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Soul Work: A Spiritual and Psychological Quest
by Wendy Haynes, PhD
Wendy Haynes, PhD

We have all felt glimmers of an inner longing. A space between waking and dream life where we sense that there must be a capacity to experience life with greater richness. This longing is often associated with a hunger for deeper emotional and creative fulfillment. Many of us contemplate this longing, and yet, become disillusioned when we are unable to find a framework or structure for its actualization. As we search to translate our longing into consciousness, we realize that we must cultivate a richer dialogue with our soul-centered self.

In my therapy practice, many of my clients aspire to liberate their soul-centered spiritual selves. In this article we will explore what is meant by soul-centered, spiritual and psychological liberation, and what steps you can take to activate their awakening. By actively supporting the liberation of your soul-centered, psychological and spiritual self, you will face the light and the darkness within, and cultivate a more fulfilling and profound sense of who you are.

When facing uncomfortable or challenging psychological material, it is essential to give yourself permission to feel all of your feelings. Building a spiritual relationship to your soul means working towards accepting and forgiving every part of your being, unconditionally, no matter how negative, ugly, cruel or egotistical. Every aspect of your being deserves to be heard, honored, and accepted. The quest for deeper fulfillment is an inner-quest where only you can fulfill yourself. This understanding helps to deepen self-love and cultivates self responsibility and spiritual maturity.

The rewards of this exciting and tempestuous journey can be tremendous. This quest can lead to the possession of the inner holy grail: The vessel of fulfillment in love, happiness, and a deeper, richer experience of life. This deep journey takes place on the interior. The Journey is not for the meek. It requires the courage and faith to enter into your own darkness and harvest the gems of maturity, honesty, and greater self-awareness.

The path begins when you are willing to muster up the courage to see yourself honestly. When you can permit yourself to be in a painful situation without shutting down, or moving into black or white thinking. When you can "just be" and allow yourself to feel all of your feelings surrounding a situation, then you can tap powerful creative and spiritual energies that are waiting to go to work for you.

The pilgrimage into "unknown" kingdoms of the soul is not unlike the quest for the holy grail. The soul's journey toward spiritual liberation requires that you first depart from the comforts and routines of your familiar life. You must choose a departure from ordinary consciousness out of a desire to discover a life greater than the hum drum of an average existence.

The hero or heroine within activates the drive and longing to attain their most powerful aspirations. In the passage from the ordinary to the extraordinary, we must first enter the underworld. The underworld symbolizes the world of the unconscious, where all that we have repressed resides. The material in our psychological underworld can often take the form of what we consider to be the negative parts of our personality.

The "shadow" often consists of the parts of our personality that we have tried to ignore or hide from. These apparently "inferior" parts of our nature are often unconsciously projected onto outside persons. The more the shadow is hidden from an individual's consciousness, the denser it becomes. If the shadow is isolated from consciousness, it may suddenly burst forth in a manner that may be dangerous to you or others.

Carl Jung's pioneering work on the existence of the human shadow observes the shadow as a living part of the personality. Jungian analyst, Andrew Samuels, suggests that the shadow, "like all contents capable of entering consciousness, initially ... appear in projection and when consciousness is in a threatened or doubtful condition, shadow manifests as a strong, irrational projection, positive or negative, upon one's neighbor." Unconscious shadow material is often projected onto persons (often of the same sex). Sometimes we find ourselves overpowered by an unexplainable overwhelmingly negative or positive (unconscious) reaction to certain people. These encounters can often be unconscious shadow projections.

How can the shadow be consciously integrated? Although the shadow can never be totally integrated on a conscious level, it can be valuable to explore a deeper awareness of its power in our lives. As Samuels wrote,"So far as shadow is concerned, the aim of psychotherapy is to develop an awareness of those images and situations most likely to produce shadow projections in one's life. To admit to the shadow is to break its compulsive hold."

As in the Grail Legend and Fairy Tales, there are terrifying tests, life- threatening challenges of all kinds that make their way onto your path. The quest tests you to withstand the stress of consciously holding the tremendous tension of the opposites. This is achieved when you bravely face your demons. In the Grail legend the hero/heroine does not hide from the monsters (shadow material) that s/he meets along the path. S/he faces and fights them head on. In this adventure the hero/heroine transcend their fear of the monsters, witches, and demons they meet in their depths by learning how to integrate and befriend them.

As Nietzsche has said, we must learn to "offer a hand to the ghost who would frighten us." We must bravely meet the destructive and frightening forces within and work to constructively accept them with self respect and dignity. These are some of the steps than can be taken on the path to living a soul-centered life that is characterized by deepened inner-wisdom, fulfillment, and self-love.

Wendy Haynes, Ph.D. is a therapist in private practice in Portland. She has developed the popular Creativity and Spirituality Workshops™. Wendy Haynes can be reached at (503) 650-7230.