Published Date: August 4th, 2020
SHADOW SELF / SHADOW WORK
GAR Research Team: Carol & Magen K
Shadow Work is a practice that helps us to become whole again. It works on the premise that you must 100% OWN Your Shadow, rather than avoiding or repressing it, to experience deep healing.
The shadow plays a significant role in our everyday lives, influencing our decision-making process by manifesting tendencies that we repress or even resent.
To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light. — Carl Jung
Shadows influence us and when we are unaware of them, they only become blacker and denser. The thicker they become, the more uncontrollable they may be.
Even worse, the problem is that the shadow can take over, it can use the driver’s seat and control our lives. It does so in a manner that we don’t even know about. These shadows are not necessarily negative. Rather, they are often misinterpreted and misused due to either our lack of knowledge about it or biased perspectives against it. These shadows can even become resources of renewed power and vitality. They can be aspects of ourselves that we never really knew about and might actually help us. It’s all possible through the process of shadow work.
Shadow work is the process of exploring your inner darkness or “Shadow Self.” Your Shadow Self is part of your unconscious mind and contains everything you feel ashamed of thinking and feeling, as well as every impulse, repressed idea, desire, fear and perversion that for one reason or another, you have “locked away” consciously or unconsciously. Often this is done as a way of keeping yourself tame, likable and “civilized” in the eyes of others.
Shadow work 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. We ALL have a Shadow Self ..as uncomfortable as it may sound, there is a dark side within every human being. Why is this the case? The reason why all human beings have a shadow is due to the way we were raised as human beings, often referred to as our ‘conditioning. developing the Shadow Self is a natural part of development. But you also formed an alter ego due to social conditioning, i.e. your parents, family members, teachers, friends, and society at large all contributed to your Shadow.
What is your shadow?
You shadow is your “unintegrated” self – the parts of you that need to be uncovered and healed. It comprises of the aspects of your personality that were rejected, suppressed, or denied to the point of becoming largely subconscious to you. Because of this, they began operating destructively as your emotional “baggage” – your traumas, addictions, fears, negative habits, etc.
What happens when shadow aspects remain unknown?
As you grew up, your rejected or “fragmented” parts STILL existed, but they began operating in an unhealthy way – through a negative filter. Why? Because unmet needs will find a way to be met. Unexpressed emotions will express – one way or another. This is where all of our labels of being “flawed” come from (e.g. addiction, depression, personality disorders, eating disorders, etc). Most of us have a vague sense that we are not whole, which then drives us into difficult relationships with others who have related shadow aspects.
Other issues that arise when we reject our Shadow side can include:
- 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… and many others. This is by no means a comprehensive list (and there are more than likely many other issues out there). As will learn next, one of the greatest ways we reject our Shadows is through psychological projection.
- One of the biggest forms of Shadow rejection is something called projection. Projection is a term that refers to seeing things in others that are actually within ourselves. When we pair projection and the Shadow Self together, we have a dangerous mix.
- What is shadow work?
Shadow work is the process of healing this tangle of conflict and confusion within you. It is the process of willingly and actively examining your own habits, behaviors, feelings, and traits in order to phase out unwanted behaviors, heal from recurring suffering, and gain an understanding of who you ACTUALLY are. Basically, it’s real self-empowerment.
Shadow work is a radical look into the self that we’ve been conditioned our whole lives to avoid.
Shadow workers find their power and become truly confident because there is less confusion, less chaos, and more internal order. Their personal obstacles have been released. They know who they are, they learn self-care, and they get honest with themselves. It’s a practice that strengthens your emotional intelligence and even improves your relationships.
Shadow workers gain their resilience by learning a process and building a lifestyle. They master the methods that work for them and drop the others. They repeat these practices as needed to gain clarity about any aspect of their lives. This is the sacred work.
Carl Jung’s work follows that of his mentor, Sigmund Freud, and utilizes his famous theory of the id, ego and superego to uncover the shadow in our souls.
For those of you who’ve forgotten your college psychology, here’s a reminder of the function of each in Freud’s theory:
Id: The id is the chaotic, unorganized part of our being that stores our instinctual drivers and needs, such as libido, pleasure and domination
- Ego: The ego is that which regulates the id’s desires by re-moulding them into the fabric of our lived daily lives. Hence, the id wants resources, the ego rationalizes to work for said resources instead of just taking them, thereby maintaining a facade of social harmony in behaviour
- Superego: The superego is the part of us which abides to idealised rules, especially those of a collective cultural or familial nature….What is The Shadow? In the above definition, the id most closely relates to the shadow in that this is the unconscious part of ourselves that harbors our drivers and wants.
However, the shadow is more than just elements of the unconscious id, it becomes the shadow when we actively remain ignorant to – or reject – parts of ourselves that are at the root of our being. We can do this with all manner of emotions, drivers and realities. We may have traumatic experiences that we are repressing, we may have an inner anger towards the world we repress because we unconsciously learned anger is ‘bad’, or we may have fetishes or desires we have not or do not want to acknowledge.
In Jungian psychology, the “shadow”, “id”, or “shadow aspect/archetype” may refer to (1) an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself, or (2) the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. In short, the shadow is the unknown side.
Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one’s personality, the shadow is largely negative. There are, however, positive aspects that may also remain hidden in one’s shadow (especially in people with low self-esteem, anxieties, and false beliefs).
Contrary to a Freudian definition of shadow, the Jungian shadow can include everything outside the light of consciousness and may be positive or negative. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.
Carl Jung stated the shadow to be the unknown dark side of the personality.According to Jung, the shadow, in being instinctive and irrational, is prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Jung writes that if these projections remain hidden, “the projection-making factor (the Shadow archetype) then has a free hand and can realize its object—if it has one—or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power”. These projections insulate and harm individuals by acting as a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world.
SHADOW work is a SEARCH and RESCUE MISSION: If you choose to accept your mission is completely up to your-SELF
reference; Teal Swan
Carl Jung found that people have aspects of themselves that they are aware of and aspects that they are not aware of. Jung referred to the aspects of oneself, that the person was unaware or unconscious of as the SHADOW.
We are born whole but because we are relation-ally dependent as children, we learn that some aspects of ourselves are acceptable and some are not. Acceptable vs unacceptable is dependent on the family that you were born into. Aspects that are seen as unacceptable (+ or -) and are rejected by our family becomes aspects that we repress/disown or deny in the name of SURVIVAL. The aspects that are approved of are exaggerated.
We dissociate from what we disapprove of which causes a split called the CONSCIOUS and the SUBCONSCIOUS. This self-preservation instinct is the first act of self-rejection. This self-rejection is the birth of self-hate.
The Human Shadow is any aspect of a person that’s not exposed to the light of their own consciousness. Consciousness is referred to as a LIGHT! To be aware of something we need to see it. No matter how hard we try to deny or repress our SHADOW, it will never disappear or go away, it just fades from our conscious awareness. You have to come face to face with the pain of having to fracture yourself and lose aspects of yourself for the sake of being loved. This original pain of this fracture will come up every time we do shadow work.
The self that is fractured will seek to be re-united back to wholeness. Because the Universe is constantly growing and changing we will be provided with every opportunity to see/confront our SHADOW. Our SHADOW will continue to chase/find us until we are willing to consciously do our SHADOW work.
The more aware we are of our SHADOW the more embodied we are as a conscious being. To achieve enlightenment, we have to expose our SHADOW to the LIGHT of our consciousness. Being conscious of what has become unconscious.
We fear our SHADOW that’s why we resist it. We find the repressed/disowned aspects of ourselves and become AWARE of them! This understanding and awareness defeats our fear. After our awareness of our SHADOW we give those aspects acknowledgment and space to safely be felt or expressed. This is when HEALING occurs. When those aspects of our SHADOW become healed we are able to hold more LIGHT, which raises our frequency and vibration.
Nothing in NATURE purposely hurts itself. We are constantly seeking balance and striving to return to our wholeness.
BENEFITS: Deeper love and acceptance of yourself..Better relationships with others, including your partner and children..More confidence to be your authentic self..More mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity..Increased compassion and understanding for others, particularly those you dislike..Enhanced creativity..Discovery of hidden gifts and talents..Deepened understanding of your passions and ultimate life purpose..Improved physical and mental health..More courage to face the unknown and truly live life..Access to your Soul orHigher Self..A feeling of Wholeness…It’s important to remember that there are no quick fixes in Shadow Work, so these life-changing benefits don’t just happen overnight. But with persistence, they will eventually emerge and bless your life.
No piece answering what is shadow work? would be complete without some techniques to help you in understanding your shadow self and making progress with it.
Before you begin Shadow Work, it’s important for you to assess whether you’re ready to embark on this journey. Not everyone is prepared for this deep work, and that’s fine. We’re all at different stages. So pay attention to the following questions and try to answer them honestly:
- **Have you practiced self-love yet?** If not, Shadow Work will be too overwhelming for you. I have starred this bullet point because it is essential for you to consider. Shadow Work should not be attempted by those who have poor self-worth or struggle with self-loathing. In other words: if you struggle with severely low self-esteem, please do not attempt Shadow Work. I emphatically warn you against doing it. Why? If you struggle with extremely poor self-worth, exploring your Shadows will likely make you feel ten times worse about yourself. Before you walk this path, you absolutely must establish a strong and healthy self-image. No, you don’t have to think you’re God’s gift to the world, but having average self-worth is important.
- Are you prepared to make time? Shadow Work is not a lukewarm practice. You are either all in or all out. Yes, it is important to take a break from it time to time. But Shadow Work requires dedication, self-discipline, and persistence. Are you willing to intentionally carve out time each day to dedicate to it? Even just ten minutes a day is a good start.
- Are you looking to be validated or to find the truth? As you probably know by now, Shadow Work isn’t about making you feel special. It isn’t like typical spiritual paths which are focused on the feel-good. No, Shadow Work can be brutal and extremely confronting. This is a path for truth seekers, not those who are seeking to be validated.
- Seek to enter a calm and neutral space. It is important to try and relax when doing Shadow Work. Stress and judgmental or critical attitudes will inhibit the process. So please try to incorporate a calming meditation or mindfulness technique into whatever you do.
- Understand that you are not your thoughts. It is essential for you to realize that you are not your thoughts for Shadow Work to be healing and liberating. Only from your calm and quiet Center (also known as your Soul) can you truly be aware of your Shadow aspects. By holding them in awareness, you will see them clearly for what they are, and realize that they ultimately don’t define you; they are simply rising and falling mental phenomena.
- Practice self-compassion. It is of paramount importance to incorporate compassion and self-acceptance into your Shadow Work practice. Without showing love and understanding to yourself, it is easy for Shadow Work to backfire and make you feel terrible. So focus on generating self-love and compassion, and you will be able to release any shame and embrace your humanity.
- Record everything you find. Keep a written journal or personal diary in which you write down, or draw, your discoveries. Recording your dreams, observations, and analysis will help you to learn and grow more effectively. You’ll also be able to keep track of your process and make important connections.How to do shadow work? There are many ways to practice shadow work. Some of the most powerful and effective techniques include journaling, artistically expressing your dark side (also known as art therapy), using a mirror to connect with this part of you (mirror work), guided meditations, exploring your projections, and examining your shadow archetypes.
Starting point for many people with shadow work is meditation. Any meditation that causes you to observe or recognize inner discomfort is a great start. Before launching straight into trauma work, try a simple vipassana meditation just to get used to sitting with your discomfort. It’s important to cultivate a sense of safety within yourself first.
- For shadow work, the best time to practice it is right when you are triggered. So if you experience something that stirs up a strong negative emotion in you, right away, it’s a good idea to pay attention and explore it rather than repress it. If you feel that something stirring in you is too much to handle (e.g. panic, grief, etc), remember that YOU are in control.
- You never have to “heal” everything all at once. Just getting a glimpse into why you have a recurring emotion is major progress in itself. There is no destination you must strive toward; the process is one of exploration. Some practitioners recommend art and music therapy – especially if you have trouble opening up verbally. (Hint: if you are an artist of any kind, you may already be doing some shadow work without realizing it 😉
Another good awareness exercise to start with is writing. When you feel a strong negative emotion come up, grab a pen and paper and just start describing it. Don’t hold back and continue until you basically feel you’ve “detoxed” from the emotion. Then, go back and reread what you scribbled down – notice any recurring themes (e.g. self-hatred, feeling ignored, etc).
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”― C.G. Jung
What is the Shadow side?
- Hidden parts of ourselves that we reject.
- Any parts of you that you do not see, acknowledge or accept
- Often associated with shame, fears/weakness/ negative personality traits but also can be with with positive aspects ie desire/talents/aspirations
- We were forced to suppress in order to fit into our family/peer group/society.
- Think about what about ourselves pointed out to us as unacceptable? Where were you ‘too much’?
- Persona is the identity we adopt to show to the world whilst suppressing our shadow side.
- Spiritually perspective – your shadow can exist from past lives
- Shadow gets bigger the more you ignore it
How do we identify our shadow?
- Relationships will reveal our shadows. Soul relationships – not always romantic.
- Where do we self sabotage?
- Where do we disassociate from ourselves? Self rejection.
- What traits do react to/judge in others?
- What traits do we project onto others?
- Unconscious behavior
- Jekyll – Hyde personality. Street angel – house devil.
- Shadow will magnetize issues/drama that match it
- Emotional triggers – ask why am I feeling this?
- Behavioural patterns. Recurring events. Do people keep pointing out something about you? Do relationships breakdown for the same reason?
- What do you dislike/judge/fear about yourself?
Behaviour’s/Traits/Thought patterns driven by the shadow
- Issues with authority
- Power hungry
- Demanding/expecting others to change
- Fear of being vulnerable/masking with pride or arrogance
- Fear of abandonment
- Pushing love away
- Passive aggressive
- Happy demeanours to mask inner demons
- Playing victim > hiding/fearing being exposed
- Making yourself small – afraid of coming into your power
- Repressed sexuality > sexual depravity > porn/abuse
- Internet trolling
How should we confront our shadow? Healing.
- Light comes from the darkness. Enlightenment. Shining lights on these aspects bring freedom.
- The integration of the shadow leads to self reliance
- Acknowledging the fragments of yourself is painful.
- What is ignored will grow.
- Self reflection/examination. Noticing what trait comes out the most?
- Where do you feel the emotions? Use them as information.
- What words memories images that come to mind?
- How does it control or harm you?
- Why does it exist? It is usually created for protection. What created it?
- Learn to self love. What is self love?
- Revisiting the pain of rejection
- Self rejection is self hate
- Shadow will chase you if you run and do not do the work
- Self forgiveness
- How have you been limiting yourself?
- Healing you and your inner child. Reparent yourself.
- Soul retrieval
The Great Awakening requires our collective shadow work
- Collective shadow. Learning about the reality of and addressing the world issues – deception – corruption – abuse – pedophilia-trafficking etc
- Acquiescence. Obeying orders while harbouring fear/resentment. Not honouring our intuition.
- Internet trolling
- Issues with authority
- Self righteousness
- Integrating truth into the psyche of the population
- Alchemize it feel it
- Remember to be observer when it becomes overwhelming
Sources; Additional Article & Videos