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Tarot Shadow Work
Using the Dark Symbols to Heal
by Christine Jette

Tarot Shadow Work
"The Shadow contains the darker aspects of our character that have remained undeveloped because they have not been given expression. Jung suggested these undeveloped feelings, ideas, and desires were animal instincts passed along in evolution and representing the negative sides of our psyches. If neglected, our Shadow will rule us. So powerful is the Shadow, Jung wrote, that if it is not attended to (i.e., made conscious), it will appear in the world around us as our fate."

Our "shadow" consists of unresolved inner conflicts and unexpressed emotions; it is where the lost parts of us reside. In retreat are emotional wounds; painful events; feelings of fear, shame, or self-doubt - to name only a few of the myriad unexpressed emotions rejected by our conscious selves. These unresolved inner conflicts and unexpressed emotions manifest in whatever way we allow - ranging from simple negative behavior traits (yelling, arguing, melancholy) to extreme forms of self-destruction (eating disorders, alcoholism, violence). In our quest for wholeness, it is crucial that we uncover, and recover, these lost parts of ourselves. Doing so is not an acceptance of the negative ways in which they manifest; rather it is a discovery of their causes - and an embracing of our lost parts.

In Tarot Shadow Work, Christine Jette introduces us to our shadow through effective writing and many tarot exercises. She discusses in detail that is both very interesting and easily accessible to the reader, how the tarot can be used as a tool to directly discover our shadow, examine our shadow, understand our shadow, and heal our shadow - thus, bringing our lost parts into light and leading to a stronger sense of wholeness and identity. As she explains,

"The ultimate goal of shadow work is to move through different levels of awareness, or consciousness, to reconnect with our Higher Self (the soul). Everyone comes to earth with a life purpose: we are here to experience, to learn, and to express ourselves based on that purpose. Whether we are working with the diseases of somatization or the psychic imbalances caused by the unexamined Other, shadow work helps us achieve our mission. We make sense of our experiences by learning from them, and the creative freedom that is released allows us to find our full expression.

"Shadow work helps us align the wants of the personality with the needs of the Higher Self - shadow work is soul work. It works in gentle, yet powerful ways to change attitudes, awaken insight, and bring the strength and peace of acceptance. It gives us the capacity to move forward and "live the unlived life"; in other words, we learn to express our souls. But shadow work carries with it a price - to live the unlived life, we must have the pure intention of healing."

Jette discusses the work of C.G. Jung, who introduced the concept of the shadow through his innovative work, and who himself saw the tarot as an effective representation of psychological archetypes. She discusses the historical growth of the tarot and legitimatizes its use as a modern tool of self-discovery and insight. Early on in the book she establishes real respect for the tarot, giving the reader a feeling of validity in accomplishing the work to come. The author brings to this book her own background in conventional and alternative healing arts, and draws upon a great intuitive understanding of psychology.

Exercises are original spreads that use only the Major Arcana cards from any traditional tarot deck. All card meanings, as well as their "shadow" counterparts, are provided, so beginners can successfully do the exercises. These tarot spreads gently but very effectively uncover and examine our shadow selves. They bring understanding, which is what we need in order to integrate our shadow selves fully.

The order in which the exercises are provided is also very effective. We are guided from one spread to the next in a sensible order that gradually helps us to become aware of what our shadow problems are, their origins, and what we can eventually do to integrate them.

Among the tarot spreads are other meaningful exercises, such as creating an altar, journaling, recording dreams, and meeting the dark goddess. Although the tarot work is necessary, these additional exercises are offered as optional, based on each individual's comfort with them. This leads to a very strong point about the book - Jette continually stresses the importance of being comfortable with the work, going at one's own pace, and doing only what feels right. She creates such a feeling of guidance and comfort that the book almost seems to have been written for each person who uses it.

"Shadow work must be practiced in an atmosphere of safety. Know you can stop and leave at any time. You need to be grounded and protected during this potentially painful work. Grounding allows you to develop the capacity for self-observation. You are tuning in to the voice of self.

"When you can witness your thoughts, feelings, and sensations with some detachment, you can experience them fully without allowing them to take over. A temporary emotion will not become your whole life. "I am sad" will become "I feel sadness, but I know it will pass" within your grounded circle of protection.

"Read all the suggestions given before proceeding to do any exercises. Pick and choose. If something you read doesn't "feel" right, don't do it. If a section stimulates your own ideas, go with your creativity. The more personal you make shadow work, the more meaningful (and beneficial) it will be to you."

In addition, the book is simply enjoyable. Jette's writing is clear and warm, focused and engaging. Journeying along with the book is exciting, because it is successful in its mission. Tarot Shadow Work inspires, awakens, and heals. I highly recommend it for anyone who wishes to use the tarot as a tool of self-discovery; and even for those who are unfamiliar with the tarot, who are looking for a new way to further their own personal development.


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