Shadow Elements: Basics & My SCARY Water Story in Turks & Caicos
All pagans have their favorite element, be it earth, air, fire, or water. But most of us also have an element we like the least. Some of us even have what’s called a shadow element. A shadow element is the element that you either have an aversion to or that brings up fears and negative emotions from within you. Do you have a shadow element?
What’s Your Shadow Element? How to Tell
First, think if you have any fears or phobias. Are you frightened of small spaces? Do caves scare you? Being buried alive? That kind of fear signals your shadow element as being earth. Do you have a fear of flying or heights? This could mean your shadow element is air. The same goes for fire and water – any fears or phobias you have are probably related to one of the four elements. Take some time and think about this deeply. In addition to identifying your shadow element, you should think about why you shy away from this element. Or why you have a downright phobia originating with this element.
What is Shadow Work?
The shadow self was first conceptualized by psychologist Carl Jung, then made more popular with Freud and continues on in to modern day. The term shadow work is often discussed at large in the pagan and new age communities. It seems scary – the “shadow self” – but, in reality, it’s self-reflection at its deepest level. Your shadow self is that part of you that you keep hidden from the world, the part that you are often afraid to face. Engaging in shadow work is eye-opening and healing on many levels…if and when you’re ready to face the darkness.
Shadow Work With the Elements
Shadow work with shadow elements reveals many of our deepest fears and secrets. Think about your shadow element. Are you afraid of heights and flying? Think about what air represents on various levels: verbal and written communication, the mind, travel, the breath, and spirit. Then think about the areas in your life you need to improve upon or perhaps you’re even scared or stunted in these areas. Maybe you have a hard time communicating with your loved ones. Maybe you are afraid to travel or leave your comfort zone. Once you’ve identified the fears associated with your shadow element and delved into the deeper aspects of those fears, then you will begin to meditate on WHY you have these fears and blockages. Most of these fears have to do with past traumas in our childhood, but sometimes they can relate to past lives.
My Shadow Element: Water
It’s hard for me to admit, but I’ve had a shadow element nearly all my life – water. Even though I enjoyed swimming as a kid, I never liked the idea of getting into deep, open water like the ocean. For years I’ve had dreams of drowning or waves crashing over my head. I also realized when I’m in the shower, I can never let the water run over my face. It makes me feel like I’m suffocating. I’ve truly only come to terms with my shadow element in the past few years and have really tried to understand why water is my shadow element.
Lately I’ve been trying to forge a connection with my shadow element and explore all the ways in which my fears of water could actually be healing when recognized and rectified. I know water is healing, purifying, and carries properties of intuition, dreams, and emotions. And yet, I can’t quite get over my fear of drowning.
In our podcast episode on the Four Elements, Allorah and Kitty go into depth about shadow elements. Listen here:
My SCARY Shadow Element Story in Turks & Caicos
Recently, I visited Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean Islands. My husband and I went there for an anniversary trip. One day we were lying on the beach and people carrying snorkeling masks walked by. We decided to be spontaneous and go snorkeling too. As I’ve mentioned, water is my shadow element and I’m trying to push past my fears so I decided to go snorkeling with my husband. I am a good swimmer, anyway.
Fast forward past the snorkeling experience, and I had a BLAST! I loved being able to see the brightly colored fish and coral reefs up close. So then we decided to give scuba diving a try. We studied, took a few tests, and dived in the pool for preliminary training. Immediately upon going under in the pool with the regulator in my mouth, I panicked. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and had to come to the surface immediately. TBH, I’ve never had a panic attack in my life so this feeling of doom and not being able to breathe was new to me.
My instructor and husband walked me through it and I tried going under with the equipment on again (keep in mind you have equipment on your back, feet, chest, waist, and face, as well as in your mouth). I did well in the pool so I figured I’d be able to handle the ocean too.
When Your Fins Eff Up…
So the boat takes us out to the reef that surrounds the Turks and Caicos Islands. We strap on our BCDs, oxygen tanks, weights, put our fins on our feet and masks and snorkels on our faces. We take a giant stride into the ocean and off the back of the boat. Unfortunately, my fins didn’t fit my feet like they should have and the fin slips up and around my right ankle. While I’m trying to pull my fin back down over my foot, a current starts taking me away from the boat and other divers. My instructor calls to me to swim to him. I’m still trying to pull my fin back down over my foot when a wave crashes over my head. Well…that did it. Ensue panic attack.
I get my fin back down over my foot and begin swimming back towards my instructor and other divers. At this point though, I’m in full blown panic mode: hyperventilation, pounding heart, trembling, feeling like I’m going to die. I tried my best to calm down and come out of it, but if you’ve ever had a real panic attack you know it’s not easy to do. I ended up back on the boat and watching all the other people dive successfully. Come to find out, the divers saw 4 ten-foot reef sharks that swam close to them, which didn’t ease my fears much!
Looking Back & Forward
As much as I wanted to face down my fear of the water and plunge underneath the ocean waves, my deep-seated fears won. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes it’s going to take time and reflection and healing in order to really overcome the phobias and fears associated with a shadow element.
I am pushing myself and am making a connection with water that I’ve never had before. I have to give myself credit where credit is due. A. I go crabbing with my husband on a small boat every other week. and B. I went snorkeling successfully for the first time in my life! Maybe I won’t be scuba diving any time soon, but I can always try again in the future. It’s about continually diving in deep with your shadow element, little bits at a time. Don’t dive into the ocean like me all at once, try taking shadow element work one step at a time.