Shadow Work Simplified: How to Tackle your Spirituality?
Shadow Work Simplified: How to Tackle your Spirituality?
Along my journey to spirituality, I have been pushing back my shadow work. For a while!
Why you ask ?
Well, to start, the name itself is not very appealing right ?!
Furthermore, digging deep around the dark areas of my being is not necessarily an activity I enjoy doing. But I knew this was needed.
So before we go any further, my question to you is: What are the reasons you want to work on your shadow?
There might be many reasons but you will need to truly think about it. And that is because shadow work is not pretty, it is intense and you might make some profound discoveries. But trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Anything you take away from this, is beneficial for your ascension to a higher state of consciousness.
Let’s dive in, shall we…
What is the Shadow ?
Do you remember this time you committed an act you still regret to this day ?
You hit your partner, you stole from a friend, or you yelled at a waiter.
It might have felt like an external force made you do it, because it is against your values and principles. You even thought: this is not me. I do not act like that.
Well, you were right. This was your shadow.
Carl Jung, a famous psychiatrist who studied psychology in depth describes the shadow as the unconscious or disowned side of our personality.
Yes ! The shadow is the unknown side of our being.
Our conscious self does not identify this part of us.
When it comes to human psyche, Jung believed in many different archetypes, but these 4 stood out :
1 – The Persona
This is the mask we hide behind to show our family, friend, strangers. Just about everybody. The image we hide behind so we can feel safe and conform to the norm of society. It is of human nature to want to fit in boxes. Well, this is our persona.
2 – The Anima
The Anima refers to the mirror image of our biological gender. In other words, the feminine side of men and the masculine side of women. These relate to our unconscious self once again.
C. Jung states that living together for centuries has had an effect on each sex’s behavior.
3 – The Shadow
You know that already, the shadow is the unconscious side of our personality which can be creative or destructive energies.
We are completely unaware of it unless we do the work and connect with this hidden side of us.
4 – The Self
The self, on the other hand, refers to the union of both our conscious and unconscious sides. C. Jung believed that disharmony between the unconscious and the conscious mind could lead to psychological problems.
Where does the shadow comes from?
The shadow is born in our childhood as a result of the interaction we had with our family and our environment growing up.
At around 2-3 years old, we start to understand that some of our behaviors please our parents and some don’t, or create anger even.
Little by little, we integrate our parents’ reaction and create an internal battle to appear ‘perfect’ to them.
Depending on our sex, background, or social status, we have been raised to be quiet or assertive.
Therefore, slowly but surely, a side of us has grown to stay in the back, never show up and appear undesirable.
Let me plant an easy example right here :
Imagine, parents never showing their negative emotions to their child and creating a constant fake happy-state, can eventually repress his emotions. If a child has not been able to express his bad emotions and feelings, he might, later on, get triggered every time someone reacts negatively. He will then tend to avoid confrontation instead of communicating openly.
It is not necessarily a horrible thing in itself but think of people who are not able to stand up for themselves or open up on things they disagree on.
That is because that side of them has been repressed at a young age.
The shadow is created as soon as the feeling is repressed by the child.
In an instant, the shadow appears and stays in our unconscious being until we decide to deal with it.
Why should you do shadow work?
If you are on your spiritual journey and have found some aspects of it enlightening and beautiful, shadow work might not be one of them.
BUT HERE ME OUT,
Shadow work is NOT solely negative. When you tap into this aspect of your psyche, there are amazing revelations that can come out of it.
Because the shadow follows us since childhood, we often are completely oblivious to its presence. Sadly, it influences our choices and the people we chose to be in our lives and we cannot ignore it.
Think about the literal shadow. The dark shape that appears behind our body when there is light. The only way to escape it would be to stay in the complete darkness.
Well, our way to escape the spiritual shadow is to stay in the light. Constantly ! And that is not healthy.
We have to be comfortable in our darkness to be able to access this side of us and mould it.
Are you a victim of your shadow?
Sometimes, in a subtle way, our shadow, suggest us to act a certain way for a good cause we think. And we believe it.
For instance, under the excuse of ‘tough discipline’ a parent would justify hitting on their children for their ‘own good’. The parent would claim it is to toughen them up and they will thank them later.
However, the beaten child will reproduce what he has known thinking this was a good behavior. This has created and fed their shadow to resurface in their adult life at any given moment.
1 – Shadow and morals ?
The moral consider our shadow like a bad entity.
However, our shadow is the most animalistic and wild force we carry in us.
A cat who plays and tries to catch a mouse is not aware of how cruel it is for the mouse. A spider doesn’t feel bad for catching a pray in its cobweb to eat it later.
Well, the shadow is like an animal who is not aware of morals and ethics. It just wants to play, survive, and protects itself.
But the shadow can also manifest in different forms. Think about a hunter who would let his prey get away and live. The shadow appears to have pity and mercy.
So, yes the shadow can be positive and have morals. It only contains what we refuse to let out.
A bright white shadow
A white shadow is all the potential that we have in us and that we won’t allow to come out.
I want you to think about a talent that is hidden behind your white shadow.
Mine would be creativity. I have tried to suppress this side of me for a while. I was afraid of a blank canvas and thought I could only fill in blanks and not create.
Another one would be leadership.
What are yours? (I’m genuinely interested so leave a comment :-)).
How to welcome and master your shadow?
Our shadow does not need to come out to exist, it only needs to be accepted and recognised.
How do we accept our shadow?
We have to let our immoral thoughts run wild. This way, our dark thoughts can express themselves freely.
Our shadow hides in our craziest fantasies
Have you ever thought of running over your boss with your car ? Or tell your school teacher to shut up ?
A bit extreme I know but you get the point I am trying to make. These thoughts are where our shadow lives. Our hidden fantasies and secrets thoughts. Trying to repress these thoughts becomes unhealthy for us.
A well-received and accepted thought will only stay a thought. But feeling bad for it, or repress it will push the shadow to come out some way or another.
And this is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
Our shadow is the opposite of what we would like to become and how we would like to act. To become its friend I suggest you find your shadow a place for all the thoughts uneasy to confess.
Can’t catch it
Have you ever tried to step on your shadow’s head as a child? I have done that many times. It was fun and frustrating at the same time. Because it was impossible.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.
Our shadow is like water. It can be as powerful as a tsunami, but it can also be subtle like the humidity slowly absorbed by walls. The shadow manifests the same ways in our psyche.
As soon as you try to catch it, it becomes as subtle as steam.
Tame your shadow
Our shadow can be the source of a great power but it is when we try to catch it that it becomes difficult to tame.
Our shadow has its own energy field. It has to power to break relationships and attracts all kind of traumas and painful experiences.
To dive in deeper into this aspect I recommend you read ‘Owning your own shadow’ by Robert A. Johnson.
How to spot the shadow?
1 – Take this quick test and Introspect
We all have a dark and a brighter side.
We tend to enjoy the inner sunlight with the intention to conform to society and our parents’ standards.
But it is not always by facing the sun that we avoid the shadow.
So here’s the thing…
In a strange way, it is when we observe closely our bright side that we take our first step towards the shadow.
It is a bit of a paradox, I know.
Take the time to find answers to these questions :
- What are the strengths and behaviors you like about yourself?
- What are the strengths and behaviors you like about others?
- And what are the strengths and behaviors you dream to possess?
Your shadow is the OPPOSITE of your answers.
Our shadow is made of all that we hate about ourselves and others.
As far as I am concerned I hate arrogance and rudeness. They are part of my shadow.
This means, that a side of me would like to be more loud, uncensored, and careless what people might think of me if I am rude to them.
You might be confused at some of your answers. But remember that our shadow can be a deeply repressed behavior hidden since childhood that we never thought of.
2 – Beware of triggers and patterns
When tackling shadow work in our journey to spirituality we have to be aware of our triggers. This is a great way to spot the shadow.
They show us our wounds and weakness points with emotional reactions to certain situations.
Anytime something happens, ask yourself :
‘Why am I feeling like this?’
Self-awareness to our triggers can improve the way we deal with our dark side. It is best to catch our emotions before we act on them.
Why you ask ?
Because the shadow gets bigger every time we act on the triggers.
I like examples so here it is :
You have been texting a person you like who suddenly stops replying for several hours. You are feeling enraged and betrayed. Realistically this is not a huge reason to be angry. That person could just be busy but your feelings do not match the situation.
You send an angry text and block him/her.
Them not replying to you can be a trigger of childhood abandonment, or anything else for that matter. But it is a trigger that did not need to be acted on.
Remember when you act on your trigger, the shadow becomes bigger.
Another aspect to look out for is patterns. Repeating patterns and experiences are a sign of the shadow operating.
3 – Projections
I remember having this conversation with a friend not long ago. He mentioned, growing up, having a disgust for heavily overweight people.
I wondered why.
When discussing shadow work and finding out about our triggers he said something very interesting.
“I know now that the reason I did not like overweight people is because I saw them as lazy and careless of their health and appearance. I was projecting this hate, towards my own fear of becoming someone with no drive and unhealthy”.
Well, I asked why ? He said :
“I have addictive tendencies. My subconscious could use food as a way to cope with negative life events. Even though I have a super-fast metabolism and will unlikely become overweight, my biggest fear was to become addicted to something that could take over my health and drive”
This is why it is important, when doing shadow work, to really understand why we dislike the things we dislike. It could be deeper than we think.
How to do shadow work ?
If you are still reading, I suppose you are now ready to do the work and get your hands dirty.
1 – Embrace the shadow
One thing we tend to do, is to agitate our shadow. We carry this anger towards this side of us that we cannot control or correct.
As a result, we put our emotional wellbeing at risk.
Our shadow is born from non-acceptance and repression, so the best way to tame it is to embrace and accept it.
Because guess what ?
“Your shadow is part of you”.
There is no reason to push it away as it will come back stronger. So cherish it with the light you have.
2 – Do not judge your shadow
Going back to the segment about triggers and I am sure that you can relate in some ways. It is crucial to not put judgment on our emotions.
If that person has not replied to your text and you feel anger and rejection. Do not beat yourself up or carry judgment upon the way you feel. You have all the right to feel the way you do.
Your emotions are valid !
Talk to yourself with kind and reassuring words.
If you aren’t sure, close and eyes, take a deep breath and say: “I might have overreacted but I am human. I love and accept every aspect of my being” as many times needed.
So in other words, we can observe our shadow but not judge it.
3 – Past life work
I have mentioned at the start of this article that our shadow is often born around the age of 2-3 years old when we start to understand our parents’ behavior.
In some cases, our shadow started before our birth.
If you have read my post on soul contracts then you know all about that already.
Basically, our soul made a deal before our birth. Our spirit guides gave us lessons to accomplish and it directly affects our encounters and life experiences.
Our soul chooses our parents, our friends, etc, and ultimately everyone that crosses our path. For the purpose of learning that lesson. This lesson could be forgiveness, patience, or even gratitude.
Visit my shop and get: Shadow Work Journal to help you get started with Self-Healing
There are multiple ways to access our past lives’ stories :
- Guided meditation
- Past lives reading
- Journal after each dream* and analyze the elements that resonate with you
- Be aware of ‘deja vus
I recommend this book if you are interests in Akashic readings :
*Dream Journal :
- A dream title
- A brief description
- How do I feel when I wake up?
The goal is to see if there is a correlation between your dreams and your spiritual work.
4 – Inner child work
To do an extensive review of our childhood it is necessary to remove any feeling of resentment.
What has happened, happened !
Now is only time to introspect.
Try to remember :
- the earliest traumatic memories and write them down. Think about ways they have affected your adult life,
- aspects of your personality that people around you were judging. Think about ways they have affected your adult life.
Take time for this work, come back to it later if you can’t think of anything. Some things will definitely resurface eventually.
5 – Positive side of the shadow
As mentioned previously, our shadow is not just dark and negative. It can also be extremely positive and uplifting.
At this stage, you can think of ways to retrieve your gifts and talents. We all have at least one.
However, they are sometimes hidden by our shadow.
Brainstorm on the things you would like to do in your life if you were not afraid.
The whole point of shadow work is to face our fears. I truly hope you are ready to experience shifts and heavy feelings/emotions.
If you are on a spiritual awakening journey, you have already encountered parts of your being that might have surprised you.
It is heavy !
It is tough !
But it is needed.
Make sure you are not too hard on yourself and keep embracing every side of Self.
At the end of the day, we are souls living a human experience.
I would love to know what are the ways you use to work on your shadow.