When I’m exploring the shadow with my clients I speak to the many different parts of them that make up the whole person. Here I’d like to introduce you to a particularly unsettling type of part that I come across in my work – a type if internal ‘shadow predator’.
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 energy and emotion.
Everyone is different and all their parts are unique and have their own flavour and character. In Healing The Shadow one of the aims of our work is to get all of these different parts working together. They are all of value in some way and a necessary part of the whole. 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…., sometimes when we’re doing this work we come across a part of us that seems to be completely destructive. It doesn’t want to work towards any goal, or to contribute in any way to our life.
This part 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 ‘shadow predator’ parts. They seem to stalk us and want to destroy us. Sometimes they want to stalk and destroy others too. 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.
Because I come across this type of part so often with my clients I give it a special name: The Persecutor.
The Qualities Of The Persecutor
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 Persecutor 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 of them, and some people experience it as an urge to lash out and attack others. 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.
This voice can be very cruel to a small vulnerable part of us, preying on our weakness, and 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 of it 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 the Persecutor. 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. Our instinct is to hide such parts of ourselves, but 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 comes bursting out anyway – even stronger than it was before and even more destructive. It’s a bit like trying to hold a beachball under water. And 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 – because surely that will just give it more power and more of a hold over us…… So what can we do?
Embracing The Persecutor
So, 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 having the desired effect of getting rid of them. If we send a part into our unconscious we have no control over it at all, and it can then cause even more havoc, running the show from behind the scenes.
In Healing The Shadow we believe 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 can 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 back the power that it holds.
We can take back control by fully owning this as a part of us and starting to get to know and understand it. Once we’ve built a relationship with this part we can then harness its power and begin to use this energy in effective rather than destructive ways.
For further information about Healing The Shadow, including details of group workshops, 1-2-1 sessions and couple’s work visit Marianne’s Website
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The Persecutor is associated with the Transformer archetype in shadow work. This archetype was traditionally known as the Magician and you are welcome to choose whichever name fits best for you. To watch a talk about the Transformer archetype follow this link:
The Transformer Archetype (Traditionally known as the Magician.)