? If this happens it is usually an unconscious decision that is made because the other option, thinking that their parents and teachers are inflicting this misery on them deliberately, is too terrifying. The child cannot afford to believe that what is happening is beyond their control, this thought can lead to hopelessness and emotional breakdown.
However, by believing that they themselves are bad they gain some control over their situation. It means it is their fault. This empowers them, and offers a way forward. The child can now take control. They can take control of themselves, and work to eradicate or hide their badness, in the hope that if they succeed then their life will be better. The child may do this so effectively – by being kind, helpful, placid or whatever – that they forget that they are only being ‘good’ in order to hide the ‘bad’ parts of themselves, they begin to think that this is just the way they are. The child’s personality becomes associated with wearing masks such as these, and they begin to lose touch with who they really are.
Another possibility is that the child may decide to embrace their ‘badness’ and use it for their own ends, taking part in underhand, manipulative or bullying behaviours. The sense of control that this provides helps to make their boarding experience less terrifying, but this is no more their true nature than is the ‘goodness’ of the placid child.
So, either way the child begins to act strategically, hiding who they really are and what they really want. They present themselves in ways that will keep them safe, hide their ‘badness’ and unobtrusively gain them advantage in some way. The child develops a false self in order to survive.

What goes in to shadow here is the child’s trust in their

own innate goodness.


Lover– Our Lover is the part of us that feels, it connects us with what is going on
inside. This part connects us deeply to others and allows us to be intimate.
This is the spontaneous, creative, dreaming side of us that enjoys
nature, play and sensuality. Our child-like qualities
lie here, along with our vulnerability.
Gateway Emotion – Grief

At boarding school there is no one to love and care for the child in the same way there was at home. To survive this a child may take their hopes for love, care and attention and put them away in to Shadow, working hard to conceal these traits. They hide them from others, but they may also hide them from themselves. It’s important that they don’t feel the pain of these unmet needs, and that they don’t make themselves vulnerable to those who might take advantage of such innocent qualities. It’s a really wise decision to hide these needs when there is no one there who can care for them in the same wholehearted way that a parent can.

Yet these needs for love, care and attention are such fundamental parts of us that hiding them is incredibly hard work and takes a huge amount of energy. The child who attempts this will have to police themselves rigorously if they’re to be sure that these sides of themselves don’t show. It is no longer safe to act spontaneously – everything the child does or says needs to go through a filter to check that it is ‘acceptable’. They are likely to convince themselves that their need for care is weak or wrong, so even thoughts such as ‘I miss my mummy’ or ‘I want to go home’ are not allowed. It’s as if they develop their own internal ‘thought police’ to help them to ‘be good’.

Remember, the choice to put something in to Shadow is rarely conscious, it is more often an involuntary decision. This means that the child can come to really believe that they don’t need care, attention, holding and love. Even in this situation they may not be able to control themselves completely. Their body may betray the depth of grief and loss they are experiencing: through bedwetting, night terrors, stomachaches or sickness.

What goes in to shadow here is the child’s need for love, care and attention.


Warrior– Our Warrior is the part of us that can bring about change in our lives
and can step out and take action in the world. It is responsible for setting
our boundaries and saying ‘No’ and ‘Stop’. The warrior has integrity
and courage and speaks the truth. Our Warrior protects us,
and those more vulnerable than ourselves.
Gateway Emotion – Anger

The child who is unhappy at boarding school may face another powerful emotion – Rage. Rage is a natural reaction to abandonment. However, a child who already believes they are bad is unlikely to take the risk of expressing such anger for fear of disapproval. They are more likely to try to keep it out of sight and to pretend that it doesn’t exist… another Shadow begins to take form.
Without access to their anger a child can loose touch with their ability to speak up for themselves and to say when things aren’t right. Learning to hide their anger actually helps the child to survive life at school. It is pointless trying to set your boundaries and to be treated as an individual in an institution which is managing and organising so many people at once. The school is not realistically able to take into account what is right for each and every child.
Some children report anger at the strong sense of imprisonment they experience during their time at boarding school, but this anger is futile as it can’t help them escape. The school and their parents are too powerful. A very small number of children do make an escape attempt, but clearly they are too young and vulnerable to survive safely on their own and are almost always ‘caught’ by well meaning adults and returned immediately. The resultant sense of helplessness these children feel compounds their belief that they have no power over their own lives.
Without a parent looking out for them and fighting their corner at school a child is potentially open to abuse, either from other children or their teachers. They instinctively know their anger will be ineffective in such situations, where they are smaller and less powerful than those around them. This means that usually they will submit to any abuse they experience, quite often explaining it away by telling themselves that somehow they deserved it.
So most boarders decide that expressing anger directly will not help them. Instead they’re likely to try to hide under the radar or use strategic or manipulative behaviour to keep themselves safe.

What goes in to shadow here is the child’s anger.


Sovereign – Our Sovereign is our inner Queen or King. The loving parent inside who
guides and blesses us as we travel through life. This is the heart that cares.
Our Sovereign holds the vision for our life, it is the part of us
that knows what we really want, and will encourage and
support us as we work to make our plans a reality.
Gateway Emotion – Joy

Another significant difference between school and home life is the focus on achievement. At school a child is constantly being required to ‘perform’ in some way. Yet the goalposts are endlessly changing, so the satisfaction of arriving at a destination is rarely experienced. You win the county championships and you start preparing for the nationals, you get 90% in an exam and are asked what happened to the other 10%. You come top of your class and immediately get moved up to a higher set. If the child does experience success it is usually short lived, and very soon a new, harder challenge is presented. Compared to home there is little space available in most schools for unstructured play or daydreaming. If a child does have free time they are unlikely to dream or play freely in the way they might at home, these activities require a deep sense of safety and holding that the school environment can’t provide. During free time a child is more likely to be anxious and fearful and to either ‘close down’ or to feel intense emotional distress at their sense of aloneness. For this reason most children willingly choose to engage in more structured ‘achievement based’ activities when provided, and these become part of the culture of the school.
This emphasis on achievement can lead some children to believe they are not good enough just as they are. They are only good enough if they are achieving or performing in some way. Without the daily reassurance from parents who simply ‘love them anyway’ this shadow can run wild. The child over performs in a desperate attempt to find approval and some sense of being loved.

Such a high level of performance can bring much praise and recognition – they may become a powerful and successful sportsperson, a talented musician, a gifted linguist, scientist, mathematician, speaker, or actor. The young person may get a huge amount of pleasure from the skills and talents they develop and leave school with a long list of achievements that will set them up well for ‘getting ahead’ in later life. Their skill can be formidable. However, being valued only for our achievements can ultimately lead to a low sense of self worth. If the child then fails at some point, or doesn’t come up to scratch, they can believe they no longer have any value at all. Even if they’re ‘performing’ well, the underlying message the child receives is that they are only loved because of their performance. Over time even the successful child may start to fear that, without their achievements, they are worth very little.

What goes in to shadow here is the child’s sense of self worth and their belief that they are loveable just as they are.


The Adult’s Experience

Children who have had experiences at boarding school similar to the ones described above may go on to struggle in certain ways in adult life, where their adaptive behaviours may be restricting and painful for them and those around them. Below I describe how the shadows formed in each archetype might manifest as the child moves in to adulthood, and I suggest some first steps that can be taken to change limiting or unhelpful patterns of behaviour.


Magician – Our magician is the part of us that can step back and see things from many
different points of view. Our magician can help us to re-frame situations and
see things differently. This side of us is responsible for assessing risks and
keeping us safe. Our intellect lies here, along with our ability to
transform our understanding of ourselves and the world.
Gateway Emotion – Fear

The creation of a false self in childhood can leave us with a sense of not being fully present in our adult life, struggling to feel engaged, and not really enjoying what’s going on. It’s as if we’re living from the head, rather than the heart. We may have totally lost touch with what we really think, feel or want because these parts have been hidden away for so long – everything we do is still filtered to check that it doesn’t give away our ‘badness’.
If as a child we believed we were ‘bad’ in some way then we can come to fear this badness in ourselves as adults, and what might happen if it were ever to leak out. We may engage less and less in life so as to lower the risk of exposing ourselves or harming others. Alternatively we may endlessly strive for perfection – still trying to prove to ourselves and others that we are ‘good’. Unfortunately, rather than being well received this perfectionism can seem cold to those around us and somewhat lacking in humanity.
Another way that we might try to hide our real selves is to live some kind of double life – a situation in which many ex boarders find themselves. It’s easier to hide unwanted sides of ourselves if life is compartmentalised in some way.
Finally, if we come to have our own children we may find it hard to be around their natural noise, exuberance and messiness. We are so used to keeping ourselves in check that this seems wrong. Consequently, we may decide to send them off to boarding school to help them ‘grow up’ and learn to control these child sides of themselves.

Future steps…
If we are to really begin inhabiting our lives again then at some point we’ll need to take the risk of turning and facing the sides of ourselves we fear. We’ll need a chance to explore whatever we believe is bad, wrong or faulty within us. Only in moving towards this can we come to know and accept ourselves, and ultimately to re-discover our own innate goodness.


Lover– Our Lover is the part of us that feels, it connects us with what is going on
inside. This part connects us deeply to others and allows us to be intimate.
This is the spontaneous, creative, dreaming side of us that enjoys
nature, play and sensuality. Our child-like qualities
lie here, along with our vulnerability.
Gateway Emotion – Grief

If we’re denying our vulnerability and our need for care and attention then we will have a difficult time forming intimate relationships in adult life. When we are hiding so much of ourselves it’s hard for other people to feel close to us as relationships require a deep sharing of who we are, including our frailties and insecurities.
We may be told we act coldly towards others who want our affection. This is because we act coldly towards ourselves. We’ve never allowed these needs for love to be met in us, so we can’t possibly meet them in others. We want to squash down their feelings in the same way we’ve squashed down our own – we might belittle people around us who are sensitive or ask for support or we may shame people who enjoy sensuality and self nurture, or those who express their emotions openly – these behaviours seem distasteful to us. The truth is it’s too dangerous for us to enter this territory, as allowing any such feelings in others could open the doorway to our own unresolved grief and un-met needs.

However hard we try to repress our shadows they usually manage to find a way out one way or another. If we’ve put our need for physical connection and intimacy in to Shadow it may come out in unhelpful or inappropriate ways. Some of us become addicted to alcohol, food or drugs in an attempt to fill these hidden needs in a way that doesn’t make us vulnerable to those around us. Others may become addicted to sex, or to pornography or prostitutes. Asking for intimacy or affection can just seem too risky. Since we have come to believe this part of us is bad we will find it hard to ask directly for the connection we want, and looking for love may feel shameful in some way.

During our time at boarding school we may also have put away the desire for a permanent home. We may feel more comfortable with some kind of double life, similar to that at school, where we had a home life and a school life, an internal life and an external life. So we may travel away from home much of the time, have affairs, or find ourselves equally attached to two different places. We may constantly move around, never finding a place that we can really call home.

Future steps…
If we want to find deep intimacy and a sense of home in our lives then at some point we will need to explore our grief. If we can find a way to connect with the sense of sorrow and loss we experienced as a child it will bring us in touch with ourselves in a softer way, where we no longer fear our vulnerability and our need for connection. We will be able to take the risk of connecting now because we have learned that we can live through the feelings of loss that are an inevitable result of deep connection – they may certainly seem overwhelming for a while, but, as adults, they will not destroy us.


Warrior– Our Warrior is the part of us that can bring about change in our lives
and can step out and take action in the world. It is responsible for setting
our boundaries and saying ‘No’ and ‘Stop’. The warrior has integrity
and courage and speaks the truth. Our Warrior protects us
and those more vulnerable than ourselves.
Gateway Emotion – Anger

Setting clear boundaries and standing up for ourselves will be hard if our anger is in Shadow – as adults saying a clear ‘No’ to what we don’t want is unlikely to come easily. We may find we get very angry about certain things in our lives, but are unable to express this outwardly, perhaps relying on passive aggressive behaviours to get our way. Alternatively we might try to manipulate or control those around us so that we never need to face conflict directly. Unfortunately other people can find these behaviours very difficult, and their negative reactions may reinforce the (incorrect) message that we took on as a child – that we are bad. Receiving this message will further emphasise the need to hide our true selves, and in this way our Shadows can become more entrenched as we move through life, rather than loosening their grip.
Another way that Shadows can show up in adult life is when part of us leaks out ‘by accident’. If we have our anger in Shadow then we’ll be working very hard to keep it under wraps, but we’re unlikely to succeed 100% of the time. People may tell us we ‘look angry’ even if we’re not consciously aware of feeling angry at the time. Worse, our anger may burst out in inappropriate or even violent ways that may feel out of our control. Later we can bitterly regret having behaved in this way, judging ourselves yet again as ‘bad’.

Future steps….
The truth is simply that we have a backlog of natural anger that’s had nowhere to go. It has been bottled up for a very long time because it couldn’t be expressed when it was first felt many years previously. Everyone gets angry. Our journey here involves learning to trust our anger and to understand what we’re really angry about. We need a safe place to express the anger and pain we felt as a child. As a result we’ll be able to listen respectfully now to our anger when it comes up in everyday life, and use it as a warning sign that something is wrong for us. We’ll then be able to take the appropriate action, and stand up for ourselves in a mature and measured way.


Sovereign– Our Sovereign is our inner Queen or King. The loving parent inside who
guides and blesses us as we travel through life. This is the heart that cares.
Our Sovereign holds the vision for our life, it is the part of us
that knows what we really want, and will encourage and
support us as we work to make our plans a reality.
Gateway Emotion – Joy

If we’re taught that our value lies only in our achievements, we never learn to really believe in ourselves. As adults we will still be busy performing for approval, rather than following our own callings and creating the life we want.
We may find that we continually do well and receive high acclaim, yet deep down this still doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves. So we’re likely to look for the next, even bigger hurdle to overcome – if we achieve this then we’ll know we’re really good enough! – But this moment never comes, and the cycle continues. Such a pattern can lead to exhaustion and burn out, or, at best, to a gradual deadening of our enthusiasm for life, and a bewilderment at why we’re compelled to always be so ‘busy’.
Alternatively, once we leave school we may give up on the idea of achieving anything at all, deciding that life is just too hard. Without the joy of feeling loved just as we are we may not have the energy to keep trying. What’s the point? – whatever we do it will never be good enough. It’s as if our fire has completely gone out.
Another way to seek approval can be by caring compulsively for others, giving them some of the love and attention that we ourselves crave. This certainly gains us approval, but rarely works in the long term as our resentment builds, and others start to take the kindness we’re showing for granted. We can end up feeling less cared for than ever if we live our life in this way.

If we don’t come to understand this shadow in ourselves we may unwittingly pass it on to our own children, finding it hard to give them the unconditional love they need. We can end up treating them in the same way we treat ourselves – showing love only when they perform or please.

Future steps…
How can such deeply engrained patterns be changed? One way or another, at some point we’ll need to take the risk of being seen just as ourselves – without the cloak of our external acts. This is the only way we will discover that we are good enough just as we are, and worthy of love even when we fail or seem to have nothing to offer.

In Summary

This article has explored how the boarding school experience can cause children to hide away certain sides of themselves in order to survive, resulting in the formation of particular shadows. We all carry shadows, whatever our schooling and childhood experiences. Some shadows cause us little or no difficulty as we travel through life and some will undoubtedly help us to navigate the world more effectively – there will always be situations where it’s wise to keep parts of ourselves hidden and to control other sides of ourselves – this is essential if we’re to be part of society and to get along with others. However, if we reach a point in our life where a particular shadow is limiting us in ways we find intolerable, or is causing pain to us and those around us, then we may choose to explore further, and to take the risk of getting to know this part of us that’s been hidden away for so long.
Although some suggestions have been given above as to starting points for such an exploration, this work, if it is to be effective, will be highly individual and will involve a careful unpicking of exactly what went in to shadow and how this happened. Once this is understood we can begin to re-inhabit these shadow sides and reclaim the helpful aspects that we have been missing. Undertaking such an exploration is no small task and most people will require a great deal of support as they navigate this difficult territory. It will most likely be a life’s work – but the journey itself can be rich and rewarding as we start to feel more at home and comfortable in ourselves, and begin to inhabit our lives more fully.

Further information.

The Archetypes:

Magician talk –

Lover talk –

Warrior talk –

The Sovereign talk –

Shadow Work:

An Introduction to Shadow Work – a series of videos

Marianne’s Website

Boarding school information and support:

The Making of them – documentary

Leaving home at 8 – Documentary

The Making Of Them – Nick Duffel

Wounded Leaders – Nick Duffel

Boarding School Syndrome – Joy Schaverien

Boarding school survivors website

Boarding concern website