What is a 180˚ in Shadow Work?
Could there be benefits of core wounding — and what might we have missed out on, had it never occurred?
I was recently introduced to the concept of a “180˚” in the context of shadow work — essentially the ability to observe, reflect upon, and realize the myriad positive outcomes as an adult having experienced childhood trauma.
Relationship education leader, Jayson Gaddis coined this term. His mentor, John DeMartini, called it “The DeMartini Method”. Debbie Ford called it “The Divine Recipe”. And in Buddhism, it’s called “The Indestructible View”. Let’s just call it the 180˚ Divine View, shall we?
Whichever name feels good to you, the concept might seem counterintuitive; however, the exercise itself enabled me to reframe wounding by transmuting it into gratitude.
I also want to be clear right upfront that trauma takes many forms, and no matter what happened in your life, it wasn’t your fault. While it cannot be undone, there is nothing you could have done differently to prevent or avoid it, and I reiterate that it wasn’t your fault.
If we can agree on those mutual understandings, let’s dive in together. I’m going to share a 180˚ on my experience with my biological mother who has narcissistic and borderline personality disorder (NPD / BPD).
Using this method and example as a template, I invite you to duplicate this exercise using any past trauma or your core wound.
1. The Benefits
What benefits did I derive, having gone through this traumatic experience?
With a mother who was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive, never appeased no matter how perfect I tried to be in order to earn her love, and continuously made me feel devalued, unsafe and unloveable, benefits are difficult to define.
Yet, when I was able to zoom out and look at how the entire experience shaped who I am, I began to discover the following to be thankful for:
- Because self-reliance was born of necessity early on in my life, I figured out how to both survive and thrive in spite of my circumstances. This adaptability led me to be resourceful in every aspect of my life — especially when it comes to problem-solving, work, finances, and even asking for the appropriate support when I need it.
- The perfectionist tendencies I adopted enabled me to excel in school, sports, art, and eventually at work. My undergraduate degree was paid for through an academic and athletic scholarship.
- Had I not needed to be so persistent in my pursuit for her love, it’s likely that I wouldn’t have been as driven as an adult. I started my own business at 22 years old and successfully sold the company fourteen years later.
- At 24 years old, when I told my mother that we’d either go to therapy together to work on our relationship or we would not have one at all (she chose the latter), I attached myself to a story of victimization for the next sixteen years. Just recently, the a-ha moment arrived: I was no victim; I respected myself by setting strong boundaries at a very young age. I had merely forgotten that I had this ability as an adult, and I’m happy to report that my memory came flooding back.
- Because I grew up with conflicting accounts between how my mother acted outside our home and how I was treated inside of it, I became an expert at observing behavior, verbal cues, body language, and the nuances of each. As a result, my skills are sharp as an active and intent listener: what’s being said, what’s not, and when and how to probe deeper with my friends and transformation coaching clients alike.
- Though I attracted several partners and people who had far-too-familiar traits, I eventually made the connection that I was replaying the scenario in hopes of a different outcome, of being saved — and then able to work through all of it, heal the roots deep below the surface, and start truly loving myself (starting with that scared, confused, lonely little girl).
2. The Drawbacks
What experiences would be unknown had the trauma never taken place?
Regardless of your beliefs on fate and free will, I think we can agree that many things were set in motion or occurred, directly or indirectly, because of our wounding.
Here are some of the amazing things I would have missed out on had I not been raised by a mother who couldn’t love:
- I may not have the close and reciprocal relationship that I have with my brother now. Despite the rivalry that my mother created between us as kids, he’s one of my best friends as an adult. He looks to me for guidance and called me the other day just to tell me how much he loves me.
- I may not have had the ability to employ so many people over the years as a business owner, or develop meaningful relationships with my team members — many of whom are in my life to this day. Subsequently, I may not have become the consultant / coach I am now, which is truly a dream career for me because I’m fulfilled, financially secure, and living part of my purpose to support others.
- Had I not met my (now ex) wife around the same time I parted ways from my mother, I may never have been in a fifteen-year relationship with her. We truly enjoyed each other’s company, took incredible journeys together, and loved each other the best way each of us knew how. While the marriage has ended, she will always be one of the most important relationships of my life.
- There have been so many healthy representations of maternal love, from my step-mom and aunts to close friends and even my relationship to nature. If my experience growing up was different, I wouldn’t have known an exponentially greater connection and understanding of motherly love.
- Due to a sense of feeling trapped as a young girl, my need for freedom (physical breathing room and space to explore) feeds my love of travel. Adventuring to new cities across the globe on my own expands my sense of self, curiosity and inspiration in what I see, whom I meet, and what I experience in my heart.
- One of the greatest drawbacks of all would have been not having experiences that ultimately led to the deep self-work that brought me back to me. Believing in who I am, trusting my intuition, feeling comfortable in my skin, and knowing that I am divine love: none of that would have been possible without having to heal the trauma first. Beyond those, I now have the capacity to give from my fullness.
“Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow.”
Two big questions and many possible ways to respond, the 180˚ exercise offers a balancing of your past hurt with how it may have benefited you to have a wholly integrated view of life.
Looking back at my responses as an example, I hope it’s easier to see how a painful upbringing can be viewed as one with so much light as outcome.
When you’re ready, try this for yourself. Take it slow, perhaps each section a few days apart to you give yourself ample time to digest and reflect. If you have a partner, close friend, or therapist to share with when you’re finished, I recommend doing so (and definitely read it aloud to them).
You may be surprised at how effective this exercise can be in finally shifting your lens or perception about what happened in your life. I know that it’s changed mine.