“If you’ve done a lot of spiritual work but still find certain negative issues operating in your life, learning about those structures can heal those issues to a point where they no longer block your spiritual growth.”
Alice McDowell, a counselor and cofounder of the Light on the Hill Retreat Center, has composed an activity based manual that is both thought-provoking and practical. She recalls her own earliest “negative issue”—the loss of her father at an early age—and how that experience from childhood gave her fears and a sense of disconnection that had to be explored and dealt with by therapy. Ultimately she was led to develop therapies for other based on spiritual principles.
She explains that everyone has a “shadow self” masked behind one’s “idealized self image”--that person we believe and want ourselves to be, that we present on the outside. Using vivid line drawings, bullet points, charts, and exercises, McDowell allows us first to identify our shadow self, using a questionnaire, as one of five possible personality patterns: Psychopathy, Oral, Masochist, Schizoid, or Rigid. Each pattern is then described in detail in separate chapters, offering examples including emotional and physical characteristics, major aspects both positive and negative, and historical/cultural models.
For example, she cites Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, as a person with typical schizoid structure, meaning that she is literally swept away to a fantasy world where events happen by magic, and in order to regain her self-control she must return to earth and focus on reality. A schizoid person will have a body form that is disjointed, unbalanced.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is a masochist, ashamed of his strange appearance and angry at the world; his quest to ruin Christmas leads him to the ultimate understanding that Christmas is about love and that he is loved, too. Such simple but vivid examples help the reader to understand his or her own shadow personality. The author is careful to cite positive characteristics of each personality type: the masochist, for example, is generally hardworking, with a good sense of humor.
The hidden treasure referenced by the title is the core personality that can gradually increase and shine, when one’s idealized self-image and shadow patterns have been reduced by spiritual growth.
McDowell’s guidebook is sprinkled with inspiring quotations from notable spiritual and psychological trailblazers, and each chapter contains real stories from people who have been through the process she recommends. An appendix offers suggestions for communicating with one’s inner child, such as imagining one meets one’s younger self coming out of the childhood home and begins to ask questions about feelings and events that the child self is experiencing. In general, all resources for spiritual improvement that would be recommended for someone engaged in an active therapeutic Hidden Treasure program are, as the author says, happily offered here.