by Charmaine Husum
The Integration of Psychedelic experiences using Somatic Art Therapy can be a valuable and supportive approach to Shadow Work.
What is Shadow Work?
Shadow work is a psychological and spiritual practice that involves exploring and integrating the unconscious aspects of the self, often referred to as the “shadow.” The concept of the shadow was popularized by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who believed that the shadow consists of repressed or disowned aspects of our personality, including our fears, insecurities, unresolved traumas, and unexpressed desires.
Somatic Art Therapy & Shadow Work
Here’s how Somatic Art Therapy can facilitate the integration of psychedelic experiences and support Shadow Work:
Somatic Art Therapy assists individuals in making meaning out of their psychedelic experiences and the shadow material that arises. Through reflection on the created artwork, dialogue, and interpretation with the art therapist, individuals can explore the significance and symbolism of their artistic expressions. This process helps integrate the insights and emotions from the psychedelic experiences into their personal narrative and daily life.
Psychedelics such as Ayahuasca, Psilocybin or San Pedro have the potential to heighten awareness and dissolve the barriers between the conscious and unconscious mind. During a psychedelic or plant medicine experience, suppressed or hidden aspects of the shadow may come to the surface, allowing individuals to directly confront and explore them. This can be dysregulating and sometimes even frightening. Having a trained Art Therapist to the support the process of integration afterwards and even leading up to your psychedelic experience to establish navigation tools and intentions, can be very supportive in allowing your shadow aspect to heal.
Art therapy provides a non-verbal and creative means of expression. Through various art forms such as painting, drawing, sculpture, or collage, individuals can externalize their inner experiences and emotions that may have emerged during psychedelic journeys. This allows for a tangible representation of the shadow aspects, facilitating exploration, reflection, and processing.
Art therapy encourages the use of symbols and metaphors, which can be particularly useful when working with shadow aspects. Symbolic representations in art can offer a safe and indirect way to engage with the shadow, making it more accessible for exploration and integration. Artistic symbolism can evoke deeper insights and provide a bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind.
The integration phase following a psychedelic experience is crucial for incorporating the insights gained and integrating them into daily life. Integration practices, such as Somatic Counselling, Art Therapy, journaling, Sacred geometry, and meditation, can help individuals make sense of their experiences, process emotions, and apply the lessons learned to support a lasting healing.
Access to Subconscious Material:
Psychedelics can facilitate access to deep layers of the subconscious mind, where the shadow aspects reside. Art Therapy does the same. This increased access provides an opportunity to uncover and bring to light repressed emotions, unresolved traumas, and unconscious patterns that may be influencing behavior and well-being.
Emotional Release and Healing:
Psychedelics can evoke intense emotional experiences and promote emotional release. After one’s psychedelic experience during the integration process, individuals are given an opportunity to confront and process challenging emotions that may have come up for deeper, lasting healing to take hold. The act of creating art can also be cathartic and supportive of emotional release. Engaging in art-making can help individuals process and release challenging emotions, facilitating the integration of difficult or repressed aspects of the shadow. The art-making process allows for a safe container to channel and transform emotions associated with shadow material.
Psychedelic experiences can deepen one’s spiritual connection and provide a sense of transcendence. While working afterwards Somatically with Art therapy, this connection to spirit can become amplified. This expanded spiritual perspective can support shadow work by offering a broader context and a deeper sense of meaning, allowing individuals to explore their shadow from a spiritual lens.
Art therapy provides an opportunity for reflection and contemplation. The created artwork serves as a mirror for self-reflection, allowing individuals to observe their own creative expressions and delve deeper into the underlying meanings and emotions present in the art. This reflective process can foster insight, self-awareness, and a deeper understanding of the shadow aspects.
Safe and Supportive Environment:
Art therapy sessions are typically conducted in a safe and supportive environment with a trained Art Therapist. This environment promotes trust, authenticity, and non-judgment, providing individuals with a space where they can explore and process their psychedelic experiences and shadow material. The therapeutic relationship and guidance of the art therapist can offer valuable support throughout the integration process.
Empowerment and Self-Discovery:
Art therapy empowers individuals to take an active role in their own healing and self-discovery. By engaging in the art-making process, individuals gain a sense of agency and control over their own exploration and integration of the shadow and their psychedelic experience. This empowerment contributes to a deeper understanding of oneself and fosters personal growth and transformation.
Is Shadow Work Dangerous?
It is important to note that engaging in psychedelic experiences for shadow work should be approached with caution, respect, and guidance from experienced professionals. Psychedelics can evoke powerful and intense experiences, and the support of integration practices and professionals can help navigate the complexities of shadow work and ensure a safe and transformative process.
Art therapy can be a valuable tool for integrating psychedelic experiences and supporting shadow work. It provides a creative and expressive outlet, a safe space for exploration, and a means to process and integrate the insights gained during psychedelic journeys. Working with an art therapist who is experienced in both art therapy and psychedelic integration can enhance the effectiveness of this approach.
As a Certified Art Therapist and Registered Therapeutic Counsellor, Charmaine Husum DKATI, RTC, CT supports people in finding personalized routes to emotional healing with a focus on inner resources and transpersonal connections to spirit. With years of experience and training in the area of Psychedelics, she helps people both in groups and individually, understand and Integrate the details of their Psychedelic Experiences using Trauma Informed Art Therapy, Counselling, Meditation and tapping into the innate Wisdom of the Body through various Somatic Approaches. Her current research enthusiasms are in neuroplasticity, neuroscience, epigenetics, mystical/ psychedelic integration and intergenerational trauma.
Neuroplasticity: How the Brain is AffectedMystical Experiences are profound experiences for anybody, that is true, but what is actually happening in the brain to create this profound shift? Although research is just now flooding in, there have been many studies, FMRI's and personal, professional and medical accounts to explain what shifts our brain is going through in these profoundly moving moments.
Intensely powerful is the rerouting of neuropathways which dictate the ways we have habitually been conditioned to act, react and survive in our lives. That is why profound, mystical experiences can bring about such great changes when it comes to addiction and changing demoting habits or personality traits that may have taken control of our lives.
As described by Michael Pollan in his ground breaking book, 'How to Change Your Mind', our minds and the paths our neurotransmitters take in the brain can be described as a ski hill that has been well worn by skiers creating heavy and deep crevices where years of downhill rounds have taken place over and over again. These deep ruts represent our patterns in life; our habits, addictions, ways of acting and reacting, ways of coping we have used in the past to stay safe and feel secure. Even when we want to make a change, we are pulled into these ruts and lasting change in our lives becomes difficult. A Mystical experience, arising from an epiphany in meditation; a kundalini awakening, a near death experience or hallucinogenic or psychotropic medicinal ceremonies, creates a grooming of this snowy hill leaving a pristine powder where new behaviors are able to create new pathways. This is what is happening in our brain; this is the neuroscience of Mystical and Entheogenic experiences. Our brain actually becomes re-groomed, ready for change and a new life to blossom.
However, as wonderful or difficult this experience may be (since change is rarely an easy process), sometimes the heightened experience of change becomes its own ski rut in the snow. We begin to feel drawn again and again to the profound shifts we have experienced; looking for the newest most sought after guru, spending hours in meditation focusing on that one glimpse of truth instead of the experience in the moment, increasing our frequency of and perhaps even dosage of psychedelic and psychotropic entheogenic medicines like psilocybin, LSD, or ayahuasca and healing retreats. The goal is to heal and grow from within so that the changes we want in life are lasting.
I too have felt this and is why I created this program. I believe that through integration of the experience, we are able to maintain this new way of being; celebrating the changes and creating them in our everyday lived experience so the new pathways we create support our evolution, healing and personal growth, beyond the experience. We become sustained in our greatness and stop seeking that which already lives within us. This my hope for all those on the path of transformation and for you in this moment as you embark on the journey of integration.
- Charmaine Husum
Charmaine Husum runs a private Art Therapy practice online and in Calgary Alberta. She is also an Artist, Kundalini Yoga teacher and trained in the somatic approach of Integrative Body Psychotherapy, Reiki and Mystical Integration. Her current research enthusiasms are in neuroplasticity, neuroscience, epigenetics, mystical integration and intergenerational trauma; on which she is currently writing a book and creating online courses. She specializes in working with trauma and symptoms of PTSD and C-PTSD as well as Autism, Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Addiction and other mental health symptoms.