In Jungian psychology, the shadow is either an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself; or the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. In short, the shadow is the unknown side.
Shadow Work is how you integrate the aspects of your unconscious psyche into your conscious experience and allow the positive aspects of the shadow to express themselves. When properly used and channeled, the shadow-self has traits that you can use to further your own personal development.
What is a “shadow"
It comprises of the aspects of our personality that we tend to deem shameful, unacceptable, ugly. It can be envy, jealousy, rage, lust, desire for power or the wounds incurred in childhood, all of those we keep hidden.
You can say it is one’s dark side of self. And no matter what anyone says, everyone has a dark side to their personality.
Jung believes that when the human Shadow is shunned, it tends to sabotage our lives. Repressing or suppressing one’s shadow can result in addictions, low self-esteem, mental illness, chronic illnesses, and various neuroses.
Transformation, which so many of us are looking for, does not come from a place of denial. It comes from a place of acceptance.
Working on Your Shadow starts by believing you are worthy and that things will get better. The first step in overcoming your shadow self and taking back your life is to acknowledge that you are worthy of good things.
What relationship you have with yourself is mirrored to relationship with others. Therefore, it was very important to develop a better relationship with yourself.
Start taking notice of how you feel. No emotions are bad. Our negative emotions are portals into the shadow. They help us determine our wounds and fears.
When you feel an emotion, take a minute to examine it. Ask yourself the following questions:
What am I feeling?
Why am I feeling this?
Wait for answers.
Don’t be frustrated if the answers do not come right away. Sometimes, the answers need time to be found and you’ll 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.
Often, people simply want to feel better in the moments where we feel the greatest amount of discomfort, but if we can stay with our emotions, acknowledge and name them. Find gratitude in why you have these feelings you will be able to overcome and move on.
Our shadows are located in our subconscious making it’s tricky to identify it. In order to work on your shadow self first you need to identify the shadow. Become aware of the recurrent feelings that you always feel. Identifying these patterns will help highlight the shadow. Consider the conversations you have with yourself.
Some common shadow beliefs are:
I am not good enough.
I am not loveable.
I am flawed, broken - damaged.
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 because it’s easier to blame other people for how you feel or reacted. But to work on your shadow you are called to understanding why the people who hurt you acted in a particular way and why this created a response in you.
You must forgive those who hurt in order to move on. Try to navigate that they did the best they could do at that time or were simply acting from their own wounds. Explore your wounds.
It’s also easy to feel bad about yourself for having these negative feelings. But there’s no reason to feel bad. Everyone experiences negative emotions. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.
It’s important to accept all your emotions and not judgement but rather understand them.
There are many ways to explore your shadow
When you write, it allows you to feel emotions and empty your head of the thoughts rumbling around. Just write whatever comes to mind because you can’t do it wrong.
Write a letter
Write a letter to yourself or to those who hurt you. This letter is not intended to be sent so don't hold back, 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.
Meditation helps you understand and objectively delve deeper about your emotions, then allow yourselves to heal. Try a forgiveness meditation. You can picture a person who hurt you in your mind and say, “May you be happy, may you be at peace, may you be free of suffering.”
You will never heal unless you allow yourself to face the emotion you’re scared of. To experience yourself as a whole, loved, and lovable, you need to own up to your emotions. Explore them and make art out of them.
According to Jung, our thoughts and deepest emotions can come out in dreams. When you experience a dream, write down what occurred immediately so you don’t forget. This can lead to understanding yourself more.
Remember that the shadow thrives in secret but they are part of who you are. Bring the hidden parts of yourself to light and bathe them in self-love and acceptance.