On the 21st December 2012 I made a decision to heal myself. I was 36 at the time with a lifetime of insecurities, resentment, blame, low self esteem, complexes, fears, anxieties and poor childhood unconsciously still having an effect on my day to day life, I was desperate for change. I began researching and experimenting with various methods of healing, new age philosophy, creative visualisation and meditation. I also became very interested in alternative research and among others I began to follow the work of Michael Tsarion, whose extensive work on psychology and philosophy fired my thirst for understanding.
"In order to heal yourself you have to do it yourself and not look for a guru to do it for you." Michael Tsarion
Early in 2014 I had a dream in which the symbolism was so impressive in its connection to a book and documentary I had seen on Carl Jung, it led me to take a course in Carl Jung Psychology with art therapy. This is where my Shadow work journey began. Using Jungian philosophy and methods I began my personal journey of healing and getting to know the Self through a confrontation with the Unconscious which was expressed through art making, journaling, dream interpretation and active imagination meditation.
I hadn't made any artwork for over 20 years but found through art making I was able to express what was unspeakable within me. I also discovered a dormant talent for art making that isn't important for self expression but has been useful in showing others my journey.
"You must step into the fantasy yourself and compel the figures to give you an answer" Carl Jung
The artwork I have made is full of symbols from dreams, visions, thoughts and personal content expressed symbolically in my own way. Using Carl Jung's active imagination technique meant meditating with my art work and being open to what came to mind. By connecting the symbols in my dreams and artwork with archetypes, religion and world mythology I was able to get a deeper understanding of these 'messages from the unconscious', that seemed to be trying to tell me something I didn't consciously know about myself through an ancient language of collective symbols. Here are the first few drawings shown in date order, with a sentence taken from the active imagination meditation which alludes to the meaning of the image.
1. Anima/Animus - "Forget what you think you are, this is what you are".
2. Woman with a beak - "How could you speak if you had a beak"?
3. Animus - "Your words make a mockery of truth".
4. Ancestral Memories of the Great Mother - "Nurture me, devour me, I always cling to you".
5. The Owl - Turn away while I deceive you
6. "The Guide who guards the gates of heaven asks, are you worthy yet"?
"There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become conscious by imagining figures of light, but by making the unconscious conscious". Carl Jung
After making over 30 of these black pen drawings, books full of journaling, hours of active imagination, contemplation, dream interpretation and research into collective, religious, mythological and word associations, I came to what Jung describes as 'tension of opposites'. My thoughts, perceptions and actions were so at odds with each other and I realised I thought of myself as a victim of circumstances and that I blamed others around me. Allowing and expressing painful emotions was key to learning from and releasing negative thought patterns about myself, my situation and others around me, Another important aspect of my shadow work was differentiating between my own views, ideas and ideals and what family, friends, school, media, society and culture had taught me to think these things are. Finding my own moral compass and accepting my Self as an individual gave me a new strength and perspective that cannot be shattered and that also brought me back home to myself. Around this time I had this quote in mind:
"What if I should find that the poorest of beggars, the most impudent of offenders are within me, and that I stand in the need of the alms of my own kindness; that I am the enemy that must be loved? What then?" Carl Jung
This quote brought home to me the realisation that I was unknowingly guilty of hurting myself and brought two words to my mind, so I drew and painted 'Self Love'. I then put them under a 'black sun' which is a collective symbol for the first stage of the alchemical process, nigredo/ blackening which is also a symbol for shadow work.
My journey continued on in the same way and although these sketches were only made for me, I realised I could show my shadow work journey through my artwork. I exhibited my artwork with clips from my journal in an exhibition called 'Messages from the Unconscious' which gives a pictorial account of my shadow work process.