I’d like to share a fun (read: fun in a Scorpio way) exercise with you, by way of example.
It involves: using the astrological transits as inspiration for shadow work.
If this something you haven’t tried already, maybe you’d like to give it a shot!
The Current Transits
The other day, I reflected on the Mercury square to Saturn.
With Mercury’s brains crushed against Saturn’s unforgiving grindstone, this is a transit that can manifest in a few different ways:
- it can amplify the self-critic in your head who tells you that you aren’t good enough
- it can be supportive for creating structures and systems to hold your ideas
- it can bring up urgency around deadlines, mortality, and the finite nature of time
- it can push you to plan ahead for the future
- it can cause you to feel lonely
- it can just be downright depressing
This transit started during a Mercury retrograde, and has lasted through Saturn stationing retrograde, so this is the type of energy that orders you to turn your focus inwards on yourself, for better or worse.
What I’ve been noticing lately is that there is a part of me that is piping up more loudly than usual: the part that wants to kill off most of my ideas before I act on them, because those ideas aren’t “good enough.”
I took some time the other day to dialogue with this part, and here is what happened:
Shadow Work Dialogue
I lie down, close my eyes, ground myself, and ask: “So the part who keeps me from expressing ideas that aren’t ‘good enough’—who are you? What do you do, and why do you do it?”
“I am you at 13,” the part says right away.
I feel a tension, high my chest—cinching my ribs with all the school-age pressure of competitive swimming, school work, home life.
I ask, “Is it just you or are there many of you?”
“We are many,” comes the answer.
I see five forms appear: one at the center, with the others fanning out around her.
The center one says, “I am the one who keeps you from messing up at swimming.”
The girl to her right says, “I am the one who keeps you from saying anything weird at school.”
The one on the left says, “I am the one who keeps you from getting looked at sexually.”
The girl on the far left says, “I am the one who makes sure all your ideas are good and that your work is perfect.”
And the one on the far right says, “I am the one who keeps you from getting yelled at by Dad.”
“So are all of you a part of this—?” I ask.
“Yes, we all work in concert,” they answer.
“Are all of you part of the process of weeding out which ideas are good and which are bad?”
“Yes all of us. Even the ones that don’t seem directly related.”
“Why do you do what you do?” I ask.
“We do what we do because we want to protect you. We want to keep you safe. And loved. And that means keeping you from getting yelled at, keeping you from getting looked at too much. But it also means getting recognized for our work, the work that we do quietly—our studying, our swimming. All the hours. All the hours of hard work. Day in and day out.”
“That is so much work for just children. You shouldn’t need to shoulder that burden all by ourselves.”
“We have to do it,” they say. “No one else will do it for us.”
“I understand. And who is that behind you? Who are you protecting?”
I see my 5 year old self, crouching in a corner.
“Hi, there,” I say, as I crouch down to her level. I try to stroke her shoulder and she flinches.
“I don’t want to be touched,” she says. “Don’t touch me—don’t come close to me.”
“Okay, okay, don’t worry. I’ll stand back here, alright? You’re safe. I won’t even look directly at you. I’m just looking at the window here. Such a nice day isn’t it?”
“Yes it’s a pretty nice day. Pretty sunny.”
“Yeah. Do you like when it’s sunny outside?”
“I like when it’s sunny, yeah. And when I get to play outside. I liked sliding down my slide in the backyard when we had that. And going in the treehouse. I play in the park now.”
“That’s nice. Do you want to go out to the park now?”
“Yes,” she says.
We walk out the door, holding hands. We’re on the grass, laying down on a blanket.
We’re running around, playing tag with just each other. We’re playing hide and go seek.
We hug and we lay down again side by side on the picnic blanket.
My other parts are looking out watchfully from the edges.
“She’s okay,” I tell them. “Do you want to come see?”
They come and sit down next to me.
The five year old jumps into the arms of one of the 13 year olds—the swimming part.
“I just want to have fun,” says the 5 year old. “I just want to play.”
“I know,” says the 13 year old. “But we have to do well or Coach Brian will yell at us. And we have to swim fast otherwise our parents won’t love us.”
“I love you no matter what,” I say.
I ask if I can hug them—they say yes.
My arms extend so I can wrap all of them in a huge hug.
I feel the mass of us breathing, like little pygmy creatures in a nest together, held together by something baser than words, sighing our simple animal breaths.
“How do we feel?” I ask.
“We feel good."
You can try this for yourself, if you feel inspired to do so
Start to notice what’s coming up for you under these transits.
Are there voices within you that are critical, anxious, achievement-oriented, or rigid? Ones that are focused on productivity, responsibilities, getting things “right,” and being “enough”? Ones that tell you to grow up, to get your shit together, to be Good and Shiny and Perfect? These are your protectors—specifically, your "manager" parts.* They are likely to be amped up by any hard Saturn transits.
You can think of your manager parts as parentified children: immature parts that think they have to shoulder the burden of keeping you in line and making sure you’re functional and successful and responsible and well-liked.
Usually, manager parts are running around doing their jobs because they’re trying to protect an "exile" part: a part of you that is vulnerable, tender, easily hurt, and relegated to the basement of your psyche because it’s been considered unlovable, unacceptable, or too fragile to see the light of day.
Get curious about which parts are trying to make their voices heard.
Who are they? What do they want? And who are they protecting?
Exploring those answers can be difficult but worthwhile.
*These terms—protector, manager, and exile—were popularized by Richard C. Schwartz, the developer of IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy). There are many ways to approach shadow work—including ways that live outside of (and that existed before) a Westernized, standardized model. At the same time, I do find these terms to be useful.
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