“Any part of your story that you do not live,
lives in darkness…
part of your story is in shadow.
To come home you must recover and
embrace the memory of your fullest self.
Until the story of your life is lived
you will go on yearning for it.”
Dr. Marc Gafni in Your Unique Self
It is so exciting to be on this journey together with all of you, our readers and participants in courses and retreats, my wonderful colleagues and friends, and my beloved teacher and friend Dr. Marc Gafni, who has invited me to team up with him in this sacred endeavor of writing this series of articles, which will ultimately become a book, as well as in this holy adventure of Integral Wisdom, World Spirituality, and Unique Self.
When I look at all the wonderful and extensive material that Dr. Marc has already written and taught about this theme, when I also take into account the wisdom of the masters of the ancient traditions as well as the discoveries of the pioneers of psychology and psychotherapy about the unconscious and the shadow, and when I look in addition at all those wonderful human beings living today who share their insights and experience with us on practical ways of integrating our disowned parts, when I add to that the impressive material that Integral philosopher Ken Wilber has provided in his many books and talks, I feel the impulse to bow in awe to this great lineage of mystics, thinkers and practitioners.
In my work, I am often blessed to sense this lineage almost physically behind me, transmitting their wisdom, love, and blessing to me and through me to those I have the honor to touch. Stepping into this broad stream of love-consciousness feels to me like standing in this huge fire of love that burns up everything in me that still resists that love, so that the phoenix of my Unique Self can finally rise from the ashes. I can feel and sense this subtle and causal fire almost physically, sometimes even causing some physical symptoms, and of course massively in my subtle bodies.
And the preoccupation with this theme as well as my integration into this wonderful circle of friends and colleagues entails that I am going through that very process, in a profound way, of following my Unique Shadow back to its root—my unlived or distorted life to my Unique Self—that I am in the process of writing about. And I can see very clearly how in my own life the confusion and non-differentiation between the shadow qualities of the ego that I needed to let go and the essential qualities of the Unique Self that I needed to embrace and nurture resulted in me—although making a lot of progress along the path for many years—never getting to the deepest core of the issues.
To give you an example of this—on a personal note:
One of my Unique Shadow issues has to do with having been an outsider for almost all my life. I was always looking for a place or a person or a community I would belong to and could never find it. Part of it has to do with me becoming an outsider at school, age 8, when my parents moved with me from a small village to a bigger city; another part with the relationship to my mother that was a little too symbiotic. And especially after the death of my beloved grandma, when I turned 5, I developed a deep fear of being left alone.
The false self[i] that developed around this had a couple of different parts or facets:
- a part that tried to fit in by fulfilling each and every hope and expectation that anyone could ever have in me—which of course didn’t work since for example the kids at school did want me to act very differently than my parents and teachers did
- a part that tried to make itself small in order to not threaten the other and maybe even spark a desire to take care of me—this didn’t work either, because people felt the inauthenticity in it and often reacted in ways that made me feel even more embarrassed and lonely
- a part that would do almost everything to not be left alone—which often ended up in a power struggle with my parents (and later partners) that I had no chance to win
- a part that rebelled against the unhealthy symbiosis and struggled for autonomy—in this, I made some natural progress over the years
Through many years of inner work—both spiritual as well as psychological—I have worked through a lot of those issues. Probably, these themes have played a strong part in alluring me onto my path of awakening. For many years, there was a yearning for unity in me and a pain of feeling separate that were almost unbearable. Little by little, after much inner work, I learned to be alone and even enjoy it. I developed the strength to hold the tension between opposing forces and embrace paradox. In learning more and more skills of discernment, I discovered a sense for myself, independent of what others expect of me. I learned to stand on my own feet and developed a gift for independent thinking and an audacity to show up, sometimes trembling with fear, then growing more and more relaxed and engaged with only slight signs of nervousness. I broke free from my mother, worked through my anger and my fear of aloneness as well as many layers of self-hatred, and found that love within me, that greatest love of all that George Benson sang of and later Whitney Houston.
But something was still missing. I have learned to live by myself and to no longer depend on others so much. However I still have a tendency to feel overwhelmed, when I sense more expectations on me than I can easily fulfill, especially in areas that are important for me and from people that I love and respect. And I have remained a little too sensitive to signs that I don’t belong or that others don’t like me. I have learned to accept that without suffering a personal breakdown. Yet, it is hard for me to ask twice to be seen or heard, rather assuming that the other is not interested or didn’t like what s/he heard, if s/he didn’t respond, than thinking s/he was simply too busy or had any other reason. And very often that has resulted in me withdrawing into my sense of being alone again—giving the other the impression that I am not interested.
So, this whole process has been an ongoing cycle spiraling closer and closer to the core without totally getting there. What was missing was the discernment between the neediness of the ego, wanting to merge back into pre-personal union, and the yearning of the Unique Self for a level of connectedness that I couldn’t find, for “being on the inside[ii],” for truly seeing and being seen, for being part of a greater whole… all those qualities that I intuited correctly, but that can only be realized at the level of Unique Self.
Looking from this angle I can now see some of my gifts that my Unique Shadow was hinting at:
- a gift to deeply see people, holding both their light and their darker sides, their small and their vast selves, but identifying them with their magnificent Unique Selves—in my yearning to be seen that way, I learned to give this to myself and simultaneously to others
- a gift for connection—all my yearning and my essential loneliness were guiding me to this deep connection that I can establish and hold and that is only possible in a Unique Self encounter
- an ability to open and hold sacred spaces for a group—this was something that a participant of one of my recent Unique Self workshops, a colleague and friend told me as a feedback; and all of a sudden it became crystal clear to me how I do this and that it is one of the greatest joys of my life, and it fulfills that deep inner yearning to be truly on the inside
As a result of this long process I have finally learned that this deep and painful yearning that I have carried all my life was not only the ego, clinging to people in an attempt to merge into pre-personal union, that I needed to overcome. This clinging was merely a distortion of my Unique Self to which it was essentially pointing.
In so many ways my yearning was the pathway and guide that lead me to the experience—not only of the beautiful impersonal love and unity of True-Self-consciousness[iii], which is wonderful and holy and important but cannot quite fill that yearning, because in this state of all-one-ness no real encounter can occur—but finally to the Personal Love between Unique Selves. Only a Unique Self encounter can fulfill that yearning—be it in a romantic, sexual relationship between partners, in a deep and intimate friendship, or even in a casual encounter with a stranger, in the sacred space between parents and children, in a holy community circle meeting, or in a group of committed people coming together for a shared purpose.
I am realizing that it is not only my gift, but also my sacred obligation to help co-create the Unique Self encounters and Evolutionary We-Spaces that I and many others have always been yearning for. And it is time for me to recognize that I have arrived somewhere, at a new stage of my life, and in a holy community of friends and outrageous lovers. And that is where the real journey can begin…
So, let’s embark on this journey together, the journey through our very darkness to the light that is ours to shine, the journey not only back to Source, to the ultimate Ground of Being that holds us wherever we go, but to the magnificent unique expression of this Source in the manifest world of being and becoming, our personal participation in the evolution of consciousness.
Stay tuned to the further unfolding of this series that will ultimately develop into a book by Dr. Marc Gafni and Kerstin Tuschik. This book articulates a rich understanding of Unique Shadow, a paradigm shift in the understanding of unconscious motivations. The authors will also evolve several new key steps in understanding the nature of shadow and shadow work/therapy through a profound integration of Unique Self enlightenment teaching and classical principles.
[i] False self, in this context, means the distortion of our separate self or ego. We develop a false self to cover up—deny, compensate for, verify, or validate—our false core framework, the conclusion we have drawn from suffering the early pain of separation. In my case, my false core consisted of beliefs like “I don’t belong. I am wrong. I am too much.”
[ii] This is a term that Marc Gafni coined as an essential quality of Eros. To be on the inside means to be on the inside of “God’s face,” to be in the Holy of Holies, on the Inside of the Inside.
[iii] True-Self-consciousness refers here to the awareness that in our truest essence we are all one consciousness, one Self. As Dr. Marc often says, the total number of True Selves is one. It is the classical enlightenment—the experience of the Ground of Being. Yet, in the Unique-Self-teaching, this is not the end of the story.