Cannabis and the Shadow – Working Through Hidden Traumas with Cannabis (Carl Jung Style)July 31, 2022
Cannabis and the Shadow – How to work hidden traumas with cannabis
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”
— Carl Jung, Aion (1951)
The Shadow is the part of ourselves we don’t bring to our social gatherings. The Shadow isn’t displayed with pride on our social media feeds. The Shadow is the hidden aspect of the self we want to distance ourselves from as much as possible.
But no matter how hard we try – it always seems to slip out and reveal our shameful ways for the world to see. We say things we didn’t mean, we reacted badly to the waiter and don’t know why – for some reason a particular smell really pisses you off!
All of these things come from the Shadow and when left unchecked will always keep you stuck in a loop, never escaping the mediocrity of life itself. This is because the shadow is a part of you that splintered off from the ego and isn’t consciously a part of our daily narrative, but still pull a few strings when it comes influencing your behavior. In most cases, your automated responses.
But to understand how the shadow comes to be – and more importantly, how cannabis can aid in integrating these renegade parts of the self, back into the whole.
Understanding Your Layered Reality
First, before we continue it is important to note that “The Map is not the territory”. The concepts I discuss are merely interpretations of events that occur in life that many people assign different names or linguistics too.
By understanding this, we can utilize these metaphorical “lenses” to observe reality in different lights.
For example, “our layered reality”.
Most people don’t think too much about reality. They are typically lost in some trance projected in their lives; work, school, relationships, sports, etc.
Very few people think about how we construct this “picture” we’re all seeing, and participating in. How do we make sense of our world and how to compile events into a single storyline we call “My Life?”
One idea on how we construct the sense of “who we are” through the acquirement of experience is through the “layered reality”. Instead of thinking of our life experiences happening in one continuous motion, this perspective looks at life rather as frames in a movie or “stills” that are layered on top of each other in such a way that it creates the illusion of movement.
This is true for all “motion pictures” you see, from your favorite Youtube video to the latest Marvel blockbuster – everything in reality are simply thousands upon thousands of stills squeezed tightly together to create the illusion of movement.
Now, if you can understand how frames work in a movie – then you can understand how the mind interprets the moments of our lives – like stills stacked on top of each other creating the illusion of cohesion.
The major difference between our personal movie and that from Hollywood is that our lives we experience from “first person”. We are totally enveloped into the experience, engaged with all senses.
In a perfect life, void of trauma – this mechanism of stacking experiences usually don’t cause too much commotion. In reality, our unconscious mind is hyper-effective in ordering thought and experience and ascribing it to our sense of identity.
However, when we experience acute trauma, some parts of the self can “fracture” where the mind then decides it’s probably best to throw this into the darkest corner in order to not have to rewrite the whole program from scratch.
As the mind represses these events, they get lodged into some obscure part of the self, still sensitive to triggers resembling the original trauma. Furthermore, the “shadow” also retains the age/identity of the trauma when it happened.
This is why sometimes you can see a 50-year-old-man throw a tantrum like a 3-year-old toddler; because the Shadow being affected by the current stimuli still retains the age and identity of the original trauma – in the case of the example, what happened to the fictional person at age 3.
This is why Shadow Work is such an important part of personal development or trauma release. By ignoring these parts of the self, these broken pieces of ego – we become enslaved by them. We give them power because we are too afraid to acknowledge that they exist and that our perfect little narrative might not be so perfect after all.
Shadow Work is the practice of diving into the unconscious mind and actively seeking out these rogue parts of the self to heal and integrate them back into the “whole”. Only by doing this, can we free ourselves from their grasp and influence in our lives.
Typical Ways to Work with the Shadow
There are many different ways to deal with these aspects of the self. Psychotherapists have their own way of working with the shadow (they don’t call it that), but if you’re trying to start working with your shadow today – it’s as simple as conversing with the self.
Yes, you heard that right!
You need to engage with the unconscious mind “as if” it’s another person. One simple technique is to follow the emotion to the core of the feeling you’re currently experience.
For example, let’s say you suddenly get overwhelmed by anxiety – you take a few hits from a joint and it seems to diminish the anxiety a bit, but it’s still there. This is a good time to start working with the Shadow.
In this moment, you can begin to ask yourself questions “as if” you are talking to this rogue part of the self. This part of the self will answer you utilizing your own “inner voice”, but eventually with enough practice you would be able to pick up the subtle differences between you and “it” (which is ultimately still you but foreign to the self).
You’ll engage with this shadow element of the self and ask it why it behaves as it does, what it needs to heal, how it could better express itself…etc.
I’ll walk you through a small exercise at the end if you’re interested in this work.
Other ways of working with the shadow is through therapy, utilizing mystical plant medicine, meditation, visualization, breathwork, etc. In reality, there’s quite a lot of techniques available…some might work for you, other not as well.
How does Cannabis Fit into all of this?
Cannabis is a powerful plant that if used correctly can provide significant wellness benefit in your life. One of these benefits is working with past trauma, and it is especially awesome when working with the Shadow.
Firstly, cannabis allows you to process information differently than when you’re at “baseline” or “completely sober”. There is a sense of euphoria typically that helps create a slight separation between the “self” and the conflicting traumatic event.
This is why cannabis works so well for PTSD.
This slight alteration in interpreting the data allows the individual to dis-identify with the traumatic event, providing them with the opportunity to work with the event more intimately. Cannabis also helps in stimulating the right mindset to be guided by the therapist (or yourself) to track down the root cause of your shady problems.
It also helps to disrupt the negative feedback loop of the traumatic event. This allows us to reinterpret the event, reintegrate it into the whole, and move on from the past.
How to work with the Shadow at home?
One of the key ingredients to self-shadow work is that you need to be brutally honest with yourself, you need to acknowledge the Shadow as if it’s another person, and you need to be patient throughout the process.
The more painful memories will be difficult to process, and sometimes, when you are alone – it’s easy to get caught up by the illusion of the “moving still”. We relive our traumas and experience the pain anew. This is why most people do shadow work with someone who can help them by keeping their mind in the present moment and bringing them out of the trance of trauma.
Having this in mind, here’s and exercise I do when I’m working with aspects of my self.
Identify the feeling you are experiencing – people typically start doing shadow work because there is something “nasty” manifesting in their lives. If you’re in this situation and you’re feeling constantly plagued your shadow self – then the first step is to mindfully sit in the discomfort and to feel it completely.
Observe how intense it is on a scale from 1-10, if it has color or a shape, or whether it’s active or passive…keep on analyzing everything about how you “feel” in order to lock into the shadow.
When was the last time I felt like this? The next part happens after you feel the effects of cannabis hitting you (but not F*cked up). In this moment, you’ll begin to query your shadow…you can start by saying things like, “When was the last time you felt like this?” Wait for an image, sensation, person, phrase, etc to kick start a memory. Go to that memory!
Explore the Memory Fully – Once you have locked into the memory, it’s time to start checking it out. Try to understand it from all perspectives. After all, all the people in your memory is you engaging with yourself – so you can shift perspective and try to learn more about the situation even from the perspective of a potential aggressor. Once you have a good grasp on the moment, you’ll prompt the next question.
Go to the Root! – Once you feel ready, ask the following question; “When was the first time I felt like this?” and then simply wait for a memory, a person, something to appear in your mind’s eye. This event will be “closer” to the source of the trauma. If you feel it’s deeper still, ask a follow up question, “Is there an earlier time when I felt like this?” and utilize this line of questioning to trace yourself back to the earliest recollection. Once you’re there, you’ll need to tap dance your self around the shadow throwing everything in your direction; guilt, anxiety, shame, etc. Anything in order to make you not expose itself.
Once you’re coming face to face with the shadow, it’s important to deal with it in lovingkindness. In other word, treat the shadow like a lost puppy – because in essence it is what it is. It won’t be easy, but if you do this enough, you’ll make some significant process in your life.
In order to maximize the shadow work, you could eat a half an edible and do some breathwork to open up the body, relax the mind, and allow the experience to unfold. It allows you to engage with it in a integral manner – and from this space of self-acceptance, the healing can truly begin.
The Cannabis Shadow Work Process
The following is something I have done with some great success.
First, you’ll start off by eating a half a dose of an edible. You don’t want to be too stoned to deal with the shadow. Once you begin to feel the edible, go ahead and do this breathwork meditation.
Once you’re done, deeply relaxed – you can begin to invite the shadow to come and engage with you. Simply ask your unconscious mind, “Oh kind and lovable unconscious mind, please bring my Shadow to my mind’s eye…come talk to me!”
Wait, be patient…and soon you might feel the feelings associated with the shadow appear. Anxiety, fear, trauma – they all begin to come to the fore front…and suddenly you “feel a presence”. It’s you, coming out of the shadow.
Simply feel this part of you, allow it to have its own space, and then ask:
What are particular triggers that you are sensitive too? What caused them?
What’s holding you back from letting go? What can I do to help?
If you can’t let go, is there a better way for you to express yourself?
What’s the most efficient way we can get back to harmony?
You can ask yourself any question really, you simply need to wait for the response. Some people think that they are coming up with the answers themselves, and that this is merely you “mindfucking yourself”. However, the truth of the matter is that if you’re open to the experience – you can make some significant changes in your life, releasing you from a prison of internal psychological cycles.
Do this, and you can begin healing from the hidden traumas in your life!
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark! Get some help!
Some people simply don’t want to deal with their Shadow, mainly because it’s scary, painful and sometimes can be difficult. In these cases, it’s good to reach out to someone to help you on your journey.
If you’re interested in working the Shadow – You can find an expert to help with Shadow Work.
Otherwise, the exercise above can help you or you could even work with someone you trust. Just remember that you want to do it in love, be patient, and mindful of your feelings. Cannabis can help facilitate shadow work tremendously – give it a try!