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Shadow Work A Necessary Step to Becoming Whole Again.

We all have parts of ourselves that we like and parts that we do not. I love my hair, hate my nose. I am kind and generous but I can be a bit unapproachable sometimes. Those parts of ourselves that we do not like or that we reject about ourselves become part of our shadow self. The shadow self gets pushed down into our subconscious and becomes that demon we do not address. You have heard people say that we fight our own demons, sometimes they win, sometimes we win. There really isn't a darkness or a true demon within you there is only things that we do not want to see. When we talk about doing some shadow work we are talking about really going into ourselves and looking at those things that hurt us, or make us uncomfortable in order to better understand why we do things or feel a certain way. Then we need to work on those things and learn to embrace that part of our self to truly be whole.

The term shadow was coined by psychotherapist, Carl Jung. Jung defines the shadow aspect as the parts within us that we hide or deny. It comprised of the aspects of our personality that we tend to deem shameful, unacceptable, ugly. It can be envy, jealousy, rage, lust, desire for power or the wounds incurred in childhood – all of those we keep hidden. Our dark side if you will. Jung believes that when the human Shadow is shunned, it tends to sabotage our lives. Repressing or suppressing one’s shadow can result in addictions, low self-esteem, mental illness, chronic illnesses, and various neuroses. Having these pieces of ourselves go unhealed or unaccepted manifest in our lives negatively and keep us from living the life we are intended to live.

Several examples of shadow aspects are selfishness, aggressive impulses, being self-centered, arrogance, shameful experiences, and fears. These aspects lead to certain types of behaviors, such as criticizing someone else that has your flaws, letting people know you’re entitled, judging people unfairly, and always being the victim.

Many negative issues that affect your life can result by keeping your shadow hidden and locked away. These can include:

  • Addictions

  • Uncontrollable rage/anger

  • Social anxiety

  • Obsessive/compulsive disorders

  • Sexual deviancy

  • Depression

  • Self-sabotage

  • Neuroticism

  • Limiting beliefs

Shadow Work is how you integrate the aspects of your unconscious psyche into your conscious experience and allow the positive aspects of the shadow to express themselves. When properly used and channeled, the shadow-self has traits that you can use to further your own personal development.

Some of the traits include:

  • Creativity

  • Intuition

  • Resilience

  • Self-Esteem

For example looking at the shadow of self sabotage, realizing this is a part of your personality that feels you are not deserving, that you are a bad person therefore you do not deserve to be happy. This shadow causes you to view things that make you happy as not meant for you and you will do things whether unconscious or consciously to ruin it before it ruins you. If you can identify that you exhibit this behavior and pull it into your consciousness and realize that you are worthy, you are a good person that brings forward your self esteem and there fore you are confident and accepting of that happiness.

Everyone has a shadow self, being in a state of denial of this is actually a shadow. The shadow self is created as we grow. When we are born we are born full of potential as close to being whole as we will ever be. As we grow and we start to experience life we are taught through our experiences what is acceptable and what is not. Slowly, due to our circumstances and preferences, we begin to adopt certain character traits and reject others. For example, if we are born into a family that shows little interpersonal warmth, we will develop personality traits that make us self-sufficient and perhaps standoffish or mind-oriented. If we are born into a family that rewards compliance and shuns rebellion, we will learn that being submissive works, and thus adopt that as part of our ego structure. We learn that certain behaviors are acceptable and others are shunned and we adapt accordingly.

Stephen Wolf, psychoanalyst, said Beneath the social mask we wear every day, we have a hidden shadow side: an impulsive, wounded, sad, or isolated part that we generally try to ignore.  The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality, and acknowledging it can be a pathway to healing and an authentic life.

Shadow work is difficult and one of the least favorite part of a journey of transformation that people will endure. Having to look at the things you don't like, address things you are ashamed of, open deep old wounds and feel pain that you numbed and put away will hurt and make you uncomfortable. Some people refer to it as the destruction of the ego. Your goal is not to destroy the ego, you cannot completely lose your ego, it is actually coming to a place of acceptance and turning the ego to healthy part of your being.

Shadow work is the process of exploring your inner darkness or “Shadow Self.” It is the attempt to uncover everything that we have hidden and every part of us that has been disowned and rejected within our Shadow Selves. Why? Because without revealing to ourselves what we have hidden, we remain burdened with problems such as anger, guilt, shame, disgust, and grief. In order to fit in, be accepted, approved, and loved, we learned to act a certain way. We adopted a role that would ensure our mental, emotional, and physical survival. But at the same time, wearing a mask has consequences

Shadow work is necessary one because the shadow self seeks to be known. It wants to be explored and integrated and understood so it will find ways to expose itself if it is not tended to and is locked away. When we reject our shadow self it will present itself through the follow ways for example:

  • Hypocrisy (believing and supporting one thing, but doing the other)

  • Lies and self-deceit (both towards oneself and others)

  • Uncontrollable bursts of rage/anger

  • Emotional and mental manipulation of others

  • Greed and addictions

  • Phobias and obsessive compulsions

  • Racist, sexist, homophobic, and other offensive behavior

  • Intense anxiety

  • Chronic psychosomatic illness

  • Depression (which can turn into suicidal tendencies)

  • Sexual perversion

  • Narcissistically inflated ego

  • Chaotic relationships with others

  • Self-loathing

  • Self-absorption

  • Self-sabotage

The most dangerous of all being projection of our short comings onto others. We may criticize, reject, hate, dehumanize, or even in extreme cases, physically or psychologically seek to destroy them, this often times leads to dysfunction in relationships. If we are seeking to bring peace, love, and meaning to our lives, we absolutely MUST reclaim these projections. Through Shadow Work, we can explore exactly what we have disowned.

The key to shadow work is to find the light within the darkness. Within all the rejected and dark parts of our self there is a gift to be found. Not everything within our Shadow is doom and gloom. In fact, the Shadow contains some of our most powerful gifts and talents, such as our artistic, sexual, competitive, innovative, and even intuitive aptitudes. Every single wound and emotion we possess compliments the parts of ourselves that we love and accept. When you can learn to embrace those parts of yourself you will be able to find the balance within and become whole again.

What are some things you can do to heal the wounds within and dig in and do the work needed to live a more rewarding life and truly be able to love yourself as a whole person.

  1. Believe you are worthy and that things will get better - positive affirmations and power of positive thinking. This requires that you are very self aware and able to recognize negative and self limiting thought proceses

  2. Pay attention to the emotions you feel - being able to identify triggers and how you respond. Once you can acknowledge a trigger you will be more equipped to shut it down and address it before it fires.

  3. Identify the shadow - become aware of the recurrent feelings that you always feel. some common shadow beliefs are:

    1. I am not good enough

    2. I am flawed

    3. My feelings are not valid

    4. I must take care of everyone around me

    5. Why can't I just be normal just like others?

4. Be Objective and have Compassion - being able to look at the hurt objectively and trying to identify why the other person may have hurt you, and why you were hurt without trying to place blame. This also helps in trying to forgive and move forward and not holding on to resentment and anger

5. Explore the Shadow - Journal, write a letter, meditate whatever exercise you are most comfortable with to be able to really be truthful with your self about your feelings and your reaction to those feelings. Dream work is also a good form of analysis. We do a lot of healing and growing in dreams, if you are able to remember specific parts of a dream and you dig into those things you will find a deeper meaning and deep source of healing.

6. Nurture your Inner Child - Most of the time, our childhood wounds are the most painful. They haunt us and tell us we’re not worthy of love, or that our feelings are wrong, or that we have to take care of everything because nobody was around to take care of us.

Nurturing your inner child involves traveling back in time to when you were hurt and give yourself love. You can do this by:

a. Go back over your childhood and review different memories. Identify those that maybe weren't so happy. Give yourself compassion and permission to let that go as an adult. Reassure your child self that the feelings were valid and it wasn't their fault and that everything turns out OK.

Bringing the hidden parts of yourself to light and practicing self-love and acceptance, is not easy, sometimes, the process hurts but it will make you a better person.

Keep in mind:

When it comes down to getting what you want, you have to not only confront your inner darkness but embrace it.

Rather than try to turn it off when you feel the shadow self-rearing its ugly head, allow yourself to feel it and be curious about it. Embrace the light within it and find the good.

In some cases, you might find that it serves you, especially when you are trying to protect yourself from things that might otherwise threaten your higher self.

Once you can turn pain into power you will feel the inner peace that you only feel when you are finally whole again.

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