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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Henderson

Transformative Power of Shadow Work: Laura Giles


Embracing Shadows
Navigating Trauma

Transformative Power of Shadow Work :


In the realm of self-discovery and healing, one name stands out as a beacon of insight and guidance: Laura Giles. With over two decades dedicated to trauma work, Laura's approach to unlocking the depths of the human psyche is nothing short of transformative. Through her podcast "It's not you, it's me" and her extensive experience as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Laura sheds light on the profound impact of shadow work in navigating trauma and embracing our true selves.

 

Rooted in her belief in animism, Laura's journey began in a world where everything is connected, alive, and sacred. Raised in a culture that reveres all things as part of a divine tapestry, Laura's early experiences shaped her understanding of spirituality and its intertwining with the human experience. Animism, she explains, is not just a belief system but a way of life—one that fosters a deep connection to spirit and the essence of all things.

 

In her conversation with Michelle Henderson on the "Inspire Your Essence" podcast, Laura delves into the essence of animism and its profound influence on her approach to healing. Drawing from her own upbringing and experiences, she elucidates how this ancient spiritual practice informs her work as a trauma worker and healer.

 

For Laura, the journey of shadow work is about confronting the unseen and unspoken aspects of ourselves—the shadows that lurk beneath the surface. These shadows, as Carl Jung described, are the parts of ourselves that we are blind to, often shrouded in shame or trauma. Through somatic exploration and the language of symbols, Laura guides her clients to unearth these hidden truths, allowing them to integrate and heal on a profound level.

 

But shadow work is not just about delving into the darkness; it's about embracing the full spectrum of human experience. As Laura explains, we are all composed of light and dark, and true healing comes from acknowledging and accepting both aspects of ourselves. Through her work, she empowers individuals to journey into the depths of their being, confronting their fears and traumas with courage and compassion.

 

One of the key insights Laura shares is the importance of surrendering to the wisdom of the body. In a world dominated by rational thought, she emphasizes the role of intuition and embodied knowing in the healing process. By tapping into the language of the unconscious and harnessing the power of symbols, Laura helps her clients bypass the limitations of the mind and access deeper layers of healing.

 

Throughout her conversation with Michelle, Laura's passion for her work shines through, illuminating the path to self-discovery and transformation. From her insights on the healing power of art and nature to her profound understanding of trauma and resilience, Laura Giles embodies the essence of healing and growth.

 

As we journey through life, confronting our shadows and embracing our true selves, may we find inspiration in the wisdom of healers like Laura Giles. For in the depths of our darkest moments lies the potential for profound healing and transformation. And through the guidance of compassionate souls like Laura, we can navigate the complexities of trauma and emerge stronger, wiser, and more whole.




 Transcript of Unedited Version


Michelle Henderson :

Welcome to Inspire Your Essence. I'm Michelle, your host, and I am so excited to present our next guest, Laura Giles, with over two decades in trauma work, Laura and Vs. The transformative power of Embracing our Shadows. Join us as she shares why diving into the dark and painful past is the key to unlocking our true beautiful selves. Laura Pels myths about traditional healing methods and advocates for the profound impact of shadow work. Discover why she believes everyone can lead a vibrant and healthy life, which we are all striving to do. Stay tuned for insights on Navigating Trauma with the insightful Laura Giles, and she is an LCSW, so you won't want to miss the inspiring episode. So I'm going to bring her on here so I can hear about her inspirational story and why she is practicing what she's practicing today. Hey Laura, how are you?


Laura Giles :

I'm fantastic. How are you?


Michelle Henderson :

I am fantastic as well. I am really ready to dive in and I know that I've already introduced you about doing shadow work and everything else, but first I also read in your bio that you practice, let me say this correctly, that you practice animism. And whenever I first write that I'm going, Ooh, this is interesting because it's something that I have not come across before and I love to hear about other people's belief systems and how it shaped them today. So can you tell us what this means and how you came about understanding it and practicing it in your life?


Laura Giles :

Sure. So you probably have heard of it, but maybe not with that name, but animism is, as far as we know, the earliest spiritual practice. It's what Native Americans practiced and that is a reverence of all things. Everything is connected, alive and sacred. So that's it simply. But the way that each culture does it is different and it varies by where you live, what's the climate, what are the trees there, that kind of thing. What are your myths and history? And so I was born into this. My mother comes from an animus culture, so I grew up with it. It's just always been a part of my life.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, how interesting. It reminds me what you were talking about. It depends on where you live is how you practice it. And it's the same thing with any type of religion because every church is different. If you go to one Methodist church and go to a different one, they may practice completely different, a completely different vibe in their church. So you grew up with this. How did it really shape your belief system and what you believe today?


Laura Giles :

Well, on the outside it didn't look a whole lot different because it is something that's really internal. And the older I get, the more and the more I talk to people, the more that I see the answer to that. And it's really, I think I've always had this profound connection to spirit and the spirit in all things. So even though I'm an LCSW and trauma worker and loneliness is a normal human experience, I've never been lonely because I'm that connected to everything. And when you're that connected, you can't be lonely, you're not alone. And that connection to my ancestors too. So when someone dies, the grief is not the same. So my dog died this year and it was really painful and it was a loss. So I'm not saying that I don't experience grief, but it's not like when my grandfather died who was really dear to me, I didn't experience that as a loss. He's still here, he's still with me, he's not here. I can't sit down and have a conversation or tea with him, but he's absolutely a part of me. And so I think that that makes my experience of life really different.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, I absolutely love that. And I love how you explained that you do experience grief even though that it just means that you're really strong spiritually. And I absolutely love that because a lot of people when they go through the grieving process, and we all do because we're human, they don't, like you said, our ancestors, our loved ones are still with us even though we can't see them sometimes we can feel them and we have 'em in our DNA, they're still a part of us. I absolutely love this. So how did this shape you as what you're doing now whenever you're healing others of shadow work? So how do you integrate your beliefs into your practice?


Laura Giles :

I think we can't separate our beliefs from who we are. If it's something that you, you're living now, if it's something that you're practicing or something that you're giving lip service to, yeah, you can separate that. But this is part of how I live. So for example, I've been conducting spiritual travel avengers for over 20 years as well, and I went to this one sacred site and it was amazing. I had an experience, I don't even really know how to talk about it except that I kind of became one with everything in the space, all the rocks, the clouds, the sun, the plants. There was no separation between me and any of it. And I was everything. Everything was me. It was absolutely timeless. And I was called to go there. So I'd been there once before and I was called to come back and it was like a call.

I had to go. So as soon as I could get there, that's the first thing I did get off the plane, hopped over there and I said to the rocks, I said, grandfathers, why have you called me here? And the answer was to show you, you don't have to be here to be here. And that's really the expression of quantum entanglement. So we have all of these physics things that we know are true and we don't live them. I think animism is the practice of living the science. I don't have to be there to be there because I've already been there. I've already touched the essence and now I'm never separated from that. It's the same thing with my ancestors and any experience that I've ever had, any person that I've ever shared a moment with. So when I work, I tap into that aspect of people and it's kind of like, I'm you and you're me.

And if I know that you're going to be okay because I'm okay, because spirit's okay, because life is okay. I think that confidence just bleeds into the session and it helps people to have confidence that they can be okay. And one of the things that I really, really love is going into dark spaces. So I don't know if you're into astrology at all, but I have lots of dark Scorpio, watery stuff going on. Neptune is a real strong influence. And so I like that where people don't like going. I love going there. I find it thrilling and adventurous. And so I'll take people there to show them that it's really not that scary. You have to go to those places to let stuff go, to grow, to evolve, to experience the fullness of yourself because we are all light and dark. It's not like you're ever going to be absolutely illuminated and the darkness is gone. That's not the way that nature works. So I think embodying the truth of who we are is a way to be who we are. And all of that is healing.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, I love it. Now, whenever you are with a client, do you do energy work? You said about astrology, but do you do energy work with them or do you mainly ask them questions or how do you dive into it?


Laura Giles :

So I do have training in energy work. Typically that's not what I do. If we're on retreat, then I might do some stuff like that. But in the shadow work, we really speak the language of the body. We talk in metaphors and symbols because that's the language of spirit. So once you start getting into your head and you start thinking, well, I think this and I think that, then you're really on the surface of things and you might feel better and talking about it. But really the talking is the integration piece of it. It's not the healing piece of it because your brain doesn't know the answer, your heart knows the answer and talking can't get you there.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, okay. So something came up when you said symbols of the body. Can you go more into that, what that means? Because I totally agree that our brain is trying to figure it all out in our logic, but it isn't within the heart. But what do you mean by


Laura Giles :

So symbols are like dreams or there's lots of ancient symbols on old architecture. So in the Celtic traditions, you see the spiral, that's a common one. Things like the images of sacred geometry. I don't know all the names of them, but you have the star thing. I know somebody's screaming at me this, there's lots of them. So those are symbols and they have meaning, they have vibration. Some of them are helpful, some of them are not helpful. And by that I don't mean that they're bad or they're evil. It's just you need the right energy for the right thing. And so if you have the wrong energy in the wrong place, it's not going to give you very useful results. So when we're looking at symbols, we're looking at, it's a way to bypass the brain and get to the truth of things because these symbols, they're ancient. They go throughout time. It's like a vibration. Vibrations are the same. It doesn't matter what culture you're in, it doesn't matter what time you're in. It's the same if you hit a key on the piano, it's the same everywhere. Math, the language of numbers is the same everywhere. So that's what I'm talking about with symbols.


Michelle Henderson :

It's so interesting. So do you think that when somebody in life keeps seeing the same symbol over and over, that means something?


Laura Giles :

Absolutely.


Michelle Henderson :

Yeah. So we tend to ignore that. Yes. Like the spiral thing that you're talking about, what does that usually mean? I know there's different meanings, but what does that symbol usually mean?


Laura Giles :

I think it usually means it's a symbol for the galaxy and the spiral nature of life. So things, humans like to make things linear. I'm going to do this and then I'm going to do that, and then I'm going to do this and then I die. But that's not how it works. It works. Hopefully if we're moving in the way that nature's intended, we're moving in a spiral. If you go around the seasons and you're the same place you were, so you're moving in a circle as you started, then you're not growing if it's going to spiral. And if you're going in a line, I'm not real sure where you're going.


Michelle Henderson :

We all don't know where we're going, that type of thing. So do you get a lot of people that you try to show them who they are, they forget who they are when they live on this earth plane, do you tend to take 'em back so that they can remember? Is that a part of the shadow work?


Laura Giles :

The body takes them there. The body takes them where they want to go. I don't really have an agenda other than to explore the thing that is interfering with their happiness or growth or what's getting in the way of being whole today. And then the body will take them there and we allow it to be as it is, surrender to it, and then it goes. It's really quite that simple. I could give you steps and make it complicated, but really that's the essence of what we're doing. As long as we are with life and we're living life the way that it's unfolding, it'll be okay. I mean, everything we do has consequences. And it's when we start pushing these things away, I don't want to feel that I don't want to do this, and I don't want to admit to that. That's when we get into trouble. But when we surrender to it and allow it to be as it is, then it goes away because everything comes and goes. That's the nature of life. It ebbs and flows.


Michelle Henderson :

Right. Let me ask you something about, for some reason about spirit art. Okay. Do you think whenever somebody tries to create something or tries to do or creates, I don't want to say tries to, they do it, they create spirit art or they a painting or something that they craft, do you think that will help the mind get out of the way so that their heart can feel what they need to do?


Laura Giles :

Yes. So mandalas is a way of doing that. I've seen some beautiful art that supposed to see I'm doing what you're doing supposed to, it does other energies. And that's kind of fascinating how you can combine your energy with the energy of something else to create something visual that is healing. So I think anytime we craft anything, if we're doing it with intention, we're creating something that breathes life and has the ability to heal because I'm in that thing. So when I go out and buy a sweater off the rack, that was done by a machine, that's not the same thing as my grandmother knitting me that sweater.


Michelle Henderson :

Very true.


Laura Giles :

Yeah.


Michelle Henderson :

Yeah, very true. Oh, and I love that because the intention behind it. Okay, so let's talk about what shadow work is, because a lot of people, people that are in the business, they understand that term, but there are some people are going, why do I keep hearing about, I've heard someone ask me, is that the same as shadow people? And I'm going, oh no, I think it's a little bit different. So can you explain what shadow work means?


Laura Giles :

So I think there are some different definitions going on out there. So in the world of psychology, when Carl Young was talking about it, and as far as I know, he's the first person that ever used that term. He was talking about things that we don't see, things that we can see the effects of them, and we can feel the effects of them, but they're blind to us. So this doesn't mean that other people doesn't see it. So for example, if my husband is always saying, you know, really have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to blah, blah, blah, and I'm like, I dunno what you're talking about. That's a shadow thing. He's seeing something that I'm blind to now. Why am I blind to this? It's probably because there's some shame attached to it. It's something that I can't accept about myself. So I have blinders on and I can't see it.

It's really that simple. It's the stuff I don't see. So trauma could have happened a long time ago. So let's say that I'm two years old. I was in a fire and it was really traumatizing, but I didn't have the language to talk about it. And so people think, oh, she's resilient. She doesn't remember that she'll bounce back. Meanwhile, I'm feeling the effects of it in my body and I can't really feel safe in the world. People don't know what's going on with me. It was a long time ago that could be having a huge impact on how I function through the world in the day to day, and I have no idea. So a lot of this shadow stuff can happen when we're preverbal. One of the things that I think a lot of people don't understand is that we do have memory. It's just not verbal memory because memory is stored throughout the body. So you can have kinesthetic memory, it's in your skin, it's in your eyes, it's in your heart, it's everywhere. So just because I don't remember something doesn't mean it didn't happen or that it's not impacting me,


Michelle Henderson :

Right? Right. And so I think that also leads to whenever you are having difficulties with trauma or not really understanding what is going on because you cannot see it, you need to seek for help because you can't see it and somebody can walk you through like yourself. That's probably how you help your clients.


Laura Giles :

And you can get so much deeper than if you're just having a conversation. Not to say that talk therapy is not useful because we're humans and we need to be seen. We need to be heard. But that's not going to get you to the root of the thing. Your body knows what the root is. And if you're not going there somatically, if you're not using symbols, if you're not using something that talks the language of the unconscious, you're not going to get it.


Michelle Henderson :

So how many, gosh. And that just leads to, there's so many people out there that don't know what is happening to them. And that's probably, like you said, we're probably seeing those cycles. They're not listening and then they keep doing the same type of behavior that gets 'em into trouble over and over. I know that you see a lot of your clients. What is the number one thing that you keep seeing up in your clients?


Laura Giles :

I wish there was a pattern. Fortunately, I like variety. That's all kinds of stuff. I mean, I guess if there was one thing that they all have as being stuck, it's like, I don't know what to do now. I've hit a wall. Other than that, what they come in with is really different stuff.


Michelle Henderson :

And I love that, that you want to keep growing as a profession yourself. And I think that because to me, a lot of the clients that I get, it's almost like they are very similar in energy because it's almost like spirit knows what I can work at at the time. And it's probably the same thing with you. They go, okay, she's ready for this client that has a different situation. We're going to challenge her. And so it challenges you. So that I love because you just keep learning that way. So is there anything else that you want to talk about the business of shadow work or that we did not talk about?


Laura Giles :

I would just urge everybody to do it. I mean, even if you're just curious and you think, oh, there's nothing here for me, I think you would be absolutely amazed at how easy it is and how much there is to discover about yourself. So I think everybody's favorite topic, if it's not themselves, should be because you're absolutely fascinating. There's this endless, endless discovery with everybody that if you just keep going and going, you'd be like, oh my God, I didn't know this about myself. Oh my God, I didn't know this about myself. And it can keep you interested in life. So the more layers you peel back, the more excited and enthusiastic you are about living and sharing whatever it is that's inside.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay, so this client just said, I had a great childhood, nothing went wrong. And then as we dove into it, she's going, you know what? There are things I can't remember that my mom never disclosed. So it was just a certain event that came up. And so it was like she shed some light on it and it's like, oh, this is awesome. How she's healing from it, just talking about it and feeling into the body and feeling into the emotions and everything. Well, my dear, let's talk about your podcast. I absolutely love when people start podcasting because it really tells a lot about you. And the name of your podcast is It's not you, it's me. And so what is your inspiration behind this podcast?


Laura Giles :

So this has been a journey actually. It started out as just the desire to help people kind of understand themselves. When I was little, I had no idea. I just didn't know the first thing about people. That was an absolute mystery. I was different in most ways, and people othered me a lot. I won't say that. I used to say they bullied me, but I don't say that anymore because it wasn't about power and taking my power away, that did not happen. And it really wasn't about discrimination either, but it was othering and I was made to feel very different. And I didn't know if somebody was going to want to play with me or beat me up. Goodness. When I got to college and I got into my first psychology class as an elective, I wasn't really all that interested. I just thought it'd be an easy A, I figured out, oh my God, people make sense.

And I started to see the patterns in behavior. And so the podcast is really about helping people to see the stuff that I saw that helped me make sense of the world, make sense of relationships, make sense of people, to help me to feel safer with people and to navigate a lot better. Because I think we all have those issues where we don't know what's going on. And I think the reason for it's different. Maybe I grew up in an alcoholic household, so this pattern is different from other people. And now I don't know how to navigate in other environments. Or maybe it was homelessness or maybe whatever it was. There is a healthy way of doing things. There is a healthy way of seeing things. There are things we're blind to. So the podcast is about hopefully encouraging people to not say, well, it's just you. I'm going to give all the power to you, and if you change, then life will be better. Because we can do things within ourselves to make changes that make us fulfilled and happy. That has nothing to do with whatever happened to you or whatever's going on in the world.


Michelle Henderson :

Right? Absolutely. And so on the podcast, what are your topics? What do you talk about? Or just us


Laura Giles :

Healing yourself? So If you're in a space in crisis, you need to get out of crisis. You're not going to be able to do any growing from there or change from there. Crisis is about getting out of crisis and then growing yourself, knowing yourself. You can't share yourself if you don't know yourself. And then loving yourself, because knowing yourself doesn't necessarily mean loving yourself, yourself. So it's really about the whole experience of being human. And so if anybody's stuck in any aspect of that, I think the podcast will have something to offer.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, that sounds wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Alright, so if somebody came to you and said, you know what, I need some inspiration for today. I need some here, talking about words, not energy. So what would you tell them to help uplift their spirits?


Laura Giles :

Honestly, I would take it back to the nonverbal and I would say something like, Go outside and watch the sunrise. Go outside and look at the stars. I can't be under the stars and not feel inspired. I can't be sitting on a surfboard in the ocean and not be inspired because it's so fantastic and I'm a part of this thing. It just makes me feel a little fantastic too. Now I'm a teeny, teeny, tiny indescribably, small speck of that, but I am a speck of that, and that makes me feel amazing.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, I love it. And that brings me to earlier you talked about the different energies that you can go to sometimes call your name. So where in the United States has the best energy? I know it's mainly for you because that's what pulled you in, but it may also pull other people in. Where can you go to increase that spirituality and also feel like one with the universe?


Laura Giles :

So some of the popular places in the United States are going to be Mount Shasta, Sedona, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, and Asheville. Everybody doesn't resonate with the same types of energy, so I can't say that this is going to be like somebody's wow spots, but these are really good ones. And then another one is Chaco Canyon.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay. Now I've heard a lot about Sedona, Arizona, and I have not been there, and I think I need to put that on my bucket list.


Laura Giles :

A lot of people enjoy Sedona. Actually, Sedona doesn't really resonate that much with me, but I mentioned it. It does with a lot of people. For me it's more Canyon Dee, which is really close by.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, interesting. And it's close to where you are.


Laura Giles :

No, it's not close to where I am.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh,


Laura Giles :

Sorry.


Michelle Henderson :

That's okay. I was going to say, wow, maybe you moved where you are because of the energy.


Laura Giles :

Oh, there's a place nearby me though that a lot of people resonate with that. And that's Virginia Beach. So that's where Ed Casey did a lot of his work.


Michelle Henderson :

I absolutely love this topic because I'm basically the same way as I have to live near water, and this could be in a lake or a pond. And I've got surrounded and I've been like that all my life and there's no coincidences. But I've always lived near water and I've used to be what they would call me a fish when I was younger. I was a competitive swimmer. And so water always has that just enlightenment and joy for me. And now I don't go in the water. I just like to watch, like you said, I like to watch the nature. I like to watch the ducks. I like to wash the fish. And I think more people need to do that because people get so caught up with technology and that busyness in their life. They need to look at spirituality, what they need to do to slow down. Nature is one of them


Laura Giles :

For sure.


Michelle Henderson :

Are you ready for the last question, which is on a wheel?


Laura Giles :

Yeah.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay, let me bring it on. I always to explain to everybody I was in education, this brings the childhood energy from me. So let's go ahead and spin it and see what question you have. Oh, isn't that interesting? All right. Bucket list. And I was talking about, it's so interesting how this works. So I was talking about, I wanted to put something on my bucket list, which go to Sedona. What is one thing or a few things you can talk about that you want to make sure that you get on your bucket list before you transform?


Laura Giles :

The honest answer is, I don't have a bucket list. I have always lived my life. I could die tomorrow. So I don't put off stuff that I want to do. And I'm very adventurous and I do the things that I have to do this before I die. They're all done. Now, that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to things, but there's no must do things


Michelle Henderson :

Right now. I love that. I love that thought process because a lot of people do wait to do their bucket list. And it's like a lot of times, okay, so I'll use this example, having children, people will say, well, I'm waiting to have money. Well, if you waited to have money to have children, you'll never have children. So like you said, you've got to live in the moment and you need to live presently, and then you get sick sometimes and then you're not able to fulfill that bucket list and you feel depressed because of it. So no, I love that. That is a very healthy way to look at it. I


Laura Giles :

Be here this time. One of the things that I started when I was very young is doing past life regression. And I learned really early that most people do the same life over and over again. The same regrets, the same stop living thing. Something happens, it takes a life out of them and they endure the rest of their lives. And that taught me really early on live time. I did that too. And so an opportunity came up and says, you want to do this thing? A yes?


Michelle Henderson :

Yes. I love it. I absolutely love it. Lauren, you have been a pleasure. So where can everybody reach you?


Laura Giles :

My best contact is my name laura giles.org. And you can see all my links from there.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, I love it. I love it. I love it. Alright, well if anybody resonated with this episode, please share. And I just love it that we talked about shadow work. We talked about animism. You got to open up the box. You got to open up your belief system to see what else is out there. Because I truly believe spiritually, there's nothing in a box. When you think you think that you know everything, you don't know everything. And I feel like spirit kind of puts things in front of you so that you can think outside the box. All right, everybody, I will see you next week and I hope that you were inspired by this episode. Bye.

 



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