In Stage 3 of the Midlife Voyage, Deep Diving, we learn about how to use our embodiment practices to take us deeper into our pain, suffering, and our darkness deep down in our bodies. We hold it all in our bodies because we have exiled it there during our childhood. These parts of ourselves, beautiful and bright possibly early on, weren’t allowed to come forth into our lives naturally. They hold a lot of power over us if we do not learn how to explore and dismantle them. Through my deep diving in my own internal system I found and wrote: “When we are not afraid to feel the pain and go into the ‘mud’ as it shows up in and around our bodies, we can transmute it into new insights and new identities we couldn’t see or experience before. By diving deep within ourselves, we can address our inner being’s desire for integration and wholeness.” (A Midlife Voyage to Transformation, A Memoir – Chapter 17, p. 195.)
So this is why we need to do this Deep Diving: To bring ourselves back to wholeness.
Wholeness cannot happen without addressing our brokenness. This brokenness is also called our Shadow. The concept of our “Shadow” comes from Carl Jung who in 1950’s defined this as the “hidden unconscious parts of our psyche” or our Dark Side. John Wellwood describes it as our “undigested life experiences”. Jung goes on to talk about the moral problem that challenges us when we don’t do our shadow work. These dark aspects of our psyches can be projected out onto others and the more we repress them the more they bubble up inside of us with more dark energy. This needs to be released and understood in order to heal—to bring your human life back to the wholeness that it desires. I feel we are experiencing a time in our world where Shadow parts are being unleashed upon our culture and our lives. It’s time to awaken our ability to take a deeper look within and learn to face and transmute our own darkness into light.
This is a powerful journey that so many great feminist and spiritual writers speak about. Sara Avant Stover in The Book of SHE offers powerful practices for women to learn how to go down into their bodies “down the stairway into the dark cellar of your home.” This powerful embodiment practice allows women to be guided down to what Stover calls the “Dark Feminine Parts” of us or the Underworld. Marian Woodman in Conscious Femininty describes this unconscious shadow material inside of us acting like a volcano — “threatening to erupt over our beautiful life.” She also states that when we face our darkness we unleash the dark energy of these parts and allow ourselves to find wholeness. Otherwise, we lose parts of ourselves forever. In Ani Liggett’s book Endings, Beginnings, When Midlife Women Leave Home in search of Authenticity, she calls this the “Descent into the Shadows” by facing our Inner Critic and our Loneliness—or our desire to find our “True Home” inside of ourselves. These dark parts keep us stuck and deaden our power to fully emerge from the shadows of life and develop a deeper relationship with all of our parts.
I have seen this happen over and over to midlife women in my practice. The fear of going into this repressed and scary material inside of them, which I call “grieving,” stops us from finding the authenticity and truth of who we really are in our fullest selves. The first step is befriending this Fear Part.
Deep Diving is the moral path to reclaiming your Dark Feminine into the New You!
In the IFS model we learn how to do this in a very clear and unfearful way. When guided into your internal system with an IFS therapist, you can begin to clear a path through your manager parts, the doing and protecting parts, and other parts blocking the way. By befriending all of your parts, and letting them know you are here to heal all of them, to offer compassion and deep listening to all of them, they will begin to feel safety and trust in your presence there. In addition, using the tools of mindfulness and self-compassion practices in silent and deep-rooted practices that you sustain over time, you build this trust with your parts. IFS combined with a deep mindfulness or meditation practice accomplishes this shadow work in a reasonable and clearly orchestrated daily practice that creates the process of falling apart by falling into yourself deeply. I teach this process in my women’s fall retreat.
Slowly you befriend these Shadow Parts. They are actually your “Little Girls” with deep wounds. Because are bodies are so flexible, they teach us how to find a way to attune to these parts. Maybe we dance with them, maybe we practice breath and yoga, maybe we hike high peaks with them. Whatever way we find to go deeper in relationship to these powerful parts can we surrender to the darkness within them and allow it to be dismantled. This may cause your whole life to fall apart or to be dismembered, broken or lost. Sometimes it takes major chaos in our bodies for our dark parts to emerge and be embraced. Suddenly the parts lose their darkness and you begin to emerge into the brightness of this new wholeness emerging. This is the rebirthing process of Stage 4 of the Midlife Voyage. You come forth out of the water no longer a mermaid but transformed into a being filled with inner guidance, strength, compassion and passion for the fullness of what life offers.