Shadow Maps

Photo Copyright 2017: Christine Bradley

Processing anxiety is not my favorite thing to do…and yet, it seems like I am constantly doing just that. The logical part of my brain recognizes that my fears are (usually) unfounded. But unfortunately, there’s no master switch to simply shut it down. As these fears and memories of past traumas (from this life and past lives) bubble up to the surface, the anxiety increases my heart rate, tenses up my shoulders, churns my stomach to the point of nausea, and sometimes makes my body shiver uncontrollably. My thoughts become clouded in an obsessive loop of terror and confusion.

It’s exhausting, quite frankly. And when it’s at its worst, I’m unable to enjoy activities that I normally would and/or function as I normally would.

Anxiety is actually fairly common, so maybe some of you can relate to all this. I’ve found the most effective solution in the moment is to focus on my breathing and slow everything down to a manageable level. And later, I can dive into what exactly was triggering about a situation and why. Regular meditation can also train your brain to find the space between the trigger and the anxious reaction.

It’s all about that in-between space.

And healing yourself is a practice, a lifestyle choice. So, appreciate those moments when you are able to overcome your fear—all the props and pats on the back. Really soak that in. And don’t beat yourself up when you fall into the loop. No one is judging you more harshly than yourself, so go easy and have compassion for what’s true for you in the moment.

We are all worthy of self-love. No matter what our brains might tell us otherwise.

So of course, anxiety can have a pretty big impact on our dreamspace. Below is one of my recent examples of how that can manifest.

I am dreaming that I am on the murky, swamp water, on a floating wooden platform like the one I used to play on as a child. I am out there fishing when it looks like there is a torpedo in the water rushing towards me. The water is so murky that I can’t tell what it is at first. Then, as it approaches more closely, I see that it is a gator. I notice the water is full of gators—swarming this platform. Suddenly, the platform flips over, and I fall into the water. A gator to my left lunges out of the water; there is violent splashing all around me. It nearly catches me.

And I wake up.

For me, I see the gators as these traumatic memories and fears that, instead of bubbling up gracefully to the surface, are actually charging directly at me. And the fear I feel in this dream is intense. However, a part of me is clearly wanting to process the memories/fears as the wooden platform flips me into that murky, predator-infested water. And sure, it definitely seems like I’m being fiercely hunted when I was only trying to fish for a few bites. But the truth of the dream is that I never am “gotten” by the “gator.” I do not process anything that I am not ready to process—this is the beauty of our soul’s wisdom.

For me, this is why shadow work is so important. As I’ve gotten older, my shadow self (comprised of fears, past traumas, unresolved pain and wounds) tries to connect with me in dreams. See my Hide-and-Seek post for reference.

This work is ongoing at this point in my life. I try to remain open and accepting even though it can feel like the scariest thing I’ve ever confronted. Our shadow selves are a valid part of us. And eventually, they will probably reach out with information, from both this life and past lives, that is necessary for our growth—mentally and spiritually.

Will we answer their call?

I’ll leave you today with a poem I wrote from my shadow’s perspective. This is what I imagine her journey to be as she seeks to make contact.

Lucid Aviation: A MAP 

I publish sh.[ort] H.[and] user manuals…. . . . 

. .. .in sands along the shoreline. .. 

Entomb @$+r*n*m!c@| confidence; 

coordinate seafloor burials; 

map ~~~~underwater~~~~ 

sagas

harvest clues you planted in my dreams. 

W e     stretch                    waking                           el@stic       connections 

(across the coldest shoulder corners) 

{around the sharpest emotional edges} 

———–> I pull back 

————————————————-> and you pull harder, 

only to suddenly     SN            A           P 

back together. 

Reach out for my hand 

if you think it is not there. 

Recalibrate perSPECTive definition. . . 

. . . increasing your luciDITY… 

Ignore an instinct that seeks up or down 

Have I left?  Were you right? 

Just SEarch insiDE instead. 

Seas can clean hands, 

cannot baptize dirt 

rooted under my fingernails, 

ATOP YOUR FINGERTIPS; 

stains become each other’s passions. 

Reincarnate healing realizations. 

PAUSE and EJECT 

karmic replays of 

our perpetual 

past. 

I research lifetimes 

for mailed invitations: 

“This Fate to Wait” 

while you dream of wristwatches, 

endless dark hallways

Past enlistment of my 

patriotic  

DESIRE, 

soldier for violence,  

foreign wars. 

Led all my troops to battle 

and brAvely lost them aLL.  

Now I dream of rocking  

chairs 

where a wrinkled, grey- 

haired 

man sits and meditates. 

Female cops arrive like houseguests, 

then try to arrest me. 

I dream the electricity goes out; 

try to unplug my bedside lamp. 

Powerful surges race 

throughout my veins 

and melt away 

rows of teeth 

stacked deep 

inside my 

mouth

…I had to fall asleep to wake up… 

In the past, I dreamed of chases

tried to run through thick swamps

even impressed myself 

how I never seemed to tire. 

Then I drowned

A flat line ran—from toes—up through- -my skull; 

Accidentally opened 

EYELID BLINDS. 

…I am already home at peace inside… 

*just open your mind’s eye* 

~Once I stopped kicking for the surface~

~~~~~~swamps settled into~~~~~~ 

crystal ocean. 

Now I see the sharks 

as they swim and circle my feet. 

::DEPTHS UNKNOWN:: 

But I’m not scared. 

I watch them, 

hypnotizing like ghosts, 

and I no longer run from them. 

I float here at the s u r f a c e 

Sometimes holding the e d g e . 

I never get out of the water. 

I have not left the s h o r e l i n e 

yet . . . .  

So stay this time, won’t you? 

Come aboard this skin-ship, 

sinkable and captain-less. 

You are the patron 

of my soul’s navigation. 

Capsizing tides 

never scare you, 

so we untie every anchor; 

save ourselves with near 

creepy consistency. 

Two sea-stranded passengers 

who vacation towards thrival, 

inFLATed imAGINATions 

that weather longer 

independent of rigid,

earthly foundations          

We write the tides; 

circumnavigate past lives, 

like space-time travelers. 

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