According to the psychologist Carl Jung, our shadow is the unconscious aspects of our personality. It is our subconscious, the source of our dreams, the dark that hangs over us and sometimes pokes through in unwanted ways. Jung attributed it to repressed childhood memories and referred to it as “the reservoir for human darkness”. He stated that the shadow self was mostly negative, but also had many positive aspects. He saw it as the repository of our true self and the source of our creativity.
So, our shadow consists of those parts of ourselves we would rather not show to others, and even to ourselves. The shadow conceals aspects of our personality that are not seen by the consciousness.
“If you are truly honest about growing, changing, and living life to the fullest, you will, at some point, come across many parts of yourself that you’ll find difficult – if not completely disturbing – to accept”. – Mateo Sol
Identify your shadow: Some common shadow beliefs are:
· I am not good enough.
· I am unlovable.
· I am flawed.
· My feelings are not valid.
· I must take care of everyone around me.
· Why can’t I just be normal just like others?
It’s hard to do shadow work objectively and with compassion. It’s easier to examine and blame other people for why you end up the way you did. Understanding why the people who hurt you acted in a particular way is also hard to accept. But to heal ourselves, we must forgive those who hurt us in order to move on. Try to understand that they did the best they could do at that time or were simply acting from their own wounds. It’s also easy to feel bad about yourself for having these negative feelings. But there is no reason to feel bad. We all experience negative emotions. We would not be human if we did not.
It’s important to accept our negative emotions and be okay with them.
According to philosopher Alan Watts, Carl Jung was the kind of man who could feel something negative and not be ashamed about it:
“[Jung] was the sort of man who could feel anxious and afraid and guilty without being ashamed of feeling this way. In other words, he understood that an integrated person is not a person who has simply eliminated the sense of guilt or the sense of anxiety from his life – who is fearless and wooden and kind of sage of stone. He is a person who feels all these things but has no recriminations against himself for feeling them.” – Alan Watts
We all have inner demons … have you met yours?
Your Shadow is your dark side – the place within you that causes you to feel scared, ashamed, ugly, egotistical, and unworthy. Most of us prefer to suppress, deny, and disown our Shadow self. The reality is, when we don’t face our shadow self it can manifest its way into our life, through relationships, addiction, self-loathing, physical illnesses and even severe mental illness.
Are you willing to face what your parents, friends, peers, and society have rejected within you? Are you courageous enough to walk a path less traveled and really dive deep so that you may experience self-love?
Shadow work is a vital part of walking a spiritual path. It allows us to honor, explore and embrace all the parts of us…not just the feel-good light and love stuff. One must really be ready to embrace diving into shadow work. This means you must me willing to revisit traumas, look at yourself and be brutally honest, you must really look deep within, all the things that shame you, make you hateful, jealous, guilt-ridden, fearful, etc. You must be willing to explore everything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
If you aren’t ready to do that…this is OK. Just know that someday you WILL need to invest some time on this exercise if you are truly honest about growing and changing your life.
Also, remember, your shadow self does not have to be only unpleasant parts of your personality. It could be that which has been hidden, not allowed expression, or pushed below the surface. Your shadow might contain positive qualities that you’re not owning, in addition to negative ones you’re not acknowledging.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to begin working on some shadow work:
Remember be completely honest! It’s also not about making yourself feel bad. But one must delve deep into the darkness to eventually see the light. Grab a notebook to write you answers down.
· How judged do you tend to feel on a daily basis? How much of that is real and how much of that is imaged?
· Take a look at the best and most enjoyable aspect of your life right now. What is your underlying fear in that area and why?
· How do you project the shadow self onto other people in your life?
· How aware are you about projecting this onto others?
· Write about the last time you tried to manipulate a situation to your advantage and examine how you feel about that in hindsight.
· What does the term ‘superiority complex” bring-to-mind for you and why?
· If you could say one thing to the person who has hurt you the most right now, without consequences what would it be and why?
· Think about the last time someone annoyed you or made you angry. Take a step back and ask yourself why. Then, look for a positive aspect to the negative quality you see in them, and make it a point to embrace and appreciate that.
· How can you begin to give other people more space and acceptance to be themselves around you?
· What do you currently envy in someone else’s life and why?
· What lies do you tell yourself which make you inauthentic?
· What grudges do you hold against others that you could let go?
· What friendships or relationships do you hold onto that are unhealthy and why?
· In what ways are you privileged? How often do you take things for granted?
· What emotions do you try to avoid? (jealousy, anger, sadness) why are you afraid of letting yourself feel these things?
· Write yourself a letter of forgiveness.
· Write a letter to those who hurt you. You don’t have to actually send the letter, just let all your feelings out. Tell the person in mind what you feel and why you feel it. Writing a letter will validate yourself and your emotions. You can burn the letter after you write it as a symbolic release.
· What are three things you want to improve about yourself and why?
Here is a final big one!
· What’s the one thing you know you need to do but keep avoiding? Why do you keep avoiding it?
Now write a step-by-step description of doing it. Include every action which would need to be completed to get it done. Once you have completed this task, explore how you feel about it and write it down.
Don’t be frustrated if the answers do not come right away. Sometimes, the answers need time to be found and you will know it. Never force answers and jump into conclusion because they might be the wrong ones. Shadow work is considered soul work and it happens on its own timeline. Just be patient and know that in time, the answers will come.
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. – Steve Wolf