If you are facing the shadow and challenges of a Dark Night of the Soul, there’s an unseen and subconscious source of shadow that can make things harder: Collective Shadow. The shadow and trauma of your family, ancestors, community and all of humanity can influence you and magnify your own struggles in ways you don’t even realize. This can be a subtle or extreme magnification (or anything in between), but I notice that most of my clients are either heavily or moderately influenced by darkness and struggle in the collective.
What Does This Look Like?
The most common form this takes is added pressure or intensity to the darkness you’re already experiencing. Here are just a few examples: If you are wrestling with guilt and shame from your past, you may also unconsciously wrestle with the guilt and shame of your parents, your peers, or others in your spiritual community. If you are healing from traumas of violence, you may be especially sensitive to the traumas of current violence or wars. If you are healing the feeling of being a victim or feeling disempowered, you may also be wrestling with the ancestral or lineage experience of being disempowered, especially as this can pertain to race or gender.
Some collective shadow doesn’t relate at all to what we are experiencing in our lives, but we feel it anyway. If the source of this shadow or trauma comes from your grandparents or great-grandparents then it is epigenetic emotional trauma; basically, whatever fear/trauma went unresolved in your ancestors’ lives but left an imprint on a cellular level. I have seen extraordinary cases in which a client comes to me with a fear or anxiety that they can’t map to any thought or circumstance happening in their lives. As we dig into it further, we realize that the story they are carrying is the story of some relative, usually a grandparent or great-grandparent. The most common example is anxiety that descendants of holocaust survivors can feel, without cause. I have had clients carry fears about marriage, fears about being killed by a loved one, or the feeling of being sexually abused even though they have not been – all because these were the experiences of a relative somewhere down their ancestral line. (You can read more about this in the book “It Didn’t Start With You” by Mark Wollynn.)
What Can You Do About It?
There are a number of options, and this is not an exhaustive list. As with your own inner shadow, there are perfect antidotes for collective shadow, and you may have to try a few things to see and feel the difference.
1. Be aware of how the collective affects you. For many of my clients, just naming their sensitivity to collective shadow can be a tremendous relief.
2. Let go of what’s not yours. Know that you don’t have to carry it with you; carrying it with you is not helping others. What helps others is not to carry their burdens, but instead to send love, light, and peace into the world.
3. Pray and surrender the collective shadow to God/Divine Light (or a being who calls to you – Buddha, Christ, Tara, etc.).
4. Give gratitude to your ancestors; validate that they survived so you can thrive. Affirm that you no longer have to keep their pain alive; instead, celebrate their legacy through the beauty, healing, and awakening in your life.
5. Let Divine Love and Light clear the suffering out of your mind, heart, body, and energies. Evoking radiant frequencies of Divine Love and light and showering them through your system to release collective shadow can be a powerful healing antidote. This is difficult during a Dark Night of the Soul, but when you can make it a practice, it can be a relatively painless way to clear collective shadow from your system.
Ultimately, the practice of reconciling collective shadow gives us tremendous compassion for others’ suffering. We simply have to remember not to take others’ suffering on as our own. It does not help others to carry their suffering; it only prolongs suffering. I realized long ago that the best gift I could give my family was to heal and end the generational trauma with me.
It’s ok for you to embrace the light. It’s ok for you to have a life of light, ease, and love that maybe your ancestors couldn’t have, or your peers or community members don’t have. Receive that gift without guilt, and know that when you thrive, you can also inspire others to thrive.
A Dark Night of the Soul gives you an opportunity to clean out your own inner house of old beliefs, assumptions, hurts, and shadows that you no longer need to carry – and that includes the stuff from your communities! I hope this article supports you if you are experiencing collective shadow, and, as always, please share this if it could help others you know. Thank you!