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Episode 141 Transcript: Transforming Your Relationships through Shadow Work

Nancy: Shadow work can revolutionize your relationships, helping you uncover and heal hidden patterns. Simply put, shadow work involves facing the parts of ourselves that we’ve been denying or suppressing. So this is juicy.

Nancy: Welcome to the Nancy Levin Show. I’m Nancy Levin, Founder of Levin Life Coach Academy, best-selling author, master coach, and your host. I help overachieving people pleasers set boundaries that stick and own self-worth, anchored in empowered action, so you can feel free. Plus, if you’re an aspiring or current coach, you are in the right place. Join me each week for coaching and compelling conversations designed to support you in the spotlight, as you take center stage of your own life. Let’s dive in. 

Nancy: Welcome back to another episode of The Nancy Levin Show. And today we are diving deep into how shadow work can revolutionize your relationships, helping you uncover and heal hidden patterns. So this is juicy.

If shadow work is a new concept for you, simply put, shadow work involves facing the parts of ourselves that we’ve been denying or suppressing. Shadow work is about acknowledging our inner darkness in order to bring it to light. And here’s what I’ll say, when we’re saying the inner darkness, that is the part of ourself that’s really in the unconscious, and that’s the part of ourself where we end up relegating the pieces of ourselves we don’t like or the parts we don’t believe we can be, that we put them all in the shadow. 

So we put in the shadow qualities like lazy or needy as well as qualities like courageous and confident. So we put qualities in our shadow, we relegate them to the shadow, we reject them. And what we end up doing is projecting those qualities out onto others. 

When we reject our quote unquote negative qualities, what happens is we get super triggered and super activated. And guess who is going to trigger us the most, the people we are closest to. So when we are in relationship, we will often see in our partner the qualities in ourselves that we have suppressed or denied, and we get super activated. And the same thing happens when we see people who we feel enamored by, enthralled by, inspired by. We see their qualities and we think, oh, I could never be as courageous as this person. And what it all does is makes us smaller. 

So our shadows often play out in our relationships leading to repetitive patterns and conflicts.I would be willing to bet that if you were to make a timeline of your significant relationships, you would see a pattern through line. You would recognize that you showed up in a certain way or had certain expectations or hid parts of yourself in order to stay in the relationship. Now, one of the things we do often in relationship is cross our own boundaries in order to stay, mostly because we don’t wanna create conflict. And I’m here to say that conflict is simply an illumination of our differences. When we get caught up in the idea that if we have conflict, the relationship’s gonna be over, what we’re really saying is the relationship itself doesn’t honestly hold that much weight. If it could be over in an instant or because of a conflict, it’s a bigger issue than the fear of conflict. It’s actually a deeper fear that this relationship doesn’t hold water. And because it can be uncomfortable to recognize that the relationship you’re in isn’t truly serving you, you can expend a lot of energy avoiding conflict. So you don’t have to look any deeper. 

But here’s the thing, when we are willing to do our own inner work, when we are willing to do this exploration of the qualities of ourselves that live in the shadows, we are able to heal and repair inside of relationship. So for example, let’s say that one person has a fear of abandonment and the other person in the relationship has a need for independence. I write a lot about this in my book, The New Relationship Blueprint, which also in paperback, is published as Permission to Put Yourself First. I write a lot about how we hold a pull in a relationship that can be opposing. So one person is seen as being needy and one person is seen as being independent. And the needy person has that fear of abandonment, and the independent person has a fear of suffocation. And what can happen is a push-pull dynamic gets created, where we are activated by what is most alive and present and presenting in the other.

So what we wanna be able to do is come to a place where we are mutually interdependent, which means we are able to give and receive. We are able to not be one or the other. We are able to be both dependent and independent, and we can switch off when it’s necessary in the relationship. 

Nancy: Hi, it’s Nancy interrupting my own show. I’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up in 2024, including a brand new book plus a group coaching opportunity, unlike anything else I have ever offered before. To make sure you are in the know, pop on over to my website now and sign up for my free weekly newsletter at nancylevin.com/newsletter so you don’t miss a thing. Okay, back to the show. 

But we wanna remember that the goal of relationship is not harmony at all cost. When we are only focusing on harmony in the relationship, we are avoiding so many other aspects. And in our relationships, what often happens is that certain behaviors trigger disproportionate reactions. These are clues to our shadow. There’s an expression when you are hysterical, it’s historical. So what that means is if I’m having a disproportionate reaction to a present moment, action or behavior, it’s taking me back. It’s taking me back to childhood. It is having me relive something that is in the past that I’ve relegated to my shadow. The opportunity I have here in the present moment, is to heal that aspect of myself with my partner in real time. Instead of consistently being held back by something that happened in the past. History repeats itself. 

I ultimately believe that our relationships are long hallways with a revolving door. So whoever comes in is some version of a previous partner. There are patterns that get replayed. The only way we’re going to heal them is, together. 

So our childhood experiences shape our adult relationships. And understanding this link is crucial for healing. So I will be the first to say, I given my past experience of having an older brother who died, of feeling that it wasn’t okay for me to have needs defining myself and priding myself on my own independence. I tend to draw toward me partners who are dependent upon me financially, emotionally, whatever it might be. Because if I put my stake in the ground claiming my pole of independence, the only room there is for someone else in this relationship is someone who is dependent.

So a relationship is healthy and works when both parties are willing to come to this place of interdependence, as I was saying before, so that the independent person and the dependent person can both lean in and allow the give and take instead of holding their pulls. 

Some of the best ways to contact the aspects of your shadow that you’ve been denying are journaling, meditation, and reflective conversation. One of the things that we’re not told we can do is let someone know, I wanna share with you what’s going on with me. And my request is that you hold your opinions or feedback until I’m complete. Or we can say, I have just discovered something that I feel is really important to let you in on. But it’s really new, I’m feeling very vulnerable, and what I’d really like most is for you to just hold my hand and when I’m finished talking for you to tell me you love me. We are not told that we can make requests around how we wanna communicate. And I will say that this works wonders. 

Conflict in relationships are always opportunities for growth for both partners. And we wanna make sure that in our relationships we are consistently growing, we are engaging in conversation and communication where we are able to support one another instead of feeling like we are on opposite ends of a field. 

So when we’re looking at relationships, shadow work is a tool to support ongoing connection, constructive communication, and mutual understanding. And regardless of all the relationships we may find ourselves in, in our life, remember that the most important relationship is the one you have with you. You are living with yourself the longest. So that is the relationship you need to really make sure is intact. The journey within is the most rewarding journey of all. 

Thanks so much for joining me today, and I look forward to being with you again next time.

Thanks so much for joining me today. I invite you to head on over to nancylevin.com to check out all the goodies I have there for you. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave a rating and a review. I’ll meet you back here next week.