Shadow Work for Trying Times: A Response to the Capitol Riots

Photo by Denys Argyriou on Unsplash

This article was originally published as a newsletter to my direct audience, but I received special requests from that beloved group to publish it to to share it more widely. This is a next-day response to the January 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol. It does NOT contain any graphics or graphic detail of that day.

“I’m just gobsmacked!” read a text that came all the way from Amsterdam to interrupt the relative calm of my work day yesterday. My friend was watching U.S. news from the other side of the world and wanted me to know what was going on. Rioters were storming the capitol at the president’s behest. I was shocked, but not surprised.

Have you had that experience a lot lately? I believe it’s a healthy response in these times, to be shocked but not surprised. No matter how much we understand the systems at play, no matter how much we unpack the politics, the institutionalized racism, the corporatocracy that governs so much of our lived experience, these types of events should still be shocking. If you’re paying attention, they’re not surprising at all; they’re highly predictable. But a healthy nervous system feels the environment, registers the extreme nature of violent and dangerous events, and is able to respond.

Yesterday, I cried, I talked with friends, I took pauses to move my body and to get away from the screen. Today, I made sure to spend time outside, to take it slow, to unplug for a while. I noticed the times when I was numb and couldn’t take in any more information, and I respected that by not taking in any more information. I also signed petitions and made sure I was tuned in to the folks I look to for calls to action, so I’d know what practical steps to take next.

As a human being, and speaking as the founder of The EcoSpiritual Education Center, LLC, I am committed to action-based movement towards an anti-racist, just, and equitable world. I was horrified (though not surprised) by what I saw yesterday, and I condemn it.

Yesterday was a demonstration of this country’s unprocessed shadow.

People often mistake “shadow” work for working with our “bad” side, and what we saw yesterday was in fact terrible. But shadow work actually refers to working with parts of ourselves which are unknown, marginalized, pushed to the edges of our consciousness; the parts which come out unexpectedly and which we identify as “not me.”

Many of our public leaders identified the rioters yesterday as “not us, not The U.S.,” but in fact they are part of our nation as a whole, no matter how ugly, harmful, or unsavory their actions may be. They are not ALL of us, they are not even MOST of us, but they are part of us. They are the most extreme manifestation of the racist, entitled parts of our national history which we’ve refused to work on for so long, which we all must work on (most especially white folks).

Native American and Jewish writer David Treuer says it best when he talks about the two sides of this country in this interview with OPB; his Jewish father came here as a refugee, fleeing for his life, and found solace. His Indigenous mother found persecution in this country which was her rightful home. Neither is the whole truth, both exist simultaneously, and both are us — both are U.S.

When we see our wholeness, our shadow and our light, our love and our hate, our refuge and our exclusion, maybe then we can start to heal. If you feel up for it, doing that work individually helps heal the collective consciousness. But for now, please take care (click here to see an IGTV I made today about taking care). Stay safe, in body, mind, and spirit. Engage and act in calls for justice (click here for a very straightforward way to do that right now, from home), and look out for one another.

In solidarity,

Jeanell Ruth Innerarity, MA, QMHP-C, LMT, HTS

Originally published at

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