Let’s talk about Shadow Work!
“It’s not you… It’s me”
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term, “Shadow Work” before.
Do you know what shadow work is, or what it means?
Today we are going to dive into what shadow work looks like.
We’ve included CC (Closed Captioning) below each image for easy readability.
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CC: What Does Shadow Work Look Like – Cover Photo
CC: What Is Shadow Work?
Shadow work is the process of diving deep within yourself, into your subconscious, exploring the parts of yourself in which you have repressed, and becoming aware of these darker aspects of you, called the “Shadow Self” which is the side of you that you hide from others or from yourself, feel ashamed about, or judge, hence the term “shadow”. These are the unconscious parts of our personality that our conscious ego does not want to accept. Through this process, you can identify what your toxic traits are, the root that they stem from, accept them, and ultimately learn how to forgive and heal these aspects in order to integrate them into Light. Diving deep through your shadow work will ultimately lead to living a more authentic life, and growing spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. This is a vital part of our spiritual journey
CC: The Shadow Isn’t Just Negatives
The shadow is not an entirely negative aspect of our subconscious. While we are more likely to suppress jealousy or anger than we are to suppress our interests or talents that we might have, the shadow contains both positive and negative aspects. For example, let’s say there is a respectful young boy who was brought up in a conservative household. From an early age, he began displaying interests in playing with traditionally girl’s toys, playing dress-up with princess gowns and applying lipstick, and picking up interest in watching fashion-related tv shows. His father believed that his son should not play with girls’ toys and should “be a man”. This caused the young boy to suppress these interests of his, due to his father shaming him for what he enjoyed doing. This aspect of the young boy then becomes a part of his shadow.
CC: Repressing The Shadow
We are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience, and during this experience, two faces emerge. One of the faces is “the ego”. The ego is the conscious mind, it is the part of us that we identify “I” with. The other face is the shadow. We develop our shadow through generational trauma, childhood trauma, relationship trauma, pieces of ourselves that we were taught to conceal, be ashamed of, reject, or deny. When we repress our shadow aspects, they begin behaving like an infected wound. They begin to fester, and the infection spreads or becomes amplified in our personalities and behaviors. The longer that we suppress, hide or ignore our shadows, the more inflamed that infection becomes. This is when the manipulative behaviors start to surface. We then become vulnerable to our shadow. Here is where we give in to explosive anger, temptations, addictions, repeated toxic relationships, or cycles.
CC: The Ego
The ego is one of the three parts that make up the personality. The three parts are called, “the id”, “the ego”, and “the super-ego. The id is the primitive instinct of the personality. For example, an infant child solely operates from the id. As the child ages, the other parts of the personality develop (ego, super-ego.) The id personality component remains throughout your life as it is essential to function. The ego (as stated earlier) is the conscious mind, it is the part of us that we identify “I” with. The super-ego incorporates one’s ethics, values, and morals which they have learned and developed from their family, upbringing, and society. These three parts develop at different stages in our lives and fuse together to form our personality, our psyche.
(For more info: https://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html)
CC: Benefits of Shadow Work
✤ Improved self awareness
✤ Spiritual and psychological integration
✤ Healed generational trauma
✤ Healed childhood trauma
✤ Improved relationships (with thyself, family, friends, partners, work, your body, food, hobbies)
✤ Self empowerment
✤ Conscious power with the ability to manifest & create
✤ Freedom from toxic or stagnant cycles & patterns
✤ Living a more authentic life
✤ Improved intuition and perception
✤ Improved communication
✤ Enhanced empathy and ability to see others clearly
CC: Signs That Shadow Work Is Needed
NOTE: SHADOW WORK IS PAINFUL and should not be taken lightly. You may not be psychologically prepared to begin shadow work if you are struggling with a low self-esteem. Exploring your shadow may increase these feelings with low self-esteem and self-hatred. It is advised that you practice self-love BEFORE starting shadow work. Shadow work should only be done once you develop a healthy and stable sense of self-esteem.
✤ Repeated patterns with toxic relationships
✤ Overly judgmental of yourself and others
✤ Patterns of unhealthy escapism or addiction
✤ Toxic positivity, avoiding all things negative or dark
✤ Projection onto others
✤ Highly defensive
✤ Avoidance of ownership of your own faults
✤ Lack of empathy and compassion
✤ Random or uncontrollable outbursts of rage/anger
✤ Patterns of jealousy/envy
✤ Manipulative or competitive behavior
✤ Egotistical, arrogance
CC: Shadow Integration
What is “Shadow Integration”?
Shadow integration means acknowledging, accepting, and coming to terms with your shadow in order to see yourself and your reality with more clarity. You’ll begin to actually see the value of the shadow in every aspect of your life, and be able to freely & fully love ALL of YOU. Shadow integration is when the ego finally takes ownership and unveils any suppressed energies. Working with your shadow involves balance, embracing your whole self. Transforming these spiritual, emotional, mental sufferings into freedom and acceptance. Integrating your shadow brings you closer to realizing a sense of unity and wholeness. Opening up an internal dialogue with your shadow, these rejected aspects, will enable you to better understand them, yourself, and the world you perceive around you. Integration is bringing the shadow (unconscious) into the light (conscious).
CC: The Spiritual Law of Duality
Enantiodromia is a principle coined by psychiatrist Carl Jung, meaning, “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time.” Enantiodromia is composed of two Greek words. “Enantios” which means “opposite”, and “dromos” which means “running” or “running course”. Basically, this means that every force is bound to eventually and inevitably become its opposite.
Everything that exists has its opposite, its counterforce, its pair. This allows a balance to be achieved. You cannot experience joy and happiness without having experienced loss and sadness.
This philosophical principle is also known in Ancient Chinese philosophy and Taoism as “yīnyáng”, or as Westerners understand it as, “Yin and Yang”. The light and dark conceptualize that the duality is not two separate opposites, but they are interconnected, integrated, complementary. This ties into the Buddhist view that everything in this world is interconnected.
CC: Before You Begin
As stated earlier, shadow work is painful and should not be taken lightly. Shadow work is not by any means easy, and it should not be easy! If it is not disturbing, gut-wrenching, and painful, you’re probably not doing it right. GO DEEPER. You may not be psychologically prepared to begin shadow work if you are struggling with a low self-esteem. Exploring your shadow may increase these feelings with low self-esteem and self-hatred. It is advised that you practice self-love BEFORE starting shadow work. Shadow work should only be done once you develop a healthy and stable sense of self-esteem. I encourage you to incorporate self-love and self-care alongside shadow work. Shadow work can be overwhelming at times, during these moments, allow yourself to take a break to nurture yourself. Without practicing self-love and self-care, shadow work can actually do more harm than good! Remember that doing shadow work is a highly spiritual and sacred gift that you are giving yourself. Let’s get started!
CC: The Process of Healing The Shadow
1. Create the space and time for your work.
2. Identify your shadow aspects.
3. Accept these parts of yourself.
4. Journal and meditate. GET IT ALL OUT!
5. Pay attention to emotions that arise.
6. Love your shadow self.
7. Integrate your shadow!
CC: Creating Space
Creating the time and space dedicated to routine shadow work is important. This space needs to be entirely dedicated to the grueling work you are about to do, and the information exposed will be highly vulnerable and personal to you. Shadow work isn’t meant to be shared with others, it is internal work done for the benefit of you. You can create the time and space for your shadow work by first preparing yourself. Take a shower, brew a hot cup of tea, and grab some snacks. You’ll want to create a relaxing environment. What does this look like to you?
•Cleanse your space •Declutter •Light some candles •Keep rose quartz or other crystals around you •Light incense •Grab cozy blankets •Play soothing ambient music •Grab a stuffed animal •Keep your pet nearby •Grab some pillows •Keep tea or water nearby •Grab some snacks
Identifying your shadow is really the first step in the process of healing and integration. This process will be continual. You will discover that as you keep digging and uncovering these hidden parts of yourself, you’ll find out more that you probably didn’t even realize was in there! This is a step that you will find yourself revisiting. There is no specific order to follow and there is no timeline that you need to “complete” your shadow work in. One of the best ways to introduce yourself into shadow work is to look at your emotional reactions (ex: anger, fear, shame, jealousy, sadness, guilt, regret) to events and to others. From there, go within yourself and identify what is the trigger that causes the emotional reactions. Another way to introduce yourself into shadow work is to reflect on and observe where you may be projecting onto others. What you see in others is often also within yourself. Reflect on why certain characteristics bother you the most about others.
Accept? What do you MEAN accept? Aren’t we looking to heal and get rid of the shadow?!
Acceptance is essential in your healing process and in the alchemy of transformation. Healing can take place when you move from resistance or denial, to acceptance. In order to accept, we need to observe the shadow for what it is without judgement. (Judgement is a part of the shadow.) Lack of judgement when observing the shadow is important in acceptance because acceptance does not involve approval of whatever may be in the shadow. The feelings of approval versus acceptance may get confused for one another. Acceptance may seem unimportant to you now as you are reading these words, however, you will understand the profound power of acceptance once you shift through that energy and experience it for yourself. Acceptance will not only lead to a shift in energy, but a shift in your consciousness, and in your entire life (past, present, future.)
CC: Journal & Meditate
Journaling your shadow work provides you with a safe environment and setting to release, process, and heal. The act of writing in a journal gives you the power to allow yourself to slow down, organize, and categorize your thoughts. Writing it out in a journal gives you the freedom to express authentically, whatever that may look like to you, without the need to censor yourself. You will be able to reflect back through your journey, and you may pick up on more information to heal that you did not notice before. You will be able to track your growth. Journaling encourages great self-awareness. Meditation while going through shadow work is important too. Meditation opens up space for awareness. You may learn even more information about your shadow through meditation. If you are new to practicing mindfulness and meditation, there is an abundance of guided meditations on YouTube which were created specifically for shadow work.
CC: Pay Attention To Your Emotions
The more that you really tune in and pay attention to your emotions, the more likely it is that you are going to catch more shadow aspects creeping up. If you bring awareness to your emotions, you can train yourself to notice your shadow when interacting with others or even while you’re already doing shadow work. When you notice shadow aspects creeping in, sit with it and feel it for its entirety. Do not shove it back down into your shadow. Keep note of re-occurring triggers and the emotions that stir up along with the trigger. Your emotional triggers will put a spotlight on your inner wounds that need to be healed. When you feel a surge of emotion, check-in with yourself and ask, “Why am I feeling this way?” Give yourself some time to respond, the answer may not come to you quickly. While you are doing your shadow work, you may begin to feel overwhelmed or disturbed with what you discover about yourself, and during these moments, allow yourself the time to pause and take a break. Practice self-love and self-care during these breaks.
CC: Love Your Shadow
Ahh! This is like acceptance, first, you wanted me to ACCEPT my shadow. Now you want me to LOVE my shadow? That’s crazy talk!
A lot of your shadow stems from generational or childhood trauma. Think of it as a child who is wounded. Give your shadow understanding, compassion, love, and embrace it as a whole. After all, your shadow is a part of who you are. You wouldn’t be who you are and where you are now without it! How can you fully work through and integrate your shadow if you do not love yourself for the entirety that you are? Giving love to and embracing your shadow will lead to a greater understanding in order to heal and integrate. Much like accepting your shadow, loving your shadow is not a synonym for approval of your shadow. When you are finished with your shadow work session for the day, remember to practice self-love and self-care. After-care is important!
CC: Integrate Your Shadow
To integrate your shadow means to bring the shadow (unconscious) into the light (conscious). Integrating the shadow is foundational for spiritual awakening and the journey toward discovering and accepting your full and authentic self. The deeper that you dive into the depths of your shadow work, the higher you will ascend spiritually into awakening. Integrating your shadow helps to repair your soul, reconnect and realign you with your Higher Self, increasing your vibration and capacity to spread light to others. You become more aware of your surroundings and the understanding that what you perceive in the outside world is a mirror reflection of your inside world. You become aware of the intricate connection and Oneness that everyone and everything intimately shares. Your consciousness increases with your awareness and authenticity. The more aware and authentic you are, the stronger connection you will have with your Higher Self.
CC: Diving Into Shadow Work
Create a journal or a document on your phone or computer to practice your shadow work that will be kept private. This journal or document will be filled with highly vulnerable information. It really isn’t meant for anyone except yourself. You are about to dive into a highly rewarding practice that will drastically improve your life from the inside – out. Remember that you are doing this to take care of you! This is the deepest act of love that you will be able to gift to yourself.
✤ What was my favorite activity as a child? Why did I stop doing it? How did that make me feel? Do I still like it now?
✤ What qualities of my family do I disagree with or dislike the most? How do those qualities relate to me?
✤ How did my parents respond to my negative emotions? How was I taught to regulate strong emotions as a child?
✤ Reflect on your life, during a time where you were at your worst. What did that look like? Write a compassionate letter to yourself during that time. What did you need to hear? Where can you forgive yourself?
✤ What forms of escapism do I run to when I am stressed out? What addictions do I have? What am I trying to avoid?
CC: Journal Prompts
✤ What was my biggest fear in my childhood? When was that fear installed in my psyche? Why? Do I still share this fear? Did I overcome this fear?
✤ What qualities of my family do I disagree with or dislike the most? How do those qualities relate to me?
✤ Do I think of myself as a victim? Why do I think that I am a victim? Do I hold resentment towards the person who hurt me? Why do I hold resentment?
✤ How do I think people see me? How would people describe me? How do I feel about that?
✤ How judged do I feel on a daily basis? How much of that judgment is perceived/a projection? How do I know that others are actually judging me?
✤ How do I judge others? Why do I judge others? What triggers my judgment?
✤ What was the biggest lie that I have ever told? What was my motivation for lying? How did it turn out? Have I come forward with the truth yet?
✤ How do I run away from or avoid my responsibilities? Why do I run from responsibility? What were the outcomes from the times that I avoided responsibility?
CC: Journal Prompts
✤ Write about an experience that changed your life or your personality. How did this experience affect or trigger your shadow self?
✤ When did I feel powerless to say no? Why did I feel powerless to say no? Where do I need to start saying no?
✤ When was the last time that I manipulated others in a situation to get what I wanted? How did that make me feel? How did that affect them?
✤ What am I in denial about? What am I protecting myself from by being in denial?
✤ What is a good habit that I would like to start doing this week? How can I start making this change? How will I hold myself accountable?
✤ What aspects of myself do I suppress in order to conform to and please others? Why? How can I express these parts of myself freely?
✤ Where do I feel the need to compete? Why do I feel the need to compete? How can competition be toxic, unhealthy, and unproductive? Am I looking for validation?
✤ What does it feel like to have your emotions invalidated?
CC: Shadow Work Exercises
A Letter To Your Inner Child
Write a letter to your inner child. Be gentle, kind, sensitive, and compassionate… after all, you are communicating with your child self. Ask your child self, “What do you need to hear?” Express everything that you would say to yourself as a child, forgive yourself, and apologize for everything that you didn’t understand or were not mature enough to understand, but still felt and affected you. Address the times where you were reaching out for attention from your family and they did not fulfill that desire. Address the emotions that you could not express or had to hide in order to stay out of trouble. Acknowledge your inner child’s strengths, passions, and talents. Explain to them how wonderful they are, how much you love them and care about them, how you are going to protect them, how you are going to encourage their growth.
CC: Shadow Work Exercises
In this letter, write a letter about everything that you want to release. This could be about anything from negative thought patterns, trapped energies, negative habits or addictions, trauma, your ex, your abuser, an old friend who hurt you. Begin by writing about your experiences, your deepest thoughts, and feelings surrounding those experiences. Be descriptive as possible. Write about what you have learned through this experience. When you are finished writing your letter, re-read and reflect on what you wrote, observe the emotions that arise as you read but do not stuff those emotions back down into the shadow. The key to healing is to embrace those feelings, feel them wholely. Pay attention to how it makes you feel. You may repeat this process as many times as you wish. When you feel ready, burn the letter in a fire to release and renew.
CC: Shadow Work Exercises
A Letter To My Parent (Or Abuser)
Write a letter to your parent, guardian, or abuser. This is a time to be completely transparent, open, and honest, without holding anything back. What do you want to say to them? What do you want to say to yourself? What do you wish you could have said to them when the abuse or trauma was happening? Go into detail about the events and how they made you feel. Write about how they still make you feel now. Write about how the abuse or trauma has affected you throughout your life, about how it has impacted your relationships whether that be romantic, friendships, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Now write about forgiveness. Forgive them for the abuse or trauma they put you through. Forgive yourself. Re-assure that it is not your fault that this happened to you. Decide what you want to get out of this letter. You do not have to send this letter to anyone.
Now take what you’ve learned and RUN with it! We have only scratched the surface of shadow work. This is the type of internal work where nobody else can really give you the answers that you are searching for, although we can give you a push in the right direction or act as a light post as you walk down this path in your spiritual journey. Shadow work can certainly trigger traumas, so do not be afraid to reach out to a counselor or seek help. Be kind and compassionate. We thank you for taking the time to read this far, and for taking care of yourself!
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