Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now here's your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: I’m David Tian, and welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast.
In the previous episode, we covered the shadow and we covered why it's more accurate to think of the shadow as a multiple, that there are multiple shadow parts in us.
The second point was how our ignorance of our shadow parts infected every area of our lives, including our dating and relationships, our effectiveness in multiple areas of life, and especially in our long-term happiness and fulfillment. [00:53.0]
The third point we looked at were the different types of shadow parts, the most common types of shadow parts that we find in many men, and noticing that if you have a strong emotion of hate against something, that that was often a symptom or a clue or a sign that there is an unexplored shadow part in relation to that thing that we are expending so much energy to push away.
In this episode, we're going to be getting into the two best ways to find, heal and integrate our shadow parts into our overall psychological system and I'm excited to get going into this. It's really important that we uncover, understand and integrate our shadow parts because they are the key to lasting fulfillment, joy and happiness in the long run, and experiencing inner harmony and peace and that sense of ease, as well as our full effectiveness and success in a variety of areas of our lives, especially our personal lives and anything in any area of our lives that have to do with our emotions, super-important, especially in long-term relationships. [02:10.0]
In the last episode, I also busted two big myths that are very common, the first one especially among men who are maybe over-reliant on their intellectual parts and the myth of “what you see is all there is”. The myth of “what you see is all there is”, and the shadow and, indeed, all of psychotherapy is about getting into the parts of us that we don't see or that aren't on the surface, or that are not obvious personas.
If you don't respect that, if you don't respect the power of the unconscious, then you'll always be stuck in inner conflicts. Especially as you evolve over time, you're going to hit that ceiling of your growth and you'll be stuck in these places of indecision, and it'll be as if you are a stranger to yourself. You have these conflicts inside you and you don't know how to resolve them, and that's a really painful place to be. [03:09.0]
You don't want to feel that and be stuck there for a lot of time because it ends up being almost a waste of time, being stuck in this kind of in impasse and just sort of waiting for some kind of resolution that never arrives—and that's what happens when you buy into the myth of “what you see is all there is”.
Then the second myth that I covered in the previous episode was the myth that the shadow is one thing, and I found this in a lot of the online content about the shadow, the Jungian shadow, and addressing it as if it were this sort of one unitary monolithic thing, just the shadow. I spent a lot of time in the past episode, the previous episode, breaking it down, the Jungian concept of the shadow and evolving that into our modern concepts that we have a much more sophisticated understanding of, our psychological parts. [04:00.3]
There are shadow parts in IFS therapy, which is a very advanced modality of therapy. The shadow parts would correspond to our exiles or our firefighter protective parts that we often banish or disown, or have some shame or guilt around and that we hope don't come out. Our day-to-day manager parts, which correspond to the Jungian personas, are what we're most familiar with.
We often then conceptualize all the other parts as just one thing, that they're in the shadows, but, in fact, they're not. It's important to realize that we likely have several if not dozens of parts of us that are in the shadows as exiled parts that are holding our vulnerability or as firefighter parts that come in and, through extreme reactions, try to deal with the situation of holding back triggered emotions.
Okay, before we get much further with exploring the shadow, I think it's important to pause here and contrast it with the concept that Carl Jung used to contrast it with, which was the persona, and it's really important to understand what the persona is before we dive in any further in exploring what the shadow is. [05:16.0]
In IFS therapy, the concept that corresponds to the persona would be a manager part, but let's just stick with the Carl Jung concept of persona since that might be more understood or more easily understood without diving into the complexities or intricacies of IFS therapy. I'm going to quote right out of Carl Jung here and this is from his book from his collected works called Two Essays on Analytical Psychology.
Okay, this is Carl Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, and this comes from Page 157 in my edition, and this chapter is entitled The Persona as a Segment of the Collective Psyche. We don't need to bother about collective psyche right now, but just pulling out his definition of persona. [06:02.7]
“The term persona is really a very appropriate expression for this, for originally it meant the mask once worn by actors to indicate the role they played.”
That's where the term comes from as the mask, and then I'm going to skip ahead to his chapter on anima and animus and these are two different types of the shadow. Okay, on my version of it, it’s on Page 198 of the anima/animus chapter.
“I am of the opinion that it is absolutely essential for a certain type of modern man to recognize his distinction not only from the persona, but from the anima as well. For the most part our consciousness, in true Western style, looks outwards, and the inner world remains in darkness.”
What he's pointing out here is the myth of “what you see is all there is.”
“But this difficulty can be overcome easily enough, if only we will make the effort to apply the same concentration and criticism to the psychic material which manifests itself, not outside, but in our private lives.”
Skipping down to the next paragraph. [07:10.6]
“Perhaps I can best explain what has to be done if I use the persona as an example. Here everything is plain and straightforward, whereas with the anima”—the shadow—“all is dark, to Western eyes anyway. When”—the shadow or—“the anima continually thwarts the good intentions of the conscious mind, by contriving a private life that stands in sorry contrast to the dazzling persona, it is exactly the same as when a naïve individual, who has not the ghost of a persona, encounters the most painful difficulties in his passage through the world.
“There are indeed people who lack a developed persona … blundering from one social solecism to the next, perfectly harmless and innocent, soulful bores or appealing children, or, if they are women, spectral Cassandras dreaded for their tactlessness, eternally misunderstood, never knowing what they are about, always taking forgiveness for granted, blind to the world, hopeless dreamers. [08:11.5]
“From them we can see how a neglected persona works, and what one must do to remedy the evil. Such people can avoid disappointments and an infinity of sufferings, scenes, and social catastrophes only by learning to see how men behave in the world. They must learn to understand what society expects of them; they must realize that there are factors and persons in the world far above them; they must know that what they do has a meaning for others, and so forth. Naturally all this is child's play for one who has a properly developed persona … The man” who over-relies on “the persona is blind to the existence of inner realities.”
What Jung is saying there when he says, “naturally all this is child's play for one who has a properly developed persona” is that, in most cases, his clients are those who have a properly-developed persona. That is, a persona is useful and helps us get on in the world, and that is, in fact, what manager parts are dedicated to doing. [09:13.6]
For Jung, at the time was kind of one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy, the only people who were able to afford private psychotherapy were maybe the biggest class of people or the elites, and, generally speaking, they had well-developed personas to get on in the world. A lot of men, when it comes to the dating world, especially those who somehow find me, and that might be you, don't have well-developed personas for dating or interacting with women. That is something that you can look into.
Now, in the psychotherapy context, mostly what happens is the people who come to psychotherapy are those for whom their personas crack, and when the mask cracks, it breaks. It no longer is something that they can hide behind and that the psychic break happens. [10:08.0]
Then what they are able to find is now they come to their shadow. They can no longer hold it back. They can no longer live in denial of their shadow parts. But sometimes if you don't have a well-developed persona, you might also be ready to get in touch with your shadow parts, but it might be hard for you to get on in the world. Maybe you don't have enough money. Maybe you have a hard time adjusting in your workplace or even just getting a job, or interacting with other people or fitting in in society, so that you're not able to pay the rent or to pay for the therapy or the leisure time to invest in yourself and meditate, and so on, and it helps to have a well-developed persona.
We're not looking down on the parts of us that are not the shadow, just making that really clear. They have an important role in our lives, and for life coaching, a lot of it, actually almost all of it is directed at helping people get on in life, helping them develop their personas. [11:12.8]
In my work, as a dating coach, the dating courses, dating skills courses that I provide, do help men develop healthy and effective personas for the dating context and sometimes at work or when they need to be leaders or dominant in life or assertive, and it's important to be able to have a well-developed persona.
But if you only see the persona and you think your personas are it, that's all there is to you, and you kind of believe the facade or believe the lie, believe the mask, then what you're doing is you're denying parts of you that are core, central, fundamental, and hold your deepest emotions. Your greatest pain is also connected to your deepest vulnerability, which is connected to your love and your richness of connection and passion, and creativity and playfulness, and spontaneity and adventurousness, and excitement and sexuality. [12:15.6]
Our outward facing personas, the parts of us, the masks that we wear or inhabit, the parts of us that we present to the world, are valuable, especially if they're well-developed parts and they are very likely full-on managerial parts and they have a role to play. But very likely they are burdened and they might be overworked or very tired or exhausted.
By the time you get to listen to this, you will very likely have reached that point to find me somehow on the internet and, hopefully, you are now primed to turn inwards and move away from an overreliance on your persona. [12:55.8]
Okay, as you might have picked up from my quotations from Carl Jung, I believe that one of the best ways to find, heal and integrate your shadow parts is therapy, specifically parts therapy and especially IFS therapy. This is Internal Family Systems Therapy and I’ve done a lot of episodes of videos on IFS therapy.
I'm a certified IFS therapy practitioner. I practice many other modalities of psychotherapy, so I don't want to limit it just to IFS therapy because I think there are other modalities that are useful and helpful and effective, like Gestalt therapy, for example, which has a robust theory and protocol around parts, Transformational Chairwork. Psychodynamic therapy also has a robust parts analysis, and also add in their schema therapy to a limited extent.
Many other modalities of therapy can be matched well with or work well alongside a of IFS therapy, so it's not exclusively IFS therapy, though this is the main modality that I'd recommend people explore if they want to find, heal and integrate their shadow parts. [14:07.0]
Now, that's the first recommendation I wanted to point out. I'm giving you two. The first is parts therapy and what parts therapy will do is to help you discover and uncover those parts of you that have been banished or exiled into the shadows, and it's a challenge.
Especially at the beginning, it can be challenging to have the vulnerability and self-awareness to be able to sense into those hidden parts of us. They're not obvious. They're hidden in our unconscious, so there is a process that will help you get better at finding, uncovering, discovering the shadow parts of yourself, and this is going to be an ongoing process as you discover more and more shadow parts. Okay, so you discover them. Okay, then what? Then you get to know them. You develop a relationship with them from the perspective of or from the position of your higher self or your true self. [15:05.0]
Okay, this term, “the true self”, is a term of art. It's a specialized term in IFS therapy and I’ve done a lot of content on this. I don't have the time to devote to it completely, but I'm just going to just put it out there, true self, higher self, and, hopefully, you kind of get an idea of what that means.
From the perspective of your higher self, you can develop a relationship with these shadow parts and that's really important because, without that trusting relationship, if your shadow parts don't trust you, they're not going to relax into the process and let you lead them. Then things will just get stuck at that first stage of just finding them, right?
You build that relationship, and what does that mean? You build a relationship by getting to know their job, their role, how they got into this job or role. They will very likely show you the early parts of your life when they first started taking on these jobs or roles, and that's for the firefighter parts, or the exiled parts, they'll start to tell you how they got these burdens and they'll show you, when this is the challenging part for many people, the painful, traumatic events. They could be micro-traumas that are traumatic to children and they'll show you from the inside what it was like, so that you can understand them. [16:22.0]
Only when they feel fully understood will they allow you to proceed in the process with them. As you discover their burdens and their burdened roles, and you build that relationship of trust, then you can go through a process of unburdening them, which is healing, and then inviting into them positive qualities that can fill those places where the burdens have left. Then you can go into the step of integrating them into the rest of your parts into a healthy role in your psyche, into a healthy role in your internal system. [16:58.0]
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I used quite a bit of jargon there as I realized, but the jargon is useful because it's like code for much bigger concepts that would take a lot longer to unpack. Hopefully, you've heard about IFS therapy through some of my other episodes or content, or videos or lives, or something like that, or through my courses, so you understand what these code words mean, but they’re very close to the common sense or the common use of these words of finding healing, unburdening, and then integrating them. [18:09.2]
I'm just going to say a couple of more sentences about integration. Integration means that you don't just unburden them and then just leave them where they are. The healing step, the final healing step of integrating them is finding a new role and a new place and a new relationship that these parts have with other parts and in your life. What's their role in your life? When do they come out in your life? When are they active the most? What context? And so forth.
I'll give some examples of that. Actually, why don't I just do that right now? I’ll give you some examples. Let's take an example of a part that is a shadow part that is connected to sexual desire, and as you get to know this part, it might show you a memory when you were sexually shamed as a child and this is very common that our parents, when they encounter something very explicitly sexual, overreact, get triggered and just go, “Why?” and then we interpret that as something bad about us or something that we did wrong. [19:11.5]
You might also have been subject to some kind of sexual abuse, and, of course, that would bring sexual shame with it. What you'll discover as you meet these parts holding the sexual shame and might be in a relationship with sexual desire, which is that, if you're very young, it’s a kind of curiosity around it, a kind of innocence and play around sexuality.
But it might be parts that came online when you were hitting puberty and didn't have an outlet because of your rigid family, sexual shame, or maybe it's your religion or your society or whatever it is. There wasn't a healthy outlet for it, so sexuality was something hush-hush, only in the dark, repressed. [19:54.6]
Because it didn't have a healthy outlet, the sexual desire morphed into something that whenever it came out and was experienced, this part ended up getting shamed by other parts of you and was called dirty or something like that and was pushed into the shadows. That's another example of a part that is bearing sexual shame or is feeling that sexual desire that ends up in the shadows.
As you get to know it, you'll discover how it got to be this way, its burdens that it's carrying, how it came to have these burdens, and then as you get to know it and give it your compassion and your connectedness, and your courage and your confidence that naturally comes from being in your higher self, in the state of your true self, then that healing relationship allows these parts that are sexual to unload their burdens of these emotions or beliefs they took on from those traumatic experiences back then. [20:52.7]
Then they can move into a healthier or maybe a freer place and role in your life and come into the fullness of your sexual comfort, but even more than that, your sexual power or sexual freedom, where now you can really be comfortable with your sexuality and explore healthy sexuality without shame—and that would be an example of integrating the sexual part.
Now, it might be really obvious how you would have a healthy sexuality and where that would come out in your life, obviously in your sex life, but also in your interactions with the opposite sex in dating or in relationships, but also even in the way that you dress or the way that you talk or move, and maybe even the hairstyle that you have, the tone of voice that you have, that now that you're comfortable with your expression of your sexuality. It then colors all these different aspects of you and you appear much more attractive overall, and that is because the sexual parts of you have now come into a healthier, fuller role in your life, and that's what happens when you integrate. [22:03.7]
Now, you could also take a second approach. Now, I’ll stay with a sexual parts, the sexual psychological parts example. In the second approach versus parts therapy, the second is a kind of directive coaching or coaching that's more directive. It's giving you direct advice and you can do them at the same time. You can have a therapeutic process alongside a coaching process.
In fact, I’ve tested that for several years with my clients and in my online courses, side by side, giving practical step-by-step how-to guidance—do this, do that. Do more of this, do less of that—alongside of the deeper therapeutic process, and I find that to be very effective, especially when the area that you're focusing on, in this case, the example here is sexual psychological parts are more obvious or well understood. [22:58.6]
Okay, in that case, what you could do is, for example, if as a man you have repressed sexuality, and once you start the process of getting to those parts of you that are holding the sexual shame or holding the sexual desire that you've been shaming inside, as you get to know those—in other words, the therapeutic process is now underway, and maybe if you're talking about individual private therapy, maybe 10 sessions in. It depends really on your individual background and where you start out and all of that. But let's just for example, let's say 10 sessions and that's feasible—then, at that point, now introducing some more practical, concrete, specific steps of, for example, getting a fashion makeover, going to a stylist and saying, I'd like to get clothing that is better fitting my body.
A lot of people who have sexual shame or who shame themselves or their sexual shame, their own sexual parts, dress in clothing that kind of hides their bodies or dress in clothing that helps you just to fit in, so that you don't get noticed per se, or that you just have respectable clothing or kind of like the uniform-at-work type of clothing. But it's not expressing your own individuality and it's not fitted and it's not actually fitting you right from the fashion world's perspective. [24:18.0]
In fact, this is the average dude in the U.S. especially or North America. Generally, the average dude in north America is wearing clothes a size or two too big because they're kind of hiding the sexual shame. They're kind of hiding behind this bag, your clothing, so they're taking the attention away from their physical body and more on just the fabric, I suppose, itself.
Even a really, really nice piece of clothing can actually not look good on you just because of the fit and, in fact, if you have an inexpensive item of clothing, like just a plain white t-shirt, but if it's fitting you correctly, if it's fitted, then it can look great. It can look as good as a shirt that would be 10 times the price just because it fits right. [25:07.2]
That's just an easy, easy example of how you can begin to incorporate the sexual parts of you to just kind of communicate to them that they're okay, that you accept them and or you're in the process of accepting them. You start to bring in these directive steps to incorporate more of a comfort around your sexuality.
Other things you could do is engage in more body-movement work, some somatic type of coaching or somatic type of work. That could be yoga. It could be pure movements. It could be tantra. These are all ways of coming at it from a more specific step-by-step directive approach. That's the second approach, directive coaching, the first being parts therapy. [25:52.2]
I’ll give you two more examples of how this might work out. Let's say you have shadow parts that are connected to anger and what that means is you have, in some way, repressed your anger and you're uncomfortable with anger, and yet you're are still drawn to maybe men who themselves are comfortable with assertiveness or leaders or dominant, the stereotypical alpha male perhaps—in the healthy sense, not the macho, posturing type, but just you're connected to or drawn to charismatic men who are good leaders, and you have trouble doing that yourself. That's part of the reason you're attracted to that type of person as a kind of mentor or role model, but it's hard for you to access that.
Then when you see anger in others, it makes you feel very uncomfortable like you don't know what to do and you want to alleviate the anger. You kind of want to just placate and just “everyone stop being angry” kind of reaction because that's what you've inherited and that's part of the reason you must have repressed the anger. [26:57.4]
Okay, so you can start with the parts therapy and you get to know the parts that are holding, probably holding anger, and also the parts in you that are afraid of anger. Those are two different sets of parts, all in the shadows, and you get to know them and you do the parts therapy process that I’ve already talked about of finding, healing, integrating and so on.
Once you're underway, it could happen all in the big transformative cathartic steps. It can happen in one session. It can happen in an hour. Then it's an ongoing relationship within you that you build with these parts over time. That is several weeks, several months ongoing, checking in and seeing how they're doing inside you in your mind, and then, of course, through for the rest of your life because they are valuable parts of you that will grow and shift over time. [27:45.6]
Once that's well-underway, you can also incorporate directive coaching for this. That might mean that, with the angry part, as it's being healed and integrating, it might take on a healthy warrior role. A part of you that enjoys standing up for your ideals or for values, and enjoys physical movement and exertion, and might enjoy being a leader and helping others by leading, and might enjoy coming into the kind of dominant role in life—and this might even connect to your sexual parts, your kind of sexual dominance where you're comfortable taking on those roles in sex of being more dominant.
That might come straight from your sexual parts that might morph into that or grow into that, but it would definitely also come from just integrating the parts of you that were uncomfortable with anger, and now that they are comfortable with anger, as just another emotion among emotions, and understanding why the anger was there in the first place and so on and not being controlled by it, but being able to bring it up and deal with it and end endure it, and maybe even felt in a constructive way are now able to be very comfortable in dominant roles of leadership or assertiveness, which is different from aggression. [29:04.5]
Aggression and aggressiveness is attacking or invading. Assertiveness is defending. It's bringing up the shield to protect innocent parts of your or innocent people or the ideals or values that you value or that you live by. Those are two different energies. Once you're comfortable with those, the angry parts are now moving into a healthy assertiveness, a healthy dominance, healthy warrior roles.
While they're doing that, once the therapy is well underway, you can also do a directive type of approach where you could start to explore martial arts or more confrontational types of sports where you're directly facing an opponent and aggression or getting into that kind of warrior energy can really help. You can actually grow that and become comfortable with it over time. You can train it. You can also do more assertiveness practice and drills. [30:00.0]
All of these will become a lot easier and help the process alongside the parts therapy, but the parts therapy ought to come first rather than just going straight into directive coaching. You can try it. You might be able to just get away with going straight to directive coaching and doing parts therapy later on, but I find that a lot of people, if they haven't done the therapeutic work, either end up faking it and just doing it on the outside, but on the inside, they're very uncomfortable, or they retraumatize themselves because, taking the anger as an example, the warrior energy from the outside triggers the memories of whatever unresolved issues from their past, so then they just get retraumatized. So, the directive coaching is very effective in the later stages.
Just another example for achievers, any parts that are lazy or seen as to seem to be lazy. When you undergo the therapeutic process, you might discover that they are actually really creative and artistic, and just only seen as lazy from the perspective of other manager parts that have other goals. [31:05.6]
But once you get to know them and unburden them of whatever emotions or beliefs they took on from the past that have gotten them stuck in this place that's painful or restrictive, once they are undergoing this healing process, then they might come into their fullness of creativity or artistic endeavor, or artistic expression, and you can also help them with directive coaching.
As they're growing through the therapeutic process, you could join an art class or you could explore whatever creative outlet that they've been meaning to, and you'll notice that from the inside, maybe you're starting to feel this desire to paint or draw, or dance or sing, or write poetry or stories or whatever it is, or songs, being able to have that outlet early on in the process once the therapeutic process is underway. Then on the outside exploring creative avenues or channels of expression can be very helpful and useful alongside. [32:08.7]
Two different modalities, parts therapy—I recommend IFS therapy there—and then kind of directive coaching where you are feeding these parts, these outlets of healthy expression of the energy they're holding.
Okay, you might think this is too airy fairy, too woo-woo, and I totally get that, especially if you have ever bought into the myth of “what you see as all there is” and you're blind to the power of your unconscious and how powerful your unconscious is—probably taking care of 95% or more of or, I mean, that's accounting for 95% or more of your brain processing, and right now keeping you alive, your heart beating, your continuing to breathe and so on, a lot of things we take for granted, all handled by our brain processing that happens at an unconscious level.
Anyway, I get it if you think it's too airy-fairy woo-woo. Don't worry, come back to our next episode. In the next episode, I'm going to be covering concrete case studies to illustrate what it's like to go through shadow work and what it's like on the other side of it to give you some a more specific and concrete idea of what it's like. [33:14.7]
Just to recap, the two best ways of finding, healing and integrating your shadow parts is, first, parts therapy and that should come first, and then, a kind of directive coaching and this is where you're actually taking these steps, specific concrete steps, to feed healthy versions of the energy that's being repressed, so that they have this healthy outlet of exploration.
Okay, thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much for all the feedback I’ve been getting over all the various episodes and the support, and I really value that. If you have any comments about this one at all, I'd love to know what you think, and also if you can rate it on Apple Podcasts, that always helps. If you enjoyed this or any of the episodes, please share it with anyone that you think would benefit. It really would mean a lot to me.
I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [34:10.6]
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