There is Gold Inside Your Long Black Shadow Bag and This is How to Find It

by | Mar 13, 2022 | Podcast | 4 comments

Does the word “shadow” scare you a little? If so, you’re not alone! Most people feel nervous around shadow conversations, fearing that if they peer inside their “shadow bag” – the term that Robert Bly used to describe the psychological “place” where we stuff the traits we deem unacceptable early in life – they’ll find a demon. And while shadow sometimes appears as creepy characters in dreams, when we turn to face these characters we find the gold embedded inside. And more often than not shadow-work is an almost mundane yet fully alive experience of reclaiming our stuffed-away traits so that we can integrate them and move toward wholeness.

In this week’s Gathering Gold episode, Victoria and I take a dip into the shadow lands and explore what we mean when we talk about “our shadow” in the realm of human psychology. We both share a few traits that we’ve become aware of in our own shadows; I wasn’t sure I was going to share my shadow story but it felt right while we were recording so out it came! We also discuss the interplay of shadow and persona and how both benefit from attention and curiosity. Finally, I explain how we can channel shadow characters in healthy ways and learn to see the golden or bright shadow in ourselves, rather than only projecting it onto others.

Shadow is a vast topic and we’ve only skimmed the surface in this episode, but, as always, we’d love to hear your thoughts after you listen. Thank you for being here. ❤️



  1. I loved this episode. So relevant to our recent session, Sheryl! I loved learning about one of your shadow characters. I definitely have the same one! For me though, it’s largely shown up in partnership with the Judge lately, as I’ve been unable to live up to the Queen’s ideals. I love the notion of the Golden Shadow, and the play that can be involved in noticing and naming our shadow characters as they show up. Thank you both! 🙏🏻

    • Thank you for your deep listening and your thoughtful comment! And yes, I’m quite familiar with the Judge as well :).

  2. I had so many thoughts as I was listening to this podcast that I actually took notes! When Victoria told that story about the shadow of her hand on the wall and how if she had walked towards it, it would have been a lot smaller, it actually reminded me of an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh called “Me and My Shadow.” If I remember correctly, the episode details Piglet befriending his literal shadow, and then he does something where either the shadow gets sad and leaves or maybe gets kidnapped by some spookable or something. He ends up going to the woods to free his shadow from the shadows of some scary looking trees, which when he finally gets close to them, are just trees. It also reminds me a lot of the plot of Pooh’s Grand Adventure, a movie in which I read reviews that talked about its “dark imagery” and how it was too scary for kids (what???). But I see that movie as the perfect representation of what goes on in the anxious child’s mind. I guarantee, having been that child and having watched that movie literally since I was born, that there is nothing in that movie any kid hasn’t already made up in their heads. They were so scared that something bad had happened to Christopher Robin that everywhere they turned something was scary. A small dip in the ground became a canyon. “School” became “Skull”, and so on. Then “Skull” turns out to be a pile of rocks. I also became very interested when you talk about anxiety and intrusive thoughts like the Wizard of Oz, because it reminds me of the bad guy in Tamora Pierce’s “Protector of the Small” Quartet. During the course of the story, the land of Tortall is at war with their northern neighbor Scanra, and Scanra has started sending these “killing devices” to destroy military forts in Tortall (this is like medieval times). The main character discovers that these “killing devices” are made to look like metal monsters and are powered by the souls of children that have been killed- a type of necromancy (I know, it’s very dark). The man who’s doing this becomes known as “The Nothing Man”, and when the main character, Kel, finds him, he really is a “Nothing” man. He’s a spindly, weak little man who has built himself up to be this horrible monster in people’s minds by doing such terrible things. Yet, when Kel defeats him, it’s easy.

    I also really related to when you said the thing about being willing to watch the show because your husband and older son were out of town so you wouldn’t be observed. That is the whole entire reason it’s taken me so long to get comfortable with swearing, and there are still words that I won’t say. I’m not saying that one has to swear a lot to be considered a grown-up, but it’s the fact that I have an aversion to it, and why. The other day I was singing a song by The Script to myself, by myself, and the F word just came out of my mouth, and I was embarrassed- by myself! This was mostly because as a teenager my uncles teased me about the fact that I wouldn’t swear, and yet neither of them realized that the reason I was so averse to it was because I knew the minute I said something they would make a huge deal out of it.

    Your story about the Jewish holiday (sorry I can’t remember the name) also reminded me of a new experience my family and I had last year. For the first time since one time when we were kids, the whole family dressed up for Halloween. My grandma hadn’t allowed that in our house because the concept of modern Halloween had so corrupted the holiday that it’s based on (Samhain, the pagan holiday), and it relied so heavily on the imagery of the “evil witch”, that she didn’t even consider (or probably know) that dressing up was part of the original Samhain festival. The theory being, since the veil between the two worlds is thinnest at this time, and not all spirits are friendly, if you dress up like an evil spirit, they won’t bother you. That custom does in fact belong to us, and sure it’s been commercialized, but it wasn’t invented by the people who demonized witches. It especially hit me when you said the part about dressing up and pretending to be the villain. My grandma NEVER wanted any of us to pretend to be an “evil” character, and she even told me one time that I shouldn’t write MY story too dark. I was writing a story whose basic premise is the horrors of prejudice, but she didn’t want me getting to dark with the final installment. I wasn’t really sure how I was supposed to get my point across otherwise.

    Lastly, and I know this is a long comment and I’m sorry, but the part about what you admire being what you need to learn and/or already have reminded me of something I was told last year. I had my astrological chart read by a professional astrologer, and she pointed out that my North Node was in Virgo. What this means is that my life path, the lessons I need to learn in this life, are in the sign that is about healing and self-care on the level of the body (an awful lot like what I’m learning here). My South Node, what I’m already comfortable with, is in Pisces, the sign of healing on the metaphysical level. What she also said, though, was that I should pay attention to the people in my life who have strong Virgo placements because they will be my greatest teachers. So after that I made a list of who I knew that had a lot of Virgo, who I had previously known or only knew for a short amount of time, who I admired, and even characters I had created. The most interesting things I found in that list were five family members (and interestingly, my grandma was not one of them), a good friend I had a falling out with (except I don’t think it was us that had the falling out as much as our grown-ups), my one and only (so far) real world crush, and one of my favorite filmmakers/2nd celebrity crush/for some reason incessant target of intrusive thoughts. In fact, going back to the one and only real world crush, it hit me the other day what it is that he taught me, even though we only knew each other for just over a month and barely said more than ten words to each other (like we never went out). It was after meeting him (Jesse), and having him in my psychic space, and seeing how that whole thing unfolded that I started to clue into what was wrong about my family and the way we were living. I started to get the nagging feeling that I was not going to get to live a life outside of my family, and that the mere suggestion of doing so would be hurtful. It was right after that I remember listening to “Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks and feeling so frustrated because I wasn’t getting to do what the woman in the song is doing. I even did my first (admittedly passive-aggressive) act of rebellion, because when everyone else went out to look for a house in California, I refused to go. If we were going to have a house outside of Alaska, I wanted it to be in Hawaii, but I never said anything because I was afraid my grandma would think the only reason I wanted that was because of Jesse. A part of me even feels some semblance of peace around whether or not I ever happen to meet Jesse again (which is something I wanted and was sad I would probably not get to have). When the astrologer first told me that, I was left wondering how Jesse was supposed to teach me anything if I never got to see him again. Now I feel better about it because I believe he already did, and he didn’t even know it. Kind of wild, honestly.

    Thank you for doing this episode! I really got a lot out of it, and as long as this comment is, it’s not even everything I got out of this.

  3. Dear Sheryl,
    Why do many psychoanalysts seem to imply that our Shadow harbors our evil, aggressive impulses? This somehow fuels my OCD


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Pin It on Pinterest