When I’m explore the shadow with a client I speak to the many different parts of that person that make up the whole. We all have many different parts, each with different points 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. We can think of these parts of us as ‘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 of the shadow. 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.
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The Predator is associated with the Magician Archetype in Shadow Work. To watch a talk about the Magician Archetype follow this link: