Ep. 145: Your Wild Mind – The West and Our Shadows

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This is the final episode in our 4-part series on our Wild Minds, based on the book of the same name by Bill Plotkin. If you missed any of the previous parts, I’d encourage you to check them all out – links in the resources! 

This week, we’re talking about the West, where the mystery and the qualities of Soul lie. I love the depths, mystery, and romance with the Divine that are available to us in the West. 

The West is where the sun sets, bringing us into the night, and the darkness. In the same way, it brings us into the darkness of our psyche, turning us inward and wondering about the meaning of things within ourselves. 

It’s often paired with mystery and shadow. Think of the repressed, “forbidden,” unconscious pieces of the psyche. Those are in the West – and while they may seem intimidating, they are also juicy AF. 

Why do I find the West so delicious, when it has to do with things like darkness, fear, death, grief, or the unknown? And why even begin this journey into the Mystery? 

In the facet of the West, we can glimpse and be taken over by the version of who we were meant to be in this lifetime. This “death” of sorts of our prevoius selves allows us to reshape, like a caterpillar dissolving so we can eventually express our true identity, like a butterfly. 

This facet of the West can be called our Inner Beloved, Muse, Soul Guide…I personally identify my work as a Guide in the West as being a Soul Midwife. 

When we experience love in the West it’s like romance… like that profound love you feel that you just know you’re totally screwed when you feel it. Bill Plotkin says it promises to “devastate us in all the right ways,” and I have found that to be 100% true. 

This romance isn’t just with another human – it’s being entranced by sunsets and sunrises, raging rivers and babbling brooks, raunchy dance parties under the stars and the delicate flutter of ballet slippers. It being in love with ALL of it. 

The growth that takes place in the West isn’t easy. In fact, it’s usually scary AF. It shakes us to our core. But when we finally surrender to what’s possible in the West, we see the futility of the way we’ve been doing things, of our default ways of being. We feel exposed, vulnerable, and READY. In this way, the West is also a place of deep change. 


The West also holds our intuition, our deep imagination – recognizing and appreciating things that can’t be seen with our normal eyes, while also conceptualizing and taking initiative. 

All of this is (ironically) lost in “Western” culture – or more accurately, in modern industrialized society – leaving us disconnected from nature’s ways and undermining the health and survival of humanity, other species, and the Earth’s environments. Our wild imagination and the depths of the West have to be suppressed to keep the industrial wheel turning at the rate it currently is, and we are paying the price for it. 

If we compare the East with the West, the East gets “high” with the universal. It wants to ascend to the heights and get the meta view. It connects with the Spirit and our place within the universe. 

The West gravitates toward the individual, the unique, and gets down in the shadowy darkness to explore in detail. It connects with the Soul and our own unique identity and purpose. 

Both of these – the Spirit and the Soul – are necessary parts of our spiritual paths. 

Now, what about the sub-personalities of the West (aka “subs”)? What happens when we come from a wounded place in the West? 

The subs of the West can be called our Shadows. Most of our Shadows are actually valuable resources that were unconsciously banished or repressed during childhood and early adolescence in an attempt to keep us safe, by winning acceptance from our family or society. This doesn’t mean it was successful at that. It just means it tried, and this was necessary in order to form a more socially accepted personality – your first identity. 


There are many ways our Shadows can appear – the Sinister Shadow and the Golden Shadow, for example. 

The Sinister Shadow can appear in our dreams, or it can be projected. For example, people of one nation or ethnicity may project “evil” onto another group. Or someone with a repressed sexuality may believe others to be … slutty. 

I think of the phrase, “the pot calling the kettle black,” here. 

The Golden Shadow has traits that our Egos think of as “too positive” to be ours. Like certain talent, or creative abilities, or qualities like generosity or compassion or intelligence. “I could NEVER be like that!” 

Maybe these came about because we were abandoned or punished as children if we expressed these qualities. Or our parents considered them inappropriate because they felt uncomfortable or jealous. Whatever the reason, we abandoned it as a possibility for us. 

What’s tricky about all of our Shadows is that by definition, they are unknown to us. They’re not conscious processes that we’re actively trying to hide, like trying to look courageous when really we’re scared shitless. 


Rather, the shadow is what is true about us that we don’t even know ourselves. And if someone pointed it out, we’d probably seriously deny it 😉 


But like other subs, these Shadows exist to protect us. So, they’re worth getting to know. 


So how can we identify our Shadows if – by definition – they’re unconscious? 


We can start to see signs that something might be a shadow – and get really curious about it. 


Check out the full podcast (and Bill’s book) for a list of signs that our shadow might be acting up. Here are a few to start with: 

// We have a strong emotional reaction to someone we don’t even know very well 

// We project our own socially unacceptable traits onto others, like greed, sexuality, cowardice, rage, weakness – we strongly judge others and claim we could never have that trait ourselves. 

// Our dreams – especially characters in nightmares 

// Heros/Heroines we feel are exceptionally admirable 

// Episodes of extreme emotional overreactions to events 

// Complete this sentence: “One thing that’s absolutely not true about me is…” 

// Personal qualities most of your best friends have that you don’t believe you could ever possess 


These things don’t definitely mean something IS your shadow, but they’re helpful places to start getting curious. 

Once we think we have identified a Shadow, we can treat it as if it definitely IS a shadow and see what happens. If we get intimate with it and we have an intense emotion or powerful insight, then that’s a great start. 


Then we can work to find and retrieve the gift – the resource – that it holds for us. And we can make whatever apology, amends, or restitution that may be appropriate. 

The initial goals of working with our Shadow are to uncover our unacknowledged wounded traits, take radical responsibility for them, learn to soften or eliminate them, and stop projecting them onto other people or elements. 

This way, we’re way less likely to unconsciously sabotage our relationships and opportunities in life. 

The more advanced goal of Shadow work is to get to know our shadow more intimately so that we can uncover the gifts it has for us to live a more authentic life. 


Remember: advanced West subpersonality work – Shadow work – can be hazardous – psychologically, spiritually, and interpersonally.  So be gentle, safe, and discerning with this work. Use a guide if you have access to one. 

So, rebels, we’ve got some work to do! 


The childhood war of survival is over, for most of us. So how can we cultivate aspects of the West so we can integrate more parts of us, and begin healing our wounds from a resourced place? Listen to find out. 


What you’ll learn: 

// How the mystery and sweet darkness of the West facet can add richness to our lives  

// How, and why, modern industrialized society actively represses the qualities of the West facet, like our capacity for imagination 

// Our Shadows, why they develop, and how they keep us from growth and sharing our gifts with others 

// The dangers of Shadow work  

// How can we identify our Shadows (when by definition we’re unconscious of them) and get curious about their hidden gifts 



// Episode 105 – Soul vs Spirit 


// Episode 142: Your Wild Mind – The North + Protectors 


// Episode 143: Your Wild Mind – The South + Wounded Children 


// Episode 144: Your Wild Mind – The East + Our Need to Escape 


// Wild Mind, by Bill Plotkin 


// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.   


// Cultivating our connection to our true selves and finding wholeness within us and in nature is a key part of the Adventure Mastermind. If you want to dive into this work in this container, learn more and apply at AdventureMastermind.com. There’s ONE SPOT LEFT, and our first retreat is in March!   


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