Robert Augustus Masters

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Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, is an integral psychotherapist, relationship expert, and spiritual teacher whose work blends the psychological and physical with the spiritual, emphasizing embodiment, emotional literacy, and the development of relational maturity. He is the author of thirteen books, including Transformation through Intimacy and Spiritual Bypassing. For more information, visit

Author photo © Sequoia Miller

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Robert Augustus Masters:
The Depthless Depth of Shadow Work »
True Masculine Power »
Emotional Intimacy, Part 1 »
Emotional Intimacy, Part 2 »

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How to Bring Your Fear Out of Your Shadow

How To Bring Fear Out Of Your Shadow Header ImageIf you’re looking for genuine transformation, you need look no further than your fear. For in it there exists not only an abundance of trapped energy, but also the very testing and challenge that we need in order to live a deeper, more authentic life.

The dragon’s cave awaits. However shadowed it may be, you know where it is, and you can see it more clearly as you move toward it, step by conscious step, bringing the fearful you into your heart, with your adrenaline not so much fueling your fear as your courage and investigative excitement.

The following guide can help you confront the dragons of fear as you navigate through your own unique shadow.

Get to know your fear. Study it, approach it, become more curious about it, turn on the lights. Get to know it even better. Go for an inside look at it, paying close attention to all of its qualities, static and otherwise. The more familiar you are with your fear, the less the chances are of you letting it control you.

Get to know its roots. The expression of your fear might be outside your shadow, but its origins, its foundational roots, may be in your shadow. You may, for example, begin with an obvious case of worrying and then drop below that to an anxiety that has been with you since you were young. Underlying that may be a survival-based panic that’s anchored in an even earlier time. Spelunk your depths.

Stop shaming yourself for being afraid. Everyone has fear, whether they admit it or not. The Dalai Lama has said he sometimes feels anxious. The more we shame ourselves—and are shamed—for being afraid, the more our fear will be driven into our shadow. Fear is natural, but what we do with it may not be so natural, such as when we pathologize it.

Open your heart to the frightened child in you. Develop as much compassion as possible for the fearful you. (This compassion comes from the you who is not caught in fear.) Don’t tell that child not to be afraid or that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Instead, be caring and protective enough to hold such fearfulness the same way you would a trembling infant. Remember that as a child you needed not just love but also protection. Being a good parent to your inner child will decentralize your fear so that instead of it holding you, you are holding it.

Instead of giving your fear higher walls, give it bigger pastures. Doing so expands you. This makes more room for your fear to shed some of its constrictedness and transition into excitement, allowing you more access to contexts other than that of fearfulness. Fear contracts our breathing, squeezing and gripping us, as if we’re stuck in a too-small enclosure, unpleasantly walled in. Giving our fear more room, more space, doesn’t make it worse but rather spreads out its energies, diluting its intensity and reducing the pressure.

Think of your fear as excitement in disguise. Where there’s fear, there’s excitement close by. Make a hard fist, tightly balled up, and imagine this is your fear. Then relax your hand, letting your fingers spread wide; this is your excitement, open and available. It’s the same energy, the same adrenaline, but the context has shifted dramatically. You weren’t trying to get excited; simply relaxing your fist freed up your energy. The fear initially is tightly held in the shadows; making conscious contact with it allows it to begin uncurling, to let some light in.

Keep your anger on tap. Take advantage of the fact that fear and anger are very closely related, being basically the same biochemically. Where fear contracts us, anger expands us, for better or worse. In fear we either tend to flee or freeze; we often feel paralyzed. But in anger we thrust forward, leaning into what angers us; our energies mobilize for taking strong stands. Some anger is a mask for fear, but plenty of anger is fearless fire, flaming through relational deadwood and obstacles to well-being, providing a torch that can illuminate even the darkest corners of our shadow.

Separate the content of your fear from its energy. When fear gets into our mind, we spin out storylines that can keep us in dark places internally, thought-cages packed with fearful ideas and expectations. When this happens, don’t think about your fear. Instead, bring your awareness as fully as possible to your body. Sense where in your body the energy of fear is strongest, taking note of the sensations there and their detailing. Stay with this body awareness, sensing instead of thinking, until you feel more stability. Soften your belly and chest, feeling how your breathing moves your entire torso, keeping some awareness on the arrival and departure of each breath.

Practice courage. Courage doesn’t mean we’re fearless but that we’re going ahead regardless of whatever fear we’re feeling. Start with small acts of courage, doing things that are a bit scary, a bit daunting. This could mean having a cold shower when you’re feeling overly sluggish, or saying no to a lunch date with a friend who you know you’ll find draining to be around today. Honor your everyday courage; sometimes getting out of bed asks more from us than does parachuting from a plane.

As you practice courage, more and more of your fearfulness will shift into resolve and action. Some of it may remain, keeping you on your toes. And some of it may morph into the kind of anger that helps fuel needed stands. Remember that practicing courage helps immensely in facing and entering your shadow.

Excerpted from Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark: Breaking Free from the Hidden Forces That Drive You by Robert Augustus Masters.

Robert Augustus MastersRobert Augustus Masters, PhD, is an integral psychotherapist, relationship expert, and spiritual teacher whose work blends the psychological and physical with the spiritual, emphasizing embodiment, emotional literacy, and the development of relational maturity. He is the author of thirteen books, including Transformation through Intimacy and Spiritual Bypassing. For more information, visit

Buy your copy of Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound














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What Causes Reactivity and How to Navigate it Skillful...

What Causes Reactivity Header Image

Our shadow-bound conditioning shows itself most often through reactivity. When we’re reactive, we’re automatically reverting to and acting out conditioned behavior, usually in ways that are emotionally disproportionate to what’s warranted in a given situation.

Reactivity is the knee-jerk dramatization of activated shadow material. Self-justifying and far from self-reflective, reactivity features a very predictable take on what’s going on, which we proceed with even if we know better.

The signs of reactivity include:

An exaggerated attachment to being right. If someone points out this attachment to us when we’re being reactive, it usually only amplifies our righteousness.

Emotional distortion and/or overload. More often than not, this behavior gets quite melodramatic. We may use emotional intensity to back up what we’re doing.

Using the same words and ideas from previous times we’ve been triggered. It’s as if we’re on stage saying our lines as dictated by the same old script. We’re acting and re-acting, even when we know we’re doing so.

A lack of—or an opposition to—self-reflection. The refusal to step back, even just a bit, from what’s happening fuels the continuation of our reactivity.

A loss of connection with whomever we’re upset with. Our heart closes.

A loss of connection with our core. We’re immersed instead in our reactivity.

Here’s an example of how to skillfully—and nonreactively—handle reactivity. Imagine you’re embroiled in a reactive argument with your partner or a close friend. You’re dangerously close to making a decision about your relationship to them that you vaguely sense you’ll later regret, but damned if you’re going to hold back now! After all, don’t you have a right to be heard?

Things are getting very edgy. Then, rather than continuing your righteous, over-the-top dramatics, you admit to yourself that you’re being reactive. Period. You step back just a bit from all the sound, fury, and pressure to make a decision about your relationship with this person. You’re still churning inside, but the context has shifted. You’re starting to make some space for the reactive you instead of continuing to identify with it. There’s no dissociation here — just a dose of healthy separation, some degree of holding space for yourself, perhaps even some trace of emerging care for the other person.

On the outside, you’re slowing down and ceasing to attack the other, saying nothing more than what you’re feeling, without blaming the other for this. You’re starting to allow yourself to be vulnerable with the other. You’re interrupting your own reactivity.

Your intuition begins to shine through all the fuss. You start to realize that, while you were being reactive, your voice sounded much like it did when you were seven or eight years old. The same desperation, the same drivenness, the same cadence. You were hurting considerably then and trying to keep your hurt out of sight, because earlier times of expressing it had been met with parental rejection and shaming.

You’re still on shaky ground, though, and could still easily slip back into your reactive stance. Just one more shaming or otherwise unskillful comment from the other could do the trick. So you soften your jaw and belly, bend your knees slightly, and take five deep breaths, making sure that you count each breath on the exhale. You know from previous experience that these somatic adjustments will help settle you; they are your go-to calming responses for stressful moments.

As the out-front reality of your reactivity is now in clear sight, you feel shame. Some of this is a beneficial shame, activating your conscience, letting you know that you crossed a line with the other and that a genuine expression of remorse is fitting. You say you’re sorry, with obvious vulnerability. Sadness surfaces in you. You don’t make excuses for your reactivity. Instead, you make your connection with the other more important than being right.

And a very different kind of shame also arises, one that’s far from beneficial. This shame activates not your conscience but your inner critic (heartlessly negative self-appraisal). It’s aimed not at your behavior but at your very being, taking the form of self-flagellation for having slipped—a self-condemnation that, if allowed to run free, mires you in guilt and keeps you from reconnecting with the other. You acknowledge the presence of this toxic shame, saying to yourself that your inner critic is present. It’s not nearly as strong as it usually is, fading quickly as you name it. You choose to address it in depth later on, outside of the argument you were just having, as part of your ongoing shadow work. Reconnecting with the other is a priority now, and it’s happening, bringing relief and gratitude to you both.

Excerpted from Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark: Breaking Free from the Hidden Forces That Drive You by Robert Augustus Masters.

Robert Augustus Masters

Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, is an integral psychotherapist, relationship expert, and spiritual teacher whose work blends the psychological and physical with the spiritual, emphasizing embodiment, emotional literacy, and the development of relational maturity. He is the author of thirteen books, including Transformation through Intimacy and Spiritual Bypassing. For more information, visit

Buy your copy of Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound








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Robert Augustus Masters: The Depthless Depth of Shadow...

Robert Augustus Masters is an integral psychotherapist and author whose works include To Be a Man, Emotional Intimacy, and Spiritual Bypassing. Most recently, he teamed with Sounds True to publish Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark: Breaking Free from the Hidden Forces That Drive You. In this illuminating episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Robert about the influence of the shadow side of the psyche—especially Robert’s own encounters with it. Robert describes his experiences as the leader of a psychospiritual community that gradually transformed into a cult, including the near-death experience that forced him to confront the reality of his actions and change his life. Tami and Robert also talk about the powerful influence of shame, as well as the important differences between anger and aggression. Finally, they discuss the desire to place spiritual guides on pedestals and what we can do to address the difficult aspects of student-teacher relationships. (63 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway: One of the ways that Robert Augustus Masters describes our personal shadow is that it contains experiences of wounding and early conditioning that we have yet to face. How do we know what we haven’t yet faced? Robert teaches that one of the best ways we can start to identify our shadow is to pay careful attention to moments of reactivity (we all know what those feel like) and then ask, “How old do I feel in this moment?” By entering the pain of these early disowned experiences, we start the hard task that Robert calls “illuminating the shadow,” a great life work that is endlessly deep and endlessly liberating.

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The Trauma-Trigger Cycle

When you are stuck with old unprocessed experiences living inside you, they can create what I call a trauma-trigger cycle because they are still very much alive in our systems.

Here’s my analogy to help you understand how this works and why it causes so much trouble. Imagine that you have a very difficult experience, for example, having to say goodbye to a sick pet. All of the details in the form of individual feelings, smells, images, sounds, and more get bundled up and deposited into a metaphorical glass trauma capsule—which gets stored in the body. It sits there with all of the old feelings we experienced at the time the event happened. While you might not be aware of it constantly, you are likely feeling those emotions at a low level all the time. When any current situation reminds you of any of those details hanging out in the capsule—either consciously or subconsciously—the old trauma gets “poked,” or reactivated. This is how we get triggered. Being triggered can bring up flashes of those memories, including images, feelings, and any sensory stimuli.

For the most part, except in certain cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from major life events, where sometimes the trigger is known, this trauma-trigger reaction actually happens at a subconscious level, outside of your awareness. Even in obvious situations, you may think you know what the trigger is, and try to avoid it, but it may be something totally different that got stuck in the metaphorical glass trauma capsule. Often, people come to me and say, “Nothing set this off,” “I’m depressed for no reason,” or “I suddenly started feeling terrible but nothing happened.” While this may seem true, I can bet on the fact that while the bad feelings might seem random, they are being triggered in some way that you simply haven’t yet identified. Triggers can be foods, colors, smells,sounds, weather, or anything, really! Finding and resolving triggers can become almost an entertaining game if you let it.

As you can imagine, this entire trauma-trigger dynamic is very unsettling and unpredictable—which can feel like danger to your system and keep you stuck in that freakout response. Not only that, but in this state, you can actually be excessively tuned in to your trauma, seeing reminders of it everywhere, which further traumatizes you.

I had an experience after going through a loved one’s difficult health crisis where every single place I looked, I saw reminders of the experience. And for someone who wonders if everything is some greater “sign from the Universe” (fact: not every single thing is) or my intuition is trying to get my attention because another loved one might be in danger (second fact: trauma and fear clouds intuition), it felt like torture to me. I kept meeting people who had the same illness that my loved one had had, saw posters and billboards advertising medications for the condition, and more. As a distraction while on vacation, I had deliberately picked out several seemingly lighthearted books to take—and it turned out a character in every single book had that same medical condition! I was constantly on edge and further traumatized by all of these things. This is a perfect example of what happens to us in a traumatized state: we become highly attuned to the world around us, perhaps subconsciously scanning for danger, but in the process, we see and get triggered by everyday things we’ve probably passed by a million times before. I realized that had I been tuned in to any other single thing out in the world, like peaches, I likely would have seen that everywhere. This recognition actually led to a funny mantra I used during that time to keep things light while I did the deeper healing work: Look for the peaches! But in all seriousness, what happened as I worked to release the trauma, just like you’ll be doing in this chapter, was that I stopped seeing reminders of it. I have to be honest in that this took months of using energy therapy in different ways to overcome the trauma I had experienced, like you’ll be learning soon—but it worked. Did all the people with this condition go away? Did all the billboards get taken down? No. The less traumatized I became, the less heightened my sensitivity to it was. This is a perfect example of why it’s essential to work with unprocessed experiences.

Emotional memory is stored throughout the entire body. Thanks to the work of Candace Pert, we know that “unexpressed emotions from experiences can get stuck in the body at the level of cellular memory.” This is such a simple explanation for why we feel bad when we haven’t resolved our past experiences. We are still quite literally feeling them. And even if it’s at a subtle level, it may only take a “trigger” from that metaphorical glass capsule to awaken it.

While your own unprocessed experiences may not disrupt your life in the way that clinically diagnosed PTSD does, you may relate to what it feels like to have PTSD, when one or a few memories from life takes over all of it. This is, again, why we must deal effectively and consistently with our emotions instead of suppressing them. Otherwise, we are at risk of our emotions becoming part of future unresolved experiences.

Even knowing all of this, there’s no need to panic. Again, not all experiences traumatize you. And, not all traumas will need to be dealt with in order to get you feeling better. But the ones that do need careful attention. I want you to understand that by working with trauma, we are not trying to force a positive perspective on it or make you be okay with something bad that happened to you. Not at all. What we want to do is release the stress it’s causing you, even if that stress is undetected consciously. We don’t want these traumas taking up space and energy in your body anymore or triggering you without your knowledge.

Working with unprocessed experiences will help empty the metaphorical glass trauma capsule so we stop becoming triggered by the world around us. In other words, you’ll be seeing peaches more easily instead of trauma triggers.

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.


amy b scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit



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Bret Lyon and Sheila Rubin: Turning Shame into an Ally

Brett Lyon, PhD, SEP, and Sheila Rubin, MA, LMFT, RDT/BCT, are the founders of the Center for Healing Shame and co-creators of the Healing Shame Lyon-Rubin Method. Through their in-person and popular online trainings, they’ve taught hundreds of psychotherapists throughout the world how to more effectively identify and work with shame. With Sounds True, Brett and Sheila have created a new audio series designed for the general public called Healing Shame: How to Work with This Powerful, Mysterious Emotion—and Transform It into an Ally. In this podcast, Sounds True founder Tami Simon speaks with Bret and Sheila about how we can learn to understand and appreciate shame in a deeper way. This healing conversation covers the different types of shame we encounter, normalizes our experiences of shame, and explores how shame, though painful, can actually be a helpful emotion.