We have all heard about shadow work, maybe someone has told you that you need to do shadow work yourself. One of the main things that I’ve noticed is that many people have no idea where to start when it comes to the practice, yet it is so important to your emotional and spiritual growth. The shadow is the psychological term for everything that is unseen about you. What is hidden, even from yourself. This is the “dark side” of your personality, consisting of the human traits and emotions that would be considered negative and primitive; like rage, greed, selfishness, desire, power, etc. What you deny yourself, absorbs into your shadow, becoming repressed. The shadow can’t be eliminated, instead integrated by confronting, and healing the repressed parts of you.
What happens when you repress your shadow?
You see it in everyone else. Those who have yet to do the shadow work necessary for integration often project the qualities that they deny about themselves, onto others. In other words, if a personality trait or action , done by someone else irritates you, then you have shadow work to do, as if the trait or action wasn’t in your shadow self, you’d be unbothered. However, your ego defends itself through projection, by defending your perception of yourself; keeping you from connection with the shadow self. Projections create a veil, distorting your view of yourself and reality.
So why should you do shadow work?
There are five major benefits of engaging in shadow work. Shadow work isn’t the easiest undertaking. Confronting one's flaws, weaknesses, and so on, is no easy task. We are taught how wonderful we are from a young age, so to actively seek and confront the “ugly” parts of you goes directly against what we have been taught, and what the ego is willing to do. But there are benefits:
Your authentic self is the full integration of your light self and your shadow self. Shadow work helps you see yourself for who you are, and in turn, you see others for who they are, clearer. This self-awareness allows you to assess your environment and situations with more accuracy and understanding.
Maturity and Psychological Integration
How can you feel whole when you deny and ignore a portion of yourself? So much of our mental health relies on psychological integration. Integration, according to Jung, is the process during which both the individual and collective unconscious are integrated into the personality.
Confronting and integrating your shadow self can help bring psychological maturity and a sense of wholeness, as you’re not repressing but integrating this aspect of yourself.
Integrating your shadow is one of the most grounding things you can do. You become more human and whole once you have explored your shadow. Once you have learned to accept the dark parts of yourself, it becomes easier to be accepting of others.
This is a big deal in relationships. Most issues in a relationship are due to triggers, be it one trigger, or a series of triggers. When you are integrated, it becomes easier to accept the behavior of other people without being triggered. you also will find that your throat chakra is open, but also in tune with how to be used.
As a result of being more accepting, but also communication effectively, you may notice improvements in your personal and professional relationships.
Better Health | More Energy
Bag Lady! Erykah Badu told us, “one day, all them bags, gon get in [our] way” and she never lied. It is exhausting to continually suppress all the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to face. Mental suppression can lead to fatigue, lethargy, and at times physical pain and disease.
Repressed rage could show up as back pain. However, when you explore your shadow and do shadow work, you leave the bags behind. This can vastly improve your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.
Unlocking Your Creative Potential
One of the greatest and most secret benefits of Shadow Work is its ability to unlock your creativity. With the suppression of a part of yourself, you are also suppressing so many ideas, thoughts, and projects. Integrating gives you access to those sources of creativity.
So how do you do Shadow Work?
Without being centered, any results you get from Shadow Work won’t be constructive. The shadow, in its repressed state, is chaotic. It represents a vast variety of parts cloaked in your psyche. You can only truly confront and explore these parts of yourself from your center. If you’re not centered you may be judgmental, confused, critical, and cynical- this will prevent integration.
Before you begin your shadow work, you want to be centered, in a calm, clear space.
Unconditional Love and friendliness with oneself are imperative. Without these it is difficult to explore our darker sides. For this to happen, you need to learn how to transmute your emotions with self-acceptance, and self-compassion.
We all have a shadow. This fact alone should help you begin to accept yourself and your shadow. Lead with gratitude and your heart through this process.
Shadow work requires a self-reflective mindset. you have to be able to reflect on your own behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Mindful meditation and self-awareness allow for
non-judgemental awareness- staying aware of the present without involving the inner critic or other modes of judgment.
Self-awareness and reflection help us observe and evaluate reactions and feelings without judgment or criticism.
Self-honesty is non negotiable in shadow work. Are you willing to see the unpleasant aspects of yourself? Oftentimes, exploring the dark parts of ourselves is uncomfortable. Seeing these parts can be challenging and it requires courage to not only see these things, but work through them until integration. The benefit though is your integration and healing.
Record Your Discoveries
Like dreams can slip away, so can aspects of your shadow side. It is a great practice to record everything that you come into contact with, through this journey. This can help you decode your shadow self.
Shadow Work Exercises
Learning The Shadow Archetypes
There are four primary archetypes of the psyche- The King, the Warrior, The Magician, The Lover. Each archetype also has a destructive shadow side. It is best to become familiar with these archetypes and which one you most identify with.
Engaging in Internal Dialogue
A great deal of shadow work requires that you actively engage your shadow side is a dialogue. All of us have sub-personalities, when we ignore these parts they can unconsciously influence our behavior.
By conversing with these internal, disowned parts of us, we can integrate them into our conscious selves.
Step 1: Choose something/someone you want to work on (ex. husband), that you have strong emotions towards.
Step 2: Face it; describe the qualities that upset or attract you to the person/thing the most. Be honest. Write it down, it’s confidential.
Step 3: Converse with them in your mind or journal. Speak directly to them. Ask the questions, express the feelings, imagine the responses. Record everything.
Step 4: Be it. Become them, speak in first person, embody the traits that you listed above. These are the exact traits you’ve been denying yourself. Speak in I Am
Step 5: Reflect. These qualities are in you. Explore the part of yourself that is this. Then own the quality and integrate into yourself.