My Journey Out of Feeling Unimportant
The benefits of shadow work in finding happiness
Almost 15 years ago, I got the first conscious glimpse of my core wounding “Not Welcome, Not Wanted, Not Important”. I was at Harbin Hot Springs in CA shortly after my very first Human Awareness Institute Level 3 program. I was hanging out with some of the other participants from HAI and we were getting a seriously cold response from the residents at Harbin. We were too happy, too loud, too much for them. Three of us went into the 4-person sauna and were talking.
One of the residents stuck her head in and huffily asked how long we were going to be. We told her we were going to be a while but said she was welcome to join us. She declined. We continued our conversation. About 5 minutes later she asked again how long we were going to be. We gave her the same answer and again invited her to join us. This time she did, but she spent the entire time bitching about how much she hated when HAI had workshops there and how disruptive she found us. She filled the sauna with negativity until we left.
I had been through a challenging weekend and there had been a lot of tears. That evening, I had tried to get a single room, but only the dorm was available. So, in an effort to be kind to the others in the room (I snore when I’ve been crying), I took the only bunk of the first floor, next to the door — something I would usually not do since it feels unsafe to me to have people coming and going by my bed as I sleep.
A few hours into my sleep cycle, a woman comes and shakes me awake (no, it was not the same woman). She tells me I’m snoring. I apologize and offer her extra earplugs that I have. She declines. I get up, drink some water, blow my nose, and stay awake for about 10 minutes, trying to let her get to sleep before I go back to sleeping and snoring again. Some time later, she wakes me again and tells me that I’m going to have to find somewhere else to be because my snoring is too loud. At this point I snapped. I told her that I had tried to get a single and that there weren’t any and that she chose to be in a communal sleeping area and therefore needed to deal with that. I offered her the ear plugs again — she declined again. Then I told her that if she touched me again, I’d break her hand and I rolled over and went back to sleep. She didn’t wake me again.
The next morning, I went to breakfast and sat with some of the HAI people. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves and getting dirty looks from the residents (no, this isn’t a silent retreat center, this was just what the universe was handing me). The others left just as I was getting my food so I was left alone with the reproaching stares and I started to get in touch with how I was feeling — thoroughly unwelcome. And I thought to myself, “I have never felt so unwelcome in my entire life…” and then that thought was immediately replaced with the thought that “no, I have felt EXACTLY this unwelcome my entire life.” (I had been a military brat — always the new kid in school with a single-parent mother that encouraged me to not look back and this had resulted in only having her as a solid connection through most of my childhood.) I started to cry into my oatmeal. I looked up at the universe and said “I get it, you can stop now”.
I cleaned up from breakfast and went into the silent meditation pool to release the emotions I had found swirling inside of me. While I was letting the tears out, a man I didn’t know came over and offered to float me while I did my work. It was a beautiful offer and I accepted, allowing him to hold me in my pain. And showing me that the universe had heard me.
Over the years I have done a lot of work around these issues. Another round came when my mother died and I was left to grieve alone. Another part of that story coming up in relation to the mother who was never really capable of showing her love for me in ways I could receive. Each time I do work on it, it gets a bit better.
Six years ago, I was doing another layer. I posted on Facebook about that part of the journey. And then my friend Trish called me and we had coffee and processed some more. And I sat with some of the revelations from that conversation.
I realized that I still had that wounding from being the new kid in town all the time because we moved every year or two. To make it worse, I was the kid whose mom dressed her in boys clothes because they were cheaper and whose coke-bottle glasses obscured her face. I didn’t know how to look nice because my mother never learned so she couldn’t teach me. And I was smart — too smart to be one of the cool kids and too eager to please, so I became the class brown-noser, always trying to be perfect so I could earn the love I so craved in life. And so I was not welcome in the world of kid-dom.
And this has felt like the case for much of my life. When I tried to contribute to a group, I felt like no one listened unless I stepped up and took charge and then it often took too much of my energy. And so I have retreated over the years from community-based groups because instinctively, if not consciously, I knew I was doing it wrong, but I didn’t know how to do it differently.
Six years ago, I was sitting with how to do it differently. I had recognized the controlling energy that came forth when I engaged my yearning to belong. I had it tied up in a corner of my mind, watching it like a hawk to keep it from taking me over. I was working on it.
But today, I realize that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. It wasn’t the need to belong that created the controlling behavior, it was feeling unsafe — feeling that I would be left in the cold, outside of the loving container of belonging — that created the controlling behavior. I was trying to protect myself.
In the intervening years, I have come to love myself, and so this pattern is not playing out as it used to. In 2018 when we moved to Richmond two months before my birthday (always a traumatic time for me since being a November baby I had always been the new kid in school and no one wanted to come to my parties), I was sad to realize that I didn’t know enough people to get them to come to my party. It was like being 13 all over again. Except that I just let myself be sad. I didn’t feel like I needed to control anything or manipulate people into coming or be angry. It was what it was. I was too new to have yet found and established relationships where people wanted to celebrate me. No drama, just allowing all the emotions from all of those years to surface and release. So while I didn’t get a big party for my birthday that year, I did get to let go of some old stuff hanging around in my energy field.
The following year, old friends flew down from Boston and new ones gathered to help me celebrate 50 years on the planet. And this is how it works when you process through things. The old patterns fall away and new ones arrive. THIS is why I started on this journey 23 years ago and it is what keeps me on it today. The momentary pain of facing my feelings opens up endless possibilities for my future happiness.
Hopefully this story has given you a glimpse into what shadow work is like and how it can help in your life too.
Kelle Sparta is a Transformational Shaman specializing in helping empaths build lives and businesses they can love. She is also the host of the popular Spirit Sherpa Podcast. If you are an empath and you’re having trouble separating yourself from other’s emotions, download her free Boundaries for Empaths program. You can find out more about Kelle at www.KelleSparta.com.