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Shadow Work

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Why Shadow Work is so important by Karen MacKelvie


Thanks for your interest in Soul Flow. We are very excited to be offering a beautifully rounded package that starts in a traditional counselling room way and then goes beyond…out into Jeni’s garden and into recognising ‘self’ as part of nature. 

The hope is to help you achieve more ‘flow state’ in your life - and here’s my first bee metaphor - I believe shadow work is like the notch on the front leg of a honeybee…before the bee flies it pulls its deely-boppers through the notch so that it’s senses are fully online for finding the flowers and ultimately making the honey in life.


Shadow work does a similar thing - it helps uncover lost parts of ourselves which have been smothered or packed away in the shadows of our unconscious, once they have been seen and heard they tend to want to melt into our ‘whole’ self, releasing a lot of energy into our lives and leaving the way clear for our instincts to come back online and our creativity to flourish. That’s why I offer the boundaried Shadow work session early on in the full day of the Soul Flow retreat - so that (with rest and gentle flow activities) we can seek a more creative connection after lunch. 

Surrounding the shadow work session, we will be working with dreams, trying to raise our ‘symbolic sight’, talking to plants and doing a shamanic drum-led journey…basically…taking our metaphoric shoes and socks off and dipping our feet into the river that is the collective unconscious - to see what’s there for us. Carl Jung would be pleased 😀 But we feel the shadow work is an essential part of the process...getting us ready for these deeper connections.

A comment on confidentiality: 

Although there is a lot of warm connecting ‘flow activities’ that include Jeni leading on some beautiful art and plant activities, Soul Flow pivots around the boundaried Shadow work session in the morning. It’s a straight up one-to-one counselling session with me, Karen MacKelvie, and I’ve got a confidentiality agreement that I would need you to sign before we start. The agreement talks about the possibility of telling Jeni a bit about what happened in the shadow work session once we come out, but it’s totally up to you whether you share anything or not and although, in my experience these little ones tend to want to be shared, the confidentiality agreement leaves it up to you 😊


As further reassurance on the counselling side of things, here’s a bit of background about me. 

I have a qualification in Person Centred Counselling from Warwick University, gained in 2009 and worked as a therapist and trauma recovery expert for 10 years at Shetland Women’s Aid. My one-to-one and group work with clients - always invited nature ‘in’ and as an example - with full agreement and boundaries in place - I sometimes worked on a local beach with a client, who found that ‘representing her pain’ in a natural made boundary on the beach and leaving it for the sea and elements to take away, was very relieving. It seemed to really help that there was something greater than herself that had the power to transmute her trauma, no matter how ‘difficult’ it had been. 

After a break from counselling and a move south during Covid, I am once again a ‘registered member’ of the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) and am bound by their ethical framework to uphold a professional standard for good practice. 


My interest in Shadow Work (parts work, internal family systems, inner child work) stems back a long way but also comes as a result of having to do the work on myself after a huge heartbreak finally ‘rumbled my show’ in 2021. During the next year, I can honestly say that Shadow work saved my life. And I continue to seek the unintegrated child parts that pop up for me. 

It’s true that I was quite well placed to find Shadow work as a resource for my self…as a youngster I read a lot around Carl Jung, and dreamwork, the I Ching and hypnosis featured highly as I was doing my biology degree at St Andrews. And I remember being particularly struck by “When Rabbit Howls” a book written by ‘the Troops for Truddi Chase’ - the 92 identities within Truddi’s psyche. At the time of writing the term used for these highly delineated splits was Multiple Personality Disorder - now it’s DID - dissociative identity disorder. Whichever way it’s worded, the survival mechanism her child psyche employed is much more common (if less delineated) than most people know.


From my experience and learning over many years, we all split off into separate selves to a certain degree, at times of childhood trauma. And these child parts are very hard for us to see because that’s the nature of the protection. I really struggle to see  my own disempowered shadow parts. But using a simple light-weight technique that I have learnt…I’ve now met many.


For example, I have a ‘No-face’ part who appeared to me like the spirit in the film ‘Spirited Away’…a huge greedy beast part of myself that will swallow anything and anyone within her reach but once seen and heard - she reduced size to a normal human sized benevolent spirit that now floats through a forest in my mind. This is such a relief to know she’s there. If I feel that quality of neediness rising in me - I know to check in with my No-face part and see what she needs within me. 

I’m not saying we’ll definitely meet a child part of your self but it’s sometimes easier for someone with a trained eye to spot these shadow parts and I’m pretty good at picking bulrush baskets out of the river of your experience and handing the baby back to the owner…you. And believe it or not, once we’ve sat with a difficult emotion and it’s led us to a young part, it tends to be a joyous experience. 


Life has completely opened up to me since doing this particular piece of work. I’m more than just ‘OK’ now - I’m in more and more flow with myself. The new directions that keep appearing in front of me like animal tracks in the sand - seem very similar to our ancestors’ old directions and are super nourishing to our souls because of that. So, come along, if you feel called and we’ll see if we can help you find some Soul Flow. 🤗😊 


Other experience and references : I’ve trained 2 days with Janina Fisher on Healing the Fragmented Self. I’ve got a lot of time for The Completion Process by Teal Swan. I’ve done a lot of personal therapy with a therapist who specialises in EMDR and Comprehensive Resource Modelling. And more recently done loads of learning with more shamanic and nature-based healers like Manda Scott of the Accidental Gods podcast, Joss Anderson in Papworth (TheWildEdges), Jeni and I both went on The Old Way Yearlong Immersion course in Devon - learning foraging and sustainable living on UK lands and we also went to learn hunter gatherer skills and intuitive tracking directly from the Ju/‘Hoansi tribe (San Bushmen) in the Kalahari last year - soaking in their egalitarian way of being and receiving individual advice from the elders. I have a level II tracking qualification with John Rhyder Woodcraft school. I invented ‘Nature Prescriptions’ when I worked for RSPB Shetland and am also the sole creator of -  a global nature connection call to “Go outside, find a wild thing in nature and send a thread of love from your heart to the heart of the wild creature” 

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