Exploring Shadow Work

June 29, 2020 3 min read

Exploring Shadow Work

The development of self-love requires us to create a sense of distinct and authentic identity. Shadow work is the process of exploring your inner darkness or  “Shadow Self.”  The Shadow Self is a component of our unconscious mind that holds thoughts, feelings, habits, desires, and impulses that we have rejected from ourselves. These parts were banished at different periods in our lives because they were deemed to be unacceptable, bad, fearsome, evil, disgusting, abhorrent or somehow inadequate, typically by way of social conditioning and influences by family and society. However, these isolated parts of our Shadow Self remain buried in our unconscious mind.

 Most of us want to believe that we are warm, kind, and loving people; and while that is likely true, we can also objectively acknowledge and accept that we are not perfect beings. In order to heal and grow, it is essential that we take an honest look at ourselves fully. Shadow work uncovers every part of us that has been disowned, repressed, and rejected. Shadow Work is about facing our inner darkness and immersing it in the light of conscious awareness and compassion. It is one of the most authentic paths to Enlightenment and alignment with our most whole and highest self. 

Shadow Work should be done from a centered place, therefore, it should only be incorporated when you are in a relatively healthy state of mind and self-love. If you are experiencing feelings of self-hatred or judgment, then table Shadow Work until you’re in a better state of mind. Otherwise, exploring your Shadow Self can be triggering and further exacerbate your already sensitive state.

 An important thing to understand is that our Shadow Self isn’t out to hurt or harm us. It simply reveals areas in our life where we are energetically blocked and with all blockages, they must be acknowledged and embraced so they can find the light again. Constant repression of our Shadow Self leads to it making appearances and sabotaging our lives in ways we don’t understand. For instance, have you ever experienced moments where you felt like you inexplicably acted out of character, or had a habit of repeating the same relationship patterns or attracting the same type of people, or experienced intense recurring feelings of anger, guilt, or fear. The Shadow Self grows stronger through repression and a failure to acknowledge and address it can manifest as a variety of physical, emotional, and mental disorders.

 Virtually anything judged as inappropriate, weird, or bad within ourselves is part of our Shadow Self. Some of the most common Shadow Self emotions, desires, thoughts, and traits are rooted in:

  • Blaming and avoidance of certain people or situations
  • Soothing pain via addictions like food, work, shopping, drugs, alcohol, internet
  • Victimization, attributing our suffering to others, and avoiding self-responsibility for our own happiness
  • Traits or behavior that were discouraged by family or culture such as expressing emotions, being sensitive, dressing in a self-expressive manner, etc.
  • Being overly judgmental and projecting our beliefs onto others
  • Feelings of self-pity and low self-worth
  • Martyrdom
  • Codependency
  • Repressed feelings of anger, hatred, jealousy, lust, greed, guilt, shame, envy, despair, rage etc.
  • Graphic thoughts about manipulation, abuse, suicide, violence, torture, blackmail
  • Thoughts regarding activity deemed as socially deviant or illegal related to theft, fraud, embezzlement etc.
  • Thoughts regarding activity deemed as sexually deviant related to cheating on a partner, extreme pornography, bizarre fetishes etc. 

Here are some simple ways to better identify and work with your Shadow Self.

  • Revisit your childhood. Were there feelings of acceptance and encouragement? Were any behaviors judged, shamed, or discouraged?
  • Notice when you judge, criticize or blame others and why.
  • Notice any areas of your life that you are avoiding (e.g., people, subjects, etc).
  • When you feel emotions such as jealousy, anger, or self-pity, don’t dismiss it. Pause and get curious about the core belief that is underneath the feeling.
  • Practice seeing yourself in other people
  • Practice taking radical responsibility for your emotions and reactions rather than blaming others
  • Be honest about your shadow thoughts and fears, then remind yourself what is true.

 Unlocking and meeting our Shadow Self is a monumental task. And while these elements don’t go away, being able to identify our shadow traits helps us identify our triggers, and deal with them in a healthy way. Its ability to sabotage our lives becomes significantly diminished.

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