A Shadow Work Exercise: The Tale of Too Many Carlas

Well hello there! How about reading an extremely personal story about the shadow work that I’ve been doing lately? Do not proceed reading this if you are opposed to multiple personality disorder in any way! Thanks. 

When I first came into contact with the idea of shadow work, I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me because I was constantly at  war with myself. I first heard about shadow work through watching Teal Swan videos and they made a lot of sense, but the concept actually originated with Carl Jung. The shadow is any aspect of a human being that is not exposed to light of their own consciousness.

So what is shadow work? I simply call it the act of embracing your duality. Duality is beautiful and scary. It comes with freewill but it stresses us out terribly. I learned from Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf’s book, Romancing The Shadow that your shadow creates different characters, and these characters first come about through some form of betrayal. Your first betrayal is usually from your parental figure. Something happens that shows you that your parent isn’t perfect, and this causes you to lose the innocence that you were born with, thus creating a character in your shadow.

We all have all kinds of shadows: family shadows, sexual shadows, money shadows, etc. So I took the time to look at my shadows and identify the different characters within me. After I got over my initial reaction of thinking I was crazy, I started to have a lot of fun examining these characters. Hopefully by looking at mine, you’ll be able to identify your own. I invite you to examine different perspectives about your life and see how you feel. At the end of the day, all of your selves need love and compassion.

So here are my characters. Please don’t judge me for naming them after popular characters from movies:

  • Bambi (“Bambi”)- My naïve innocence
  • Miranda Priestley (“The Devil Wears Prada”) – My insensitive efficiency
  • Elsa (“Frozen”)- My rejected power
  • Nala (“The Lion King”)- My sensitive protector
  • Trinity (“The Marix”)- My adventurous explorer
  • Katherine Johnson (“Hidden Figures”)- My timid genius

Let’s talk about Bambi first because she was here before everybody else. I know that in the movie Bambi was a boy, but all of my shadow characters are female. I was born with Bambi. She is my inner child, so tender, and so sweet. Bambi feels everything. She is very very sensitive. She can’t watch movies that are too vulgar or violent. She cries a lot. I love Bambi so much but sometimes she comes across to people as naïve and she gets taken advantage of a lot and so the other characters were born out of her betrayal. When adults would tell me that I talked too much as a child, Elsa came forth to pull her back into her very own ice castle. When I was molested, Nala was born to defend me against everyone who tried to hurt me.  When I was told that I was too nice at work, Miranda Priestley was born to establish efficiency in the eyes of others. When I was teased for talking too proper and being nerdy, Katherine Johnson was born to keep my intelligence under the radar. And when I became disillusioned with Christianity, Trinity emerged to explore the unknown and fight off anything that may come my way. It all started with Bambi.

Miranda Priestly is not here for the foolishness! 

She gets things done and she doesn’t care if she offends people. Like I said she was born out of the criticism that I was too nice at work and I needed to get more done, so she is motivated by the fear of not getting things done. She is bitchy because she defines herself based on her efficiency and success. She judges lazy people very harshly. She also loves pointing out a person’s stupidity or the absurdity of a situation. She never lets anyone see her when she’s not at her peak energy. She HATES crying. She feels that if she lets people see her sweat, she won’t be loved. She also feels that if she stops working she’ll be desolate and she won’t be taken care of. She never lets anyone in… ever. I love Miranda so much. As much as people judge her, they don’t realize how much she’s saved me. I owe this aspect of my personality most of my success because she gets things done and she handles criticism very well.

The part of me that doesn’t handle criticism very well is Elsa. Once I realized that some of things that I had to say were too much for some people, I learned to isolate myself and only speak when spoken to. Elsa is afraid of her own power. She knows that her strong opinions and inappropriate questions can offend people, so she pulls back. Elsa shuts people out and does not ask for emotional support. She feels misunderstood by others and doesn’t have the energy to explain why she thinks the way she does to others. This is who I was in college. I thought that if anyone knew who I really was, they would judge me and push me away, so I just beat them to the punch. But this is the thing about Elsa, she’s wise. She protected me from people who would have burned me at the stake for my opinions. She’s tapped into memories of past lives and knew that the ice castle was the safest place for me at that time in my life.

So while Elsa retreats, we have Nala who fights. When you’re nine and being touched by a family friend, you just lay there while your psyche splits off into different branches. Nala works very closely with my ego to punish those who seek to hurt me. She refuses to be treated unfairly. When  anyone infers that I’m gullible, she’s the one who rises up to defend me. She’s the reason I was so feisty in my relationships with men before I got married because her greatest fear is being taken advantage of and looking foolish. When Bambi wants to do something vulnerable Nala’s usually the one that says “no.” She loves me so much! Whenever she says no to something that I know I need to do, I acknowledge her and say, “Thank you my love for your concern and your protection, but I can do this. You’ll be here to defend me if something goes wrong. I love you.” Oh and Nala really loves wine!

While Nala holds me back from adventures, Trinity propels me forward into them. She is the quintessential Aries. She is confident in her leadership abilities and she always wants to learn something new. She escaped from the matrix and she’s helping others unplug too. She is one kick ass gal! People judge her for her unconventional ideas but she doesn’t care. She’s just fine walking her path alone. Trinity is an inspiration to others but she can be a little bossy sometimes. She figures that if people just did what she said, their lives would be a lot easier! Trinity pushes people away with her moral superiority but she is still willing to give and receive love. She is my most confident shadow self.

While Trinity is sure of herself, Katherine is not. Her biggest issue is a lack of deserving. Katherine knows that she’s smart but she has a hard time believing that she deserves to be compensated nicely for her skills. She’s not shy, but she’s not sure either. She’s scared to assert herself in social situations. She measures her words very carefully. She knows that she has something to offer the world but she doesn’t want to come off as an arrogant jerk.  Katherine doesn’t control herself when it comes to food very well. She stress eats instead of asking for help. When people tell her she’s talented, she kind of blows it off. She fantasizes about living a life where she is famous for being a genius but she’s afraid to take steps toward living that life. All of my other shadows help Katherine. They build her up and push her out into the forefront and they support her immensely. When you read something I’ve written, you’re usually hearing things from Katherine’s perspective.

So yeah, those are my shadows. If you notice, I focused on the positive qualities of each of them and how they help me. This is called exaltation. What about you? Who are your shadows and what are their qualities? Who specifically is the real you? Here’s a hint: the answer is plural.

Author: Carla Calloway

Aries. Introvert. Creative writer. Food enthusiast.