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Descent into the Underworld reaps Release

by Dr. Deah Curry

The desire to avoid discomforts of all kinds lies at the root of much of the anxiety, depression, unhappiness, and self-sabotage I see in my therapeutic coaching practice. Many otherwise successful individuals cannot tolerate feeling difficult emotions. That’s too bad, because often the way out of such misery is a route that goes through the underworld.

In a psycho-shamanic sense, the underworld can be thought of as the portion of our subconscious mind where unresolved psychological, emotional, relational, or spiritual traumas live, and where we must call on our personal power in order to do battle with them. Sometimes these demons are repressed memories, unforgiven hurts, or distorted beliefs that have grown into dysfunctional rulers of our lives. Sometimes they are the darker, irrational impulses and the unlovely, disowned parts of ourselves — what Jung called the shadow.

When There’s No Apparent Reason for Shame

Sherry’s story is typical of many women’s experience. She’s professionally respected, has meaningful relationships, and feels like she’s not living up to her potential. Although she makes choices with integrity, she feels like a fraud, and as if she’ll never be good enough.

She has no history of major psycho-trauma, but persistent patterns of well-intended parental criticism have been internalized as humiliation and ridicule. She has a subconscious expectation that she’ll never succeed if she makes choices that are different from what her parents (and later, any authority figure) think best.

Sherry couldn’t tolerate looking at the normal personality flaws. Feeling less than perfect is a source of misery, and she tends to run from the shame, resulting anxieties, and unhappiness she feels. Her best efforts to ignore the internal shame-demons only led to unconsciously self-sabotaging behaviors. Sherry needed to look her demons in the eye.

When The Light is Clearer in the Dark

After conquering cancer, surviving divorce, and having some business setbacks, Michaila finally had a great life. But inside she felt lost, sad, and rudderless.

In her youth she’d had a vague sense of there being something important she was supposed to do, and now in her 50's she believed time was running out. Aware that she functioned well in crises, she didn’t want to have to attract a calamity in order to feel clear-minded and purposeful again.

A building sense of urgency combined with confusion prompted Michaila to seek help in shining more light into the darker corners of her psyche, to see clearly how to understand her true life purpose, and what directions to take to fulfill it. Having a solid sense of trust in herself, Michaila was a good candidate for an underworld journey and some shadow work.

Why Journey into the Shadowland

For those who have gained no relief from more conventional approaches to emotional distress or life dissatisfaction, the shadow work of the underworld may be a useful alternative technique. Psycho-logically, this technique reprograms your subconscious mind to accept the possibility that you can take more control over difficult emotions than you previously believed. Spiritually, most journeyers gain a sense of personal empowerment along with confidence in knowing we are not alone in battling our inner demons.

Descending into the underworld and wrestling with our shadow aspects reveals parts of ourselves we keep hidden. We can use enlightenment already gained to look into the corners of the soul that will always be dark. What one finds there might need to be eliminated, but some dark parts may be essential to a balanced personality. Shadowland work helps us become accepting of all parts of ourselves.

Touring Your Own Underworld

I can recommend several particularly well-crafted journey scripts that I’ve taken myself and reaped exceptionally beneficial insights from. They can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~treefaerie/icansee.

Most people, even when experienced and self-trusting, find it difficult to guide their own journeys. Have a friend read a script to you, or use your own voice to tape record one. Here are some tips for helping the descent:

1. Choose a time and place when you won’t be interrupted by phone, people, or other distractions.

2. Use long, slow, deep, breathing to shift out of normal consciousness and into a receptive mental state in which imagery, the intuitive-voice, and direct knowings can present themselves to you.

3. Ask for, or imagine having with you, a guide or protector to attend to psychic safety needs, so that you can be free to hunt information and fully be with what you experience.

4. Follow where imagination leads, and accept whatever occurs in the inner landscape, even if it makes no logical sense.

5. Ask questions, and patiently wait for answers. Be respectful and express gratitude to entities who provide information, direction, insight, or other help.

6. Be firm but polite with imaged or heard entities who want you to act in ways you know to be dangerous or wrong.

7. Record your journey, or journal about your experience as soon as it’s over, or process it with a counselor or friend. This ensures that insights are captured and interpreted before sinking back into the shadows of the unconscious mind.

On her journey, Sherry spoke with the demon that creates in her the sense of being a fraud. She learned what its purpose was, and when it was born. They negotiated a way for the demon to help her without sabotaging her creativity.

Michaila journeyed through an underground tunnel, gave the payment required by the guardian there, discovered where her light sources had been hiding, and dialogued with the keeper of her life’s mission. She returned released from feeling lost, and excited about new directions, with fresh energy for bringing her work into the world. Both women learned how to actively be with difficult emotions in the process.

The results of an underworld journey can cause significant change in one’s behavior and feelings. I recommend them to those who are having a hard time with darker emotions. It may not be as scary as it sounds, and you could be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.



With 17 years experience as a psychotherapist and certified clinical hypnotherapist, I have many approaches that can help you sit with difficult emotions, battle your inner demons, and traverse your underworld. For more information, Kirkland WA office location, or an appointment to facilitate your descent into the underworld, send email to DrDeah@ deahcurry.net or call 425-814-9083 for a free 15 minute phone consultation. Details about my work are available at www.InnerJourneyWork.com, and www. DeahCurry.net.

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