My Experience With Shadow Work
A while back, I was working with a healer who recommended that I engage in shadow work integration.
Admittedly, I felt prideful of all of the inner work that I had been doing for several years prior to hearing this.
When she told me this it felt like a sting. My ego stepped in and projected anger onto her.
She doesn’t know what she is talking about. How can she call herself a healer?
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the above scenario is the perfect example of why I needed to engage shadow work.
While it can be taboo in many spiritual communities, here are all of the reasons why you need to engage in shadow work now:
Deciding to Integrate
I put the work aside and didn’t think about it until my shadows came out in unexpected and surprising ways in my day-to-day life.
Soon, I realized that my healer was probably right and made the decision to dive head-first into the depths of my subconscious.
This is some of the hardest work I have undergone, but I am so happy and grateful that I have done this for myself.
Many people feel trapped in circumstances whether it is job, relationship or general dissatisfaction.
In the process of confronting your shadow, you are able to free the parts of yourselve that are hidden.
My intention for anybody reading this article is that you are at least awakened to the possibility that your life can be happier and you can be free.
What is the Shadow Side?
According to Scott Jeffrey in his E-Book Shadow Work: Getting to Know Your Darker Half, the shadow is the disowned self.
It is a term that encapsulates everything you cannot see or want to see in yourself.
Generally, these traits include: manipulation, aggression, jealousy, people-pleasing, and inauthenticity.
The Shadow includes intrinsic positive qualities as well.
You can read more about shadow work by clicking here.
Who Has a Shadow Side?
Everyone has a shadow side. It is something you can never get rid of.
However, it is something that you can integrate.
A lot of the time, your shadow just want to be acknowledged.
Once you integrate the shadow and acknowledge and accept these parts of yourself, you are able to heal.
Carl Jung, the father of Shadow Work believed that you need to experience the pain of the shadow in order to evolve spiritually, emotionally and mentally.
How Do You Get a Shadow?
Growing up, you are rewarded for “good” behavioral traits and punished for “bad” behaviors and personality qualities.
Because of your primal need to survive to adulthood, you do whatever it takes to please your parents, teachers and other adult figures in your life.
Through adapting to society’s expectations, you repress the parts of yourself that society would disapprove of.
These parts of yourself that you repress need to feel seen and heard. This repression creates the Shadow.
The Dangers of Repressing the Shadow
Repressing our shadow and not acknowledging it’s presence can be dangerous.
It can entice the shadow to come out in ways that can be detrimental to your well-being.
Here are some of the effects of shadow repression:
Sense of Confusion About Who You Are or What You Want
Making decisions that are pleasing to others without asking yourself what you want
- Sometimes people who feel numb feel the need to engage in the following in order to feel alive again:
- Extreme sports
- Substance abuse
- Compulsive shopping
- Sexual infidelity
- Risky driving
- Sex addiction
Behaving Destructively When Overwhelmed by Emotions
- Numerous people with repressed shadows have a lot of anger and feel frustrated, leading to outbursts. They may exhibit:
- Verbally/physically abusive behavior
- Heightening arguments
- Suicidal behavior
- Sabotaging their own work life
People with repressed shadows may feel the need to stay in relationships that do not serve them.
Without shadow work, relationships often lack depth. This may include the following behavior:
- “Splitting” in which one person says they are right and the other is wrong. Or they may say, “I am the good one, you are the bad one” instead of trying to find a common ground.
- Being easily triggered by other’s behaviors
- Communication misinterpretations
In spiritual communities especially, there is a heavy societal influence on pressuring you into behaving in “saintly,” “angelic” and high-vibed ways.
Because of this, many people (whether in a spiritual community or not) engage in spiritual bypassing which is when you regard emotions such as anger, rage, jealousy, sadness, and disgust as being:
- Low vibration
- To be avoided
- Something to “run away” from
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Shadow Work
- Emotional maturity
- Personal responsibility
- Spiritual maturity
- Better relationships
- A more accurate view of the world
- Better physical health
- A more fulfilling life
Shadow work can make you see everything in your life differently and possibly make you want a completely different life altogether
Shadow work can bring repressed emotions from childhood up to the forefront. These emotions can be incredibly difficult to process and it can be an intimidating experience.
Changing of Narrative
Everyone has stories as to why things are the way they are. When you engage in shadow work, these narratives can change .
Integrating the Shadow
Shadow integration is the process in which you recognize the shadow within and gain strength from it, rather than allowing it to drag you down.
Consequently, when you integrate your shadow, you keep your awareness of it, but no longer identify with it.
Ways to Integrate the Shadow
There are many ways in which you can integrate your shadow.
Whether you use art as a means, meditation or simply talking about it with a trusted friend or therapist, the possibilities are limitless!
It is most important to get in touch with the Shadow and to give it a voice.
A lot of the time, your shadow just desires to be acknowledged.
Shadow Work Exercises
Being Mindful & Watching Your Emotional Responses
One of the best ways to discover where your shadows lie is to watch yourself when you are around others.
Any time you feel triggered or you react in ways that make you feel uncomfortable, use this as an
opportunity to explore your hidden motives behind the way you reacted.
- What triggered you?
- Did a behavior, action or remark remind you of something from childhood?
- When you look at the people around you as being loving teachers and when you realize they aren’t doing things to trigger or hurt you on purpose, you are able to heal and move on.
- Jung once said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
- If something happened at work, with your friends, or with your family, it is best not to address your shadows on the spot.
- It is best to address this either in private or when you are with your trusted friend/therapist.
Give Your Shadows a Voice
When you have discovered aspects of yourself, it can be helpful to give them an identity.
Voice Dialogue technique invites your shadow sides out during a shadow integration session.
The room is filled with chairs, one for each “shadow self.”
Ask your shadow questions, such as:
- What is your name?
- How long have you been with me?
- What do you look like?
- How do you feel right now?
- Do you remember when you first met me? What happened?
- What job do you perform for me? Is it hard or easy to do?
- Do I know that you are with me?
- How do I feel about you?
- What would happen if you weren’t here to help me?
- Do you have a relationship with other shadow selves?
Engage Your Imagination
Active Imagination is a technique that many therapists use to uncover the shadow.
The goal of Active Imagination is to give the shadow a voice through artistic expression.
The shadows voices can be expressed by the following:
Invite Your Shadows
Consciously welcoming and inviting your shadows paradoxically calms them down.
There is a famous story about a Tibetan saint, Milarepa, who came home one night finding his home filled with fire-breathing dragons.
Milarepa cursed the dragons and demanded that they leave. As Milarepa continued to curse the dragons, they only progressed towards him.
Finally, Milarepa stopped and decided to welcome them into his home. Upon this, they all disappeared.
When you welcome your shadows, they have a way of no longer bothering you.
While Shadow integration work can be a raw and painful process, the benefits far outnumber the strain.
It is only by confronting your inner shadows that you can turn them into light and free yourself on the deep level you desire.
If you would like to undergo shadow work with a professional, The Emotion Code is an energy healing modality in which we identify trapped emotions or energies and release them.
Book your session today by clicking here.
Wishing you the best on your journey,