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Embodying the Feminine Shadow

Hey there! Thank you for being here. I'm Maanee Chrystal, the founder of the Somatic institute for Women. I wanted to share my personal story & where the seeds of this school have grown from. It is my story of experiencing slut shaming, reclaiming my erotic power, being a stripper & my love affair with the shadow & the body.

Since I was 11 years old, I never felt safe, comfortable and free inside my own body. I was fully developed by the age of 12; menstruating and with full breasts, swinging hips and flowing sexual energy. My body reflected that of an 18 year old woman.

This came with being sexualised by older men, slut-shamed by girls, and teased by boys throughout my high school years - simply for existing in my body, and for it being differently developed from a “normal” girl’s body.

With these confusing signals, a split began to form in my psyche, body and sexuality. My body and sexual energy were both a curse -

disconnecting me from women who felt threatened by me - and a tool and weapon that I used to feel wanted by men.

The feeling of being desired by men compensated for the pain I felt from many women rejecting me.

On my first day of high school, still a virgin, I was called a slut by a group of girls and consistently bullied around this, just because of how they translated my body. So I would grasp onto the experience of men wanting me. In turn I developed shadow behaviours, and my self-image contorted around this energetically. I would not sleep with men, but I would play with their longing and make them want me even more, but not actually be able to have me. Meanwhile, around women, I made myself small and approachable, to stay in connection with them.

This created distortion and shut-down in my system. To feel safe to simply be myself, was not really an option.

I had to play a game depending on who I was relating with: acting agreeable and safe around women, but acting sexy and desirable around men.

My safety and sense of validation was outsourced like this for years.

When I was 19, following my deep yearning for understanding human behaviour, I studied Transpersonal Counselling & Dance Therapy.

I came to understand how my unintegrated life experiences lived within my unconscious and my body as the shadow.

As we contemplated, researched and unpacked the shadow, time and time again, it was clear that the unconscious lives within the body.

It is not some mind-based phenomena.

Although we can become aware with the conscious mind of how our psyche is operating, unless the material is felt, welcomed and breathed into, nothing will shift. Until we feel our sensations and emotions, be with them, communicate with them, and stabilise our nervous system back into a sense of safety, we will not be able to relate to and make meaning of our experience in an embodied way. When we don’t listen to the body, we continue to live in separation from its wisdom. This fracture manifests not only in our relationship with ourselves, but with others, the earth and life itself.

Modern-day psychological approaches such as CBT are hyper-oriented to a mind-based understanding of our psychology and trauma. But until we merge the body/mind as one function; one operating system, I believe that the path towards truly integrating our pain, pleasure and potential will be stuck in the same old loops.

Even though we can become aware of our patterns with our rational mind, until we begin working with the raw energy, emotion and sensation in the realm of our body, we will not FEEL the possibility of a new choice, a new pathway. We can use affirmation or logic all we want, but until we have dropped into what is actually happening for us on a somatic level, it is likely that all our attempts to control our behaviour and experience will collapse, yet again, when our pain point arises - even though we might “know” with our brain that this way, this person, this situation are not healthy or right for us.

When we make the choice to really sink into the world and wisdom of the body, we can learn the tools to be safe enough to simply feel, and we can invite our shadow back into our space with open arms.

We can lean in and submerge into our unconscious material in a way that allows the hidden, denied and exiled parts of ourselves to come back into the forefront of our expression. Rather than analysing, observing, or understanding them, we give them a tangible place to live in: inside our own skin.

Very often, inside the parts that were pushed away, or that we learnt were not OK to reveal to ourselves or others, is where our real, soul-based expression comes alive.

Where our deepest calling for life, creativity, connection and purpose live.

For me, when I embarked on the journey of reclaiming my shadow, I realised that I first had to embody it.

I decided to become a stripper. I wanted to enter into a field where I was fully welcoming my erotic self.

To own how much I loved to be desired by men, while integrating the pain and manipulation strategies I was carrying from being sexualised so young by them. Being among other women (strippers) who were also expressing their sexuality, allowed me to heal the experience of having been disowned by other women in my life.

I was slowly able to start integrating my own internalised misogyny and patriarchy. Through this embodied investigation, I also started to see how my own process was echoing the cultural repression that is embedded in the fabric of our collective psyche.

The white, colonial, patriarchal paradigm has done so well to master the denial and rejection of the Feminine, the body and our sexuality. These deeply intimate and intrinsic aspects of our humanity have been suffocated to a point of total neglect. We are petrified to FEEL, and to simply be inside our body’s experience. We struggle to hear and respect her language, and we push against her wisdom in the choices that we make.

This is also a direct reflection of how we treat and relate to the earth: we use, abuse, and neglect her.

I saw how my personal story was a collective and symbolic one about the hatred of the Feminine and the earth.

I saw how I had been taught to completely deny and shame the fecund, felt, sensual, erotic, organic, connected, and beyond all, deeply present experience of the now. Shadow work has given me the gift of reclaiming what I believed to be “wrong” about myself, as a core part of who I am:

I AM an erotic, embodied and sovereign woman, and I feel it in my cells.

I am a woman who LOVES to be in her sensuality and her body.

Who loves to dance, and to offer her love through her erotic self.

Who loves to give her devotion back to life through movement, presence, sexuality, feeling, being and connection. Cutting through the surface layers and resting in the depth of now.

I began to recognise that my natural gifts were transmitting the therapeutic qualities of the Erotic. Of the subtle, deep currents of the Feminine. I felt most connected to myself, others and life when I was tapped into these fundamental parts of myself.

I actually met god, over and over, and continue to, when I rest inside my body and felt sense.

From there, I began to merge my two worlds - being a psychotherapist and a stripper - into a body of work called Therapeutic Erotic Dance & Shadow Work for Women.

Once I felt and experienced the depth of aliveness that these repressed aspects of my being contained, I was able to see my shadow in this area as the greatest gift of service to both myself and others.

I’ve ended up sharing this work all over the world, and empowered 1000s of women to investigate their own distortions and shadows around their bodies, self expression and relationships with others. I’ve walked women back into a fierce, gentle and all-loving reclamation of their sexuality and their bodies - most importantly, for themselves.

A reclamation of owning what we don’t want to, and calling it back through flesh, bone and skin. Living life from the foundation of - I Welcome All of Me.

I created this school as a sanctuary for female bodies to remember how to return back to a sense of safety, aliveness and freedom. My own unfolding with these natural and human qualities of being has been the greatest ongoing love affair of my life.

A love affair with my body and the shadow. A love affair that takes me beyond the body/mind and into deep presence, into the expression of my soul. Into a deep trust for life and a constantly evolving love for myself, regardless of whether I am experiencing beauty, pain, ecstasy or purposelessness.

The courses and trainings in this Institute are a road map for you to insert your own life experience into. To investigate what is true for you, to ask what your heart is longing for, and to feel who you are beyond conditioning and mind-based understanding. It is a home for you to remember your essence-nature, through presence and embodiment.

I look forward to journeying with you.


Maanee Chrystal


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