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Shadow Work



“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

– Carl Jung


Within each of us lies two parts of a whole: the person we want to be and some part of us that conflicts with that ideal version of ourselves. Often, the part of us that conflicts with the ideal is the part that has impulsive urges, desires, and things we feel but don’t like. The shadow self is the unconscious part of our character or personality that does not align with the ideal version of what we’re aiming for. The shadow is a cognitive blind spot of our psyche, an undercurrent of who we are that we’re completely unaware of. It is an element of our own nature that exists in our unconscious and is made from our repressed desire, ideas, instincts, weaknesses, and shortcomings.


This contrast between the ego ideal and the shadow causes us to reject and resist the shadow, and through our rejection of the parts of ourselves we dislike, we unconsciously project them onto others. This can be seen easily in our dislike for certain people. Often, the specifics we dislike in others are an indication of what we dislike in ourselves and push down or avoid. This is called projection and can lead us to have a warped perception of the people around us.


Beneath the social mask we wear every day, our hidden shadow side: is impulsive, wounded, or an isolated part that we generally try to ignore. The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality, and acknowledging it is the pathway to our authentic self. Fully integrating your shadow with your psyche is the most powerful way to healing, awakening, and enlightenment. Whole-heartedly accepting every part of you and bringing every emotion into a healed conscious is incredible. This is what shadow work leads to, it is worth every bit of the uncomfortable pain.


To sum all this up, the shadow self is your subconious; shadow work is exposing light on the subconious as to make it concious. No one has ever reached enlightenment without confronting their shadow and exposing it to the light of consciousness. Which makes shadow work the highest form of light work that you can do.


Carl Jung is a Swiss psychologist who popularized the idea of the shadow self, or the inner shadow. He’s analyzed the subconscious and how we as humans tend to suppress and repress emotions that are seen as inappropriate or bad. He has many brilliant quotes such as:


“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”


“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart, who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakens.”


“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”


The Effects of Ignoring Shadow Work

  • Poor self-esteem

  • Self-deceit or deceiving others

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Projection

  • Argumentative or offensive behavior towards others

  • An inflated ego

  • Self Hate

  • Living an inauthentic life

  • Going through constant painful cycles and patterns



The Benefits of the Shadow Self

Before we look at accepting the shadow and assimilating it into who we are, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on what the shadow can do for us. Within its chaos and impulse, the shadow may also contain a number of qualities and potentials that can help round out our character and personality.


For example, if you believe that being assertive or aggressive makes you a bad person, you may have allowed other people to push your boundaries while you said nothing, not wanting to cause trouble. However, your shadow may contain a nature that is assertive, a nature that you can feel push back angrily when you are being pushed by others. If this is the case, then you can learn to harness this element of your shadow so that when you’re in a position that requires strong boundaries or negotiation, you have the ability to say no and hold your ground.


Other examples could include allowing ourselves to express how we’re feeling if we’ve grown up believing that expressing our feelings is a weakness. Our shadow can help us understand others; when we know our own shadow and see hints of it in other people, we can be more compassionate about what they’re feeling.


Positive traits that can be hidden inside your shadow, due to others programing you to believe it is not true about you, could be things like your not smart, your not talented, your not good enough, etc.. These repeated thoughts that you start believing and then make your own, means that you've suppressed, denied and disowned the parts of you that do believe your smart, talented and good enough, etc.


Whatever the nature of your shadow, knowing it will help you accept it, and accepting it will not only loosen its hold over you; it will also begin to unlock its potential.


Benefits List of Doing Shadow Work

  • Makes you more conscious

  • Puts you in reality - Seeing things clearly

  • Creates Empowerment

  • Gaining more confidence

  • Knowing what you want

  • Truly Loving yourself

  • Less triggered

  • Living authentically

  • Improves creativity

  • Build better relationships with others

  • Self-acceptance

  • Discover your hidden talents

  • Stops the repeating of harmful patterns

  • Reveals what is in the way of what you want

  • Improves overall wellness

  • Increase empathy and compassion towards others

  • Have better clarity

  • Obtaining the ability to access our full potential

  • Enhanced Energy and Physical Health

  • Psychological Integration and Maturity

  • Healing generational trauma

  • Learning healthy ways to meet your needs

  • Feeling whole or integrated as a person

  • Learning healthy coping mechanisms and how to set boundaries

  • Ability to confront regrets and stop negative self-talk



What Does Shadow Work Entail?

Shadow Work is a practice of diving into your traumas and repressed memories/emotions to better heal them and to understand why they are apart of you. Especially helpful for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and so much more. Shadow Work also plays a huge part in our physical health, avoiding these things can take a toll on our bodies. To simplify it a little, it’s basically avoiding your traumas, like we all tend to do, no one wants to look there right? Well it can be a little painful at first but shadow work is an incredibly free-ing experience when your on the other side of it.


Shadow work is a mix of many different things. As well as tapping into the dark parts of ourselves that we may not be proud of or maybe even embarrassed to confront and see about ourselves. These parts make up your shadow self. But repressing your inner shadow can have dangerous consequences. Most often, the shadow manifests as our triggers — emotional reactions that we haven’t fully dealt with, bubble up to the surface under the right (wrong) circumstances. It takes training, self-awareness, guidance, and courage to help you face your shadow self in a healthy way. This is exactly why shadow work exists. Shadow work is designed to help you integrate and accept every single part of yourself so that you can live and thrive with more clarity and authenticity. Accepting all parts of yourself the beautiful, the good, the bad and the ugly is true self love.


Understandably the “light” energies are usually represented with noble values such as love, peace, joy, harmony, and compassion. Many spiritual and religious movements completely ignore or condemn darker elements such as anger, vengeance, control, fear, shame, jealousy, and lust. Because these darker characteristics are associated with negativity or “evil,” they’re avoided out of fear and buried even deeper within us. But this is a tragic mistake with dire consequences.



How Does Your Shadow Manifest and Express Itself?

We live in a universe that has a law of mirroring, a huge part in shadow work is seeing this mirror effect, what we put out we get back, who we are inside reflects our outer world. So in terms of shadow work, this can be quite painful. When your in a constant dark state of mind then that’s what will be shown to you. The more you put shadow work off and continue to live in despair the universe will show you upfront in your face why the process is much needed. To stop being face to face with negativity and sadness you need to go inwards, see why the emotions your being shown are in alignment with your energy.




Preperation For Doing Shadow Work:

Before diving into shadow work, there’s a few things you want to get in touch with. Shadow work, as you’ve read, can be very hard as your willingly going into your trauma and your pain. So here’s a short list of some things to do beforehand:


Center Yourself

Probably the most important thing to do before diving into shadow work, grounding and centering your mind and your energy. Obviously we want constructive results with this practice so centering your body is the first thing you should focus on. The shadow that lives in your psyche is hidden within all of the chaos wrapped in our heads. To actively search out this hidden piece, you need to become a calm, clear, neutral space.


Cultivate Self - Compassion

During shadow work, your bound to feel judgmental and critical. To lessen this you should practice self acceptance, unconditional friendliness with ones self. In Buddhism it’s called Maitri. Without the softer emotions like friendliness and compassion, it's difficult to look at the darkest parts of ourselves. Become fully aware that you are human, and humans make mistakes. You can also connect to your heart chakra, practice saying affirmations or simply feeling your heart and knowing you are a compassionate person. Everyone has a shadow, the difference is who can integrate and fully accept theirs.


Cultivate Self - Awareness

Sitting with and exploring the shadow will take a certain sense of awareness. The ability to foster nonjudgmental awareness is a necessity. Self-reflection is most important because you have to feel without criticism. Practice mindfulness throughout this time and as soon as you feel judgment coming forward, softly remind yourself that your job here is to observe and allow anything and everything to come up.


Get Curious About Knowing Yourself

It will help you tremendously to take the point of view of curiousity, be so unbelievably curious about knowing thyself that you want to do shadow work to know more about you. Being in the state of curiousity can pull you out of judgement. Judgement is hating what you find out about yourself, your past or circumstances. While curiousity is an investigation as an observer, interested in truly understanding.


Be Courageously Honest   

To whole heartedly accept who you are and who your shadow is, you need to be completely honest with what you feel and how you’ve acted. Every little thing that comes up during shadow work needs to come from a place of pure honesty. Shadow work is something that is only experienced, seen, and heard by you. There is no need for restraint, feel and view everything as if its the first time your hearing it. It's uncomfortable but shadow work will only be a step back if you don’t open up completely.


Don't Do Shadow Work Against Yourself

Don't do shadow work to "fix" yourself. Meaning do shadow work For yourself not against yourself. In an ideal situation, shadow work would be something that a person would do, not with the attitude that anything about them is bad and wrong and must be dealt with. But rather with the attitude that the doing of the shadow work is a caring gesture towards the self.

For example, doing shadow work against yourself might look like doing shadow work so as to try to eradicate a trait about yourself that you don’t like. Or doing it because you are so resistant to the ego that you want to totally disidentify from it. Or doing it to convince a part of you that it is bad and wrong and should therefore, not be the way it is.

 Whereas doing shadow work for yourself might look like doing shadow work so as to understand yourself better so that you can make more authentic decisions and take actions that are more in alignment with your best interests. Or because you intend to have better health. Or because you want to find more effective and beneficial ways to operate in life. Or because you want to discover your needs and better meet them. Or because you don’t want to live in rejection of yourself anymore. Or because you want to be more aware.

Whenever you do shadow work, it is important to become clear about the real, honest WHY behind it.




Shadow Work Practices :

There are tons of different ways to actually do shadow work! We encourage everyone to search for the ones that work best for them, but here are a few we recommend looking at and trying


Self Inquiry

All self inquiry practices are shadow work, it is the constant attention to the inner awareness of "I" or "I am". If you've ever went through an identity crisis and asked yourself "Who am I?", that is just the very beginning. Shadow work practices on self inquiry will radically get you to see yourself for who or what you really are, and it will blow your mind! Shadow work is all about questioning yourself, Why do I believe what I believe and why do I think the way I think?


Journaling

For a lot of people, starting a shadow work journal is the easiest and number 1 go to. Creating a routine of doing prompts or simply journaling out difficult traumas and/or memories. We've created a seperate blog post for these exact journaling prompts (Called Shadow Work Journaling Prompts, click the link to see it.) A big part of shadow work is looking back on your childhood, asking yourself when did this trigger start? Where did I learn to cope like this? Or where is this pain rooted? These all usually take you back to childhood, it's the foundation period of how we cope with emotions and traumas, and where we learn what we like and don’t like about ourselves or others. Childhood is a key part in shadow work because of its importance in how we are shaped into adults.


Automatic Writing

Automatic writing is when you rant out all you're feelings in a stream of conciousness way, as to get out all your pent up energy and emotions. Sometimes what comes out will shock you that those feelings and thought are inside of you. Getting all this stuff out of you helps relieve the emotions so they dont need to exist anymore, they just needed to be heard first. In the same sense that we have "word vomit", automatic writing entails nonstop writing without paying attention to what your actually saying. Getting every thought and emotion out at once to really feel it all release. Unlike journaling, automatic writing is meant to be written down and never looked at again, once you've released it it no longer serves a purpose. Feel free to crinkle it up and throw it away, burn it, or whatever you feel is best.


The Work by Byron Katie

The Work is a great practice every time you do The Work you are becoming enlightened to who and what you are, the true nature of being. To question what you believe is an amazing gift to give yourself. The answers are always inside you, just waiting to be heard. Byron Katies process is all about questioning yourself Of Course, but with her practice you turn around onto yourself the things you hate, complain about, and even traumas to then be able to see how you are thinking about these things is what is truely hurting you. Doing this can radically help you change your thinking and beliefs quickly.

Byron Katie has workshop videos on youtube you can watch where she describes her process more fully so you can understand why you should do these worksheets. Here is the link to her website for The Work prompt questions.


The Completion Process

Teal Swan has created an intense in depth shadow work process called the completion process to really get to the roots of your traumas, finding resolve for them and integrating them back into wholeness. She has tons of videos on youtube about this process and a book fully describing each step.

This process is a meditative practice that gets you to tap into your triggered emotion and follow that emotion back to where you first felt that feeling. Then going through the process of resolving the traumas you find as to not have it be a trauma anymore in your being.


Parts Work

Parts work is a channeling practice where you find the splits inside of you that are kind of at war with each other. You take turns with these apposing parts investigating them and ask them questions on how they feel and what they want. The goal of channeling these parts one at a time is to fully understand them and then get them to a resolution or agreement on what they want so that they are no longer in conflict, which will make your life easier.


Meditation

Most shadow work processes are a meditative practice to really go inwards to find answers. There are many many guided shadow work meditations that you can try, so we suggest trying any and all of them to find the ones that help you.


Inner Child Work

Inner child work is an approach to recognizing and healing childhood trauma. It recognizes that our behaviors as an adult stem from our childhood experiences. Inner child work focuses on addressing our unmet needs by reparenting ourselves. Doing activities that help you tap into your inner child can also be fun.




In conclusion, this practice is something you can do at any point in your life. It’s a beautiful experience, knowing the deepest parts of yourself and seeing how much effect your emotions have on your life. We also have an article on crystals to use with shadow work, if you need extra assistance. When you feel ready, dive into shadow work and don’t hold back!


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