I love shadow work, I discovered it after a particarly devastating relationship break down and it helped me to heal and grow, I'm a completely different person to the person I was then and I'm so very happy about it. You don't need a life changing event to start shadow work, it's something that is ongoing and as you grow you will reveal more and more about yourself, it's truly a wonderful process. Don't get me wrong it's hard to start with, you have to learn how to heal yourself and that can lead to some unhappy places but it's all worth it in the end and I believe that everyone should do shadow work as part of a daily routine to stay balanced and motivated. I'm going to be starting a series of shadow work blog posts to help you kick off your healing process and the first post explains what exactly shadow work is.
What is shadow work?
It’s easy to assume that shadow work is a dark, negative practice but in-fact it is an essential part of growth, your shadow self is a huge mostly hidden part of your personality and it is in your benefit to get to know the darker side of yourself in order to become a well balanced person and to help your personal and spiritual growth.
The shadow self was first brought in to western psychology by Carl Jung, he describes it as the unconscious and disowned parts of our personality that the ego fails to see, acknowledge or respect. It is any aspect of ourselves that is not exposed to the light of our consciousness.
When we are born we arrive whole and complete, free from fear, pain and anger. Our shadow is first formed in childhood as we grow and learn we have all sorts of interactions with the world around us, these interactions teach us what parts of ourselves are good and the aspects that are bad. When the bad parts are rejected they form the shadow self. For example as a child you may have been told things like:-
*stop crying, you are being too emotional.
* you need to stop eating so much it will make you fat.
* it’s to hard for you to do so best not try.
* you won’t like it, it’s spicy.
* don’t play with that, it’s for girls/boys.
There are many ways that little statements like these make us afraid, ashamed or hesitant and all of these experiences are adding to your shadow self. Every-time you repress a negative emotion or experience it adds to the shadow self.
The subconscious mind is the shadow aspect of ourselves because we cannot see it clearly it is an invisible, powerful aspect of our mind. The conscious mind is the lighter side of ourselves, we can see it clearly and are aware of its power.
Whatever we repress, ignore or deem unacceptable goes in to our subconscious and grows our shadow self, the things we repress don’t just disappear, they feed the shadow and if it grows to big and becomes out of balance with the lighter side it can affect our actions and life experiences. If, as an adult you feel that you just repeat the same unhealthy patterns it means that your shadow is becoming out of balance and needs addressing, this can manifest as limiting beliefs and too many negative emotions. Sometimes it can feel as if there are two different people inside of us operating our lives, this can be harmful to our relationships not to mention mentally exhausting.
Don’t worry, you have the power to change your life and become a better balanced person. The first step is to recognise your shadow self, there are a few behaviours that can indicate that your balance is out of whack and your shadow is getting too big to manage,
1) Projection:- you find yourself projecting your issues on to others, lashing out and criticising people for the behaviours we don’t like in ourselves.
2) Triggers:- A trigger is a reminder of past traumas- pay attention to these as they can reveal wounds that still need to heal.
3) Patterns:- Repeating negative patterns is a clear indicator that the shadow is in control, the shadow will keep mirroring itself in to your reality in order to be seen and integrated, Only you can break this destructive cycle.
Some people believe if you go looking for shadows you will find more than you anticipated and in some cases this may be true but in the end in order to heal all of your shadow elements need addressing anyway, so why not do it in a gentle and structured way before the shadow becomes too big to either hide or work with? If you are worried what you might find there is more than likely something in your subconscious that you don’t want to revisit. Approach this with regular and sympathetic shadow work and you will find it more manageable and speed up your healing process.
Shadow work doesn’t have to be a big, dark, scary thing it is simply becoming aware of what is hidden and gradually healing those aspects of yourself. The basic idea is to make your unconscious , conscious and the unacceptable, acceptable again. The end goal is to heal enough to be able to integrate the light and dark within you to create a whole.
Next time I'll be going through how to start your shadow work and give you a few prompts to kick it all off, if you want updates and reminders, pop over to the home page on the website and subscribe to the newsletter.