Part 4: The All-Devouring Inner Female
This is a four-part series on the shadow male and female. Start with Part One.
The most powerful thing we can all do to make this world a better place is to face, and heal, our own shadow. When we each have the courage to heal our personal shadow, we transform the collective shadow of our country, our culture, and ultimately, all of humanity. We also heal the lineage of our ancestors, who are now freed from the spiritual consequences of the damage they have passed on to their descendants. Most importantly, we no longer transfer to our children the trauma and wounding created by this shadow. In other words, we resolve and mend transgenerational trauma, becoming a true spiritual warrior of the heart.
As I pointed out in Part Three where I addressed the Rigidified Shadow Inner Female, when we are traumatized, our inner male and female fracture into destructive fragments which foment chaos in our daily lives. The path to feeling loved, fulfilled, and whole within oneself is by healing these shadow fragments, thus creating harmony between our inner male and inner female. Here in Part Two we will address the second aspect of the shadow inner female: The All-Devouring Inner Female.
The All-Devouring Inner Female
As you may know from my previous article, How the Sacred Lovers Within Play a Crucial Role in Your Life, the central function of our feminine nature is to open, receive, and travel into the inner world of feelings and emotions. When her ability to receive is impaired or distorted, the inner female becomes destructive in two different ways: One is when the inner female becomes rigid, and her receptive function closes off, leading to the rigidified shadow inner female. The other is when the inner female loses definition and becomes excessive, and her natural receptivity is distorted into an insatiable, bottomless, “sucking in,” causing her to become the all-devouring inner female. As described previously, the rigidifying of the inner female is a consequence of trauma related to feeling unprotected by the inner male, often resulting from a childhood experience with a father figure. Conversely, the all-devouring inner female is often caused by a trauma with the mother figure, such as a mother who was not able to accept, connect with, and validate the core essence of the child. In these cases, the child often grows up to be an adult that experiences a vacuum in her/his internal world.
As usual, I want to remind you that while some fragments of your shadow inner female might be acting out in circumscribed triggered areas, you might have a completely healthy and functional inner female in other areas of your life. Also, you might recognize only some traits of the all-devouring inner female active in yourself, or a person you know, because not all of the traits I describe are necessarily active simultaneously in the same person.
The All-Devouring Inner Female Gorges Herself, But Cannot Digest
This distorted shadow inner female has a compulsive need to receive more and more. Her hunger cannot be satiated because, no matter how much she takes in, she feels unnourished and needy. In contrast with the rigidified inner female who rejects and deflects what is offered to her, the all-devouring inner female sucks in compliments, attention, energy, and love, but does not have the capacity to digest what she receives—so she continually demands more and more. In this sense she is bottomless, and what comes in is not processed, retained, or utilized for emotional and spiritual sustenance. You can compare her to someone who is obesely overweight while paradoxically starving from lack of nutrients.
When this shadow aspect is acting out in your life, no matter how much a person shows through their actions and words that you are cared for, you won’t feel it, and you will demand still more proof. The love, instead of landing in your deep core and nourishing you, passes right through and gets discarded immediately. The compliments are received, but they don’t make you feel better, and you are left with a craving for more. The abundance is there, but you feel poor and in danger of ending up destitute and homeless.
This pattern creates problems in your relationships because you become demanding and draining of others with needs that cannot be satisfied. You suffer because you feel that nothing is ever good enough, and people close to you might experience you as “sucky”—absorbing their energy and feeding on their personal power.
Unfortunately, this shadow pattern can also affect your body and your relationship with food, making you prone to overeating, although no matter how much you binge, you soon feel hungry again.
The All-Devouring Inner Female Enmeshes
One of the negative characteristics of the all-devouring shadow inner female is that she takes the positive unifying function of the feminine principle to the extreme and, instead of perceiving the interconnectedness with others while maintaining her sense of individuality, she fuses with others. This is why people with an active all-devouring inner female struggle to separate from whatever is happening in their emotional environment. And, as mentioned previously, people with this kind of shadow feminine seek a validation and a mirroring of their core self. In relationships, such a person is looking for an intimacy that is as close as the one of the child with the mother—a relationship of total fusion.
The all-devouring inner female will also cause you to establish deep intimacy prematurely, disclosing things about yourself before enough trust has been established with the other person instead of letting it happen gradually and organically. In this case, the need to bond is so great that it puts you in an unsafe position as you seek intimacy before you really know if the other person is trustworthy. Consequently, you often feel disappointed and unsafe. In relationships, this particular aspect of the shadow feminine causes you to have a hard time separating your own emotions and feelings—and the perception of your own truth—from the emotions, feelings, and perceptions of others. An example of utmost enmeshment is the story of a woman in her mid-twenties who, after being assaulted by her abusive boyfriend who attempted to strangle her, spent the entire night consoling him from the trauma of having attempted to killed her. After counseling she eventually left him and moved to another state.
Indeed, this pattern of fusing with others will make you susceptible to gas-lighting and manipulation. It also leaves you vulnerable to seduction and brainwashing, such as you might encounter in cults or with unscrupulous narcissists.
The enmeshment of the all-devouring inner female makes separating very difficult, even painful. Once you become fused and the other person leaves, even for a short time, you may feel like a part of you leaves with them. When people close to you assert independence or differentiate their unique likes or dislikes from your own, you may experience anxiety and anger. This destructive inner female can make you possessive, needy, and controlling—and may eventually lead to painful break ups.
How the All-Devouring Inner Female Becomes the Emotional Dark Swamp
The healthy inner female connects you to your inner world of feelings and emotions, which is good because emotions and feelings enrich your life and provide a barometer for what’s going on in the depths of your being. As a bridge to your inner guidance, these feelings are indicators of the actions and direction you must take to keep your life in balance. And while feelings and emotions are an important source of healing and information, you must be careful not to overindulge and remain stuck in them. The nature of emotions is to be in motion, and it is your healthy inner male that will bring movement into your emotions. When your healthy inner female is connected to—and collaborates with—your healthy inner male, you feel your emotions, painful or joyful as they may be, and you resolve them by moving through them with the motion of your inner male. Normally, when you feel ensnared and paralyzed by your emotions, your inner male leads you to be proactive, but this healthy dynamic becomes impossible with the all-devouring shadow inner female.
The fundamental reason why your inner female is in a shadow pattern is that she has disconnected from your healthy inner male. Consequently, because your inner male is not there to take the initiative and move you through the emotions and out the other side, you remain stuck in your emotional turmoil. At this point, your all-devouring inner female can become a dark swamp of stagnant, repetitive emotions which engulf you with no way out.
This emotional black swamp is painful, even excruciating. It may take the form of a downward spiral of depression; be experienced as an obsessive rage that boils over and over again; or feel like a pool of overwhelming sadness that borders on despair. It can even shape itself as a paralyzing fear that catastrophizes life’s challenges, causing you to always expect the worst-case scenario. It is imperative if you find yourself trapped in the dark swamp of your shadow inner female to connect with your masculine nature so you can create a flow, a movement, an expression that is healthy and life-affirming. This is particularly important in your relationships with others because the combination of the enmeshment pattern with the black swamp pattern will attempt to drag down the people you care about most—drowning them in emotions with you.
The All-Devouring Shadow Inner Female Creates Drama and Undermines Structure
The all-devouring inner female represents the extreme shadow aspect of the fluidity that generally characterizes the feminine. She wants to overflow without impediments, and without limits. She fights any kind of structure or discipline because she feels trapped by it, and the positive structure of the inner male—which is supposed to be a support system for the creative expression of the feminine—will actually be experienced as a prison. Like milk boiling over a pot on a hot stove, the all-devouring inner female will overwhelm any kind of containment.
A person with this kind of shadow inner female will talk over others in a seemingly interminable stream of unfiltered and unstructured details, meandering from one subject to next. When someone attempts to interrupt and leave, the afflicted person will have “one more thing” he/she wants to say, to the point that others almost have to be rude in order to disentangle themselves.
This destructive inner female can create accidents in your life. Unpredictable events seemingly outside your control may stop you from implementing your plans and disrupt the achievements of your goals by keeping you in a continual state of high drama and survival struggles. She may make your life a highly adrenalized journey where you are continually engaged in plugging the holes in the proverbial dike that is always threatening to break and swallow you in a deluge of water. You may forget the date of important deadlines. Stumble and twist your ankle, which leaves you incapacitated and interrupts your training routine. You may procrastinate so badly that you miss crucial opportunities and leave bills unpaid, or your car will break down because you forgot to service it on time, and so on.
Finally, the all-devouring inner female will overflow your mental channels with so many creative ideas that you cannot possibly implement them all simultaneously. Without the order, discipline, and linearity of your inner male, you may start many projects but be unable to complete them—which will create a sense of frustration, waste, and self-criticism.
What to do about it: Tools of Transformation
A) Practice digesting what you receive.
Practice One. Begin with something concrete like food. This is a healing tool that is deceptively simple, but may be difficult to apply because it requires concentration and discipline. However, if you do it consistently enough it will train your organism to absorb and digest what you receive. Take a morsel of food and chew it thoroughly, tasting it in all its textures and flavors. After you swallow it, feel it descend into your body and settle in your stomach. Stop yourself from immediately taking another bite. Instead, take a slow, satisfied breath while the nourishment of that food is absorbed and spreads throughout your body, feeding every cell to full satisfaction. Even if you are not sure you are completely feeling it, imagine that it is so. Eventually, you will feel it.
Practice Two. The next time someone expresses how much they love and care for you through action and words, stop. Put your hands on your heart, take a deep breath, and feel that love spreading throughout your being—body, mind, and soul—like a warmth that calms your nervous system and gives you deep pleasure. Notice it, and feel the contentment that feeds your core. Truly take it all in, allowing it to settle into the depth of your being so that it feels satisfying and fulfilling. You can multiply that love energy by igniting appreciation for yourself and by giving love to others. You can also further imprint the experience in your being by writing it all down, then reading it when you want to remind yourself of how to digest and be nourished by what you receive.
B) Break the habit of enmeshing. The first step is to become aware of the sensations in your body, as well as the emotions you are feeling, that cue you to the fact that you are abandoning yourself and enmeshing with someone else. The other person might be an intimate partner, a son or daughter, your coworker, your boss, or a friend. What are you feeling? Is your stomach tightening up? Are you getting spaced out or confused? Are your shoulders tensing? Are you slouching? Can you even feel your body? Were you feeling in balance and calm, but after relating to this person you suddenly feel down, angry, fearful? Or, alternatively, are you now feeling elated, ungrounded, and over-adrenalized? Are you feeling the emotions of the other person, which are not your own? Before you tell yourself that this is happening because you’re an empathic person, and you feel other people’s feelings because you are compassionate and want to help them, let me remind you that you can empathize with, and help others, without enmeshing. When you merge with them, you sort of become them. And at this point, you will be standing on a confused, even weak foundation for helping others because you are foregoing your own strength and perceptions. If you realize you are enmeshed, do not withdraw; instead, take a step back—physically or figuratively—and stand your ground. Put your hand on your solar plexus and return to the perception of your own body, your own feelings and sensations, your own assessment of the situation. See through your own eyes. Mentally say to yourself with strong intention: “I’m now bringing back to myself all my energy, my power, and my projections, and I return to this person all of his/her energy, power, and projections that are not mine and belong to him/her.”
C) Practice graceful separation. As soon as you realize that someone wants to leave and you are finding excuses, or conjuring up some reason to detain them because you feel anxiety and want to hold on to them, let them go immediately with blessings and appreciation in your heart. Then, turn the focus within and ask yourself: “What’s next? What do I want to do next? What do I desire now that would fulfill me?”
D) Get out of the emotional dark swamp. It is important that you do not repress your emotions, they are the language of your inner world doing its best to communicate with your conscious self. However, feeling and acknowledging your emotions does not mean that you act them out dramatically, or destructively. Nor does it mean that you drown in them. If you realize that you are caught in the undertow of the dark swamp of the all-devouring shadow inner female, immediately activate your healthy inner male to create movement and flow in your emotional landscape. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:
- Take a diary and write down what you are feeling in a stream of consciousness, without censorship, knowing this type of writing is your way of pouring it all out, but that it is not meant to ever be shared.
- Move your body even if you do not feel like it, even if you would rather disappear from the face of the Earth. Go out, possibly in nature, and walk. Run. Go to the gym. Go dancing. Throw a Frisbee. Walk your dog. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you externalize your emotions through movement.
- Breathe out slowly, and then breathe in deeply just as slowly. Continue to do this for at least ten minutes with the intention of creating movement with your breath through your emotions in order to dislodge those that are stuck. Make these emotions supple and fluid. The breath moving through will oxygenate you, create a flow, and transform the dark swamp into a crystalline stream.
- Transfer your emotions into artistic expression. Grab your watercolors, your mandala coloring book, your guitar, or whatever else you like to do and externalize your emotions through your creative expression.
This article is Part 4 in a 4-part series on the shadow. Start the whole series here.
Image credit: Jonny Lindner