613-790-8936 connect@conches.ca

Doing “The Work”

If you are unfamiliar with the term, or maybe you’ve heard it before and wondered – hopefully this might shed some light on DOING THE WORK.

In self help/empowerment language “the work” is not what we do in the external – it is the work we do with our inner world.  It requires us to first take stock of our undesirable qualities, or those aspects we hide or paper over with defensive ego behaviours.  Often these qualities are called shadow – those parts we are unable to see, yet are seen by those closest to us.

Often when these parts of us are expressed and reflected back to us it can feel like death, like we have been hit with an unseen emotional sledgehammer.  

Here is an example:

I typically want to hide or distract when I feel anxiety and stress, this causes me to seek relief through a myriad of distractions, and often I withdraw.  Through this withdrawing I then neglect to focus attention on people and activities that need my focus and presence.  In turn this makes for those around me to feel rejected, or unimportant – or even unloved.

When confronted or even being called out for not being present, I want to escape EVEN MORE!  

Doing the work is about first and foremost being willing to see the behaviours we act out, and then owning them.  Sounds easy, but most of us will opt to make excuses then be seen in our shame – and this does one a great disservice.

Singing Bowl | Conches

When we claim the undesirable (shadow) aspects of ourselves we can begin to acknowledge what we are doing, and the consequential impacts of those often unconscious choices.  It will seem uncomfortable and scary to do this – but there is also too, a deep relief in admitting to ourselves and others what IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!

However, admittance is only the first step – we must also be willing to explore the why and how these shadows are expressed.  Often a behaviour is something we’ve evolved from childhood as a defence from environmental conditions we were immersed in as children.  In my example, I was a latch key kid, with a single mom who worked and went to school – the anxiety of being without her around was mitigated by me keeping myself occupied, by being self sufficient and self resourced, often I would get lost in what I was doing to not feel the pain, and the sadness of not having my mom around – who was just doing what she needed to for us to have our basic needs met.

Often what we might call our shadow was formed as an intelligent strategy we used as children to feel safe, loved or seen.  Also in more extreme cases like abusive households, these strategies were how we survived.

Conches | Image of flowers

Yet, as adults we feel the same uncomfortable emotions  we did in our childhood – and we employ the same strategies, maybe they are more complex and nuanced – but they serve to protect us in some way.

The work is first to be aware of what we feel.  I’ll also add, to share this, and be seen in our undesirable qualities is a way to supercharge doing the work.  What tends to be true is: ALL OF US feel similar things, though we may employ different strategies to soothe ourselves.  Yet when we share this with others, we often see that the experience is relatable to just about anyone we encounter.

The work is never done, but when we can catch ourselves, or allow ourselves to be caught and take ownership, we have a compass point we can work with.  We can locate ourselves on the map and claim: “I am here”.

We can then begin to employ different choices, moving towards anxiety, as opposed to avoiding it.  This is the work.

Ownership.  Willingness. Choice. Course correction.


~ Robin Corlux