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“Where ‘IT’ was, there shall ‘I’ become.”Sigmund Freud
A crucial aspect of any integral practice is a way to be profoundly honest with ourselves about our shadow, or unconscious, or false self, or dishonesty, or disowned self. The 3-2-1 Process is a simple and effective tool for working with the shadow — any part of ourselves that we unconsciously repress or deny.
The 3-2-1 Process uses shifts in perspective as a way of identifying and integrating shadow material. “3-2-1” refers to 3rd-person, 2nd-person, and 1st-person — the perspectives that we move through in this exercise.
Each part that we disown is at first an aspect of our “I” or 1st-person awareness. But, for whatever reason, that aspect poses a threat. So we push it outside of ourselves, often onto someone else. It’s important to note that the aspect can be positive or negative. We can disown both lower and higher aspects of ourselves. In either case, we project it as you . . . but not me. “You are angry.” “You are being selfish.” “You are worthy,” etc. In other words, we displace it from a 1st-person I to a 2nd-person you.
If the threat of this emotion or situation becomes so great it requires a total rejection, we banish it totally as a 3rd-person It, stripped of humanity. At that point, we can often recognize shadow as a sense of irritation, reactivity, fear, phobia, rage, or aversion toward things… but we don’t really know why.
Under these circumstances, most forms of meditation won’t help; in fact, they’ll make things worse. They recommend dis-identification from experience, when what is necessary first is RE-identification with disowned dimensions of our experience and ourselves. You can only let go of that which you have first owned. Meditation instructions to “observe all experience and to know that consciousness is independent and free from experience” don’t work with experience from which we’re dissociated. Healthy disidentification is only possible once we’ve re-owned, re-associated, and re-identified with the disowned parts of ourselves. For this reason, there’s no substitute for shadow work. That’s why the Shadow module is a core component
To sum up, dissociation proceeds from 1st-person to 2nd-person to 3rd-person: 1-2-3. The reversal of dissociation thus goes from 3 to 2 to 1. Hence, the 3-2-1 Process. We also summarize this process as: Face it (3), Talk to it (2), and finally, BE it (1).
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