"Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." - Carl Jung
You might be asking yourself right now, what does my shadow have to do with my mindset and my life, and why should I want to shed light on it? ...and that's a great question!
A few weeks ago I shared a post in my Instagram Stories about my personal shadow work and I did a poll to see how many people had even heard of shadow work before. I was not surprised when most people had not heard of it, especially since I had only learned of it when l I hired my first coach late last summer, and she had us dance with ours....which was awkward for me!
To start, I am not here to talk about the shadow you see cast upon the sidewalk when you stand outside in the sunlight, but that shadow can function as a reminder for what I'm about to talk about. What I am discussing today is a psychological term created by Carl Jung's. This shadow is part of your unconscious self, the part of you that you aren't fully aware of and it represents a "dark side" or hidden side to your personality.
Before you tell me that you don't have a dark or hidden side, I will stop you and let you know that we all do. The shadow self is part of you that you choose not to face or acknowledge about your self, that you keep locked away out of fear and/or shame.
This shadow is not bad, it is just hidden within you, most likely because of limiting beliefs or experiences you had that made you think that how you felt during a particular moment was bad or caused rejection. The shadow usually develops when you are a child while you are trying to adapt to the social norms within your family and close circle. It is rooted within ego as you try to become accepted by those who you love, care for and look up to. As a result of trying to fit in, you often hide authentic parts of yourself and how you truly feel, in order to gain acceptance.
This hidden part of you becomes your shadow side and can become the source of harmful and toxic behavior that you may unconsciously experience, because something deep inside of you wants to express itself.
Your shadow may show itself in the form of jealousy, rage, hatred, judgement and greed, just to name a few. These feelings can hold a lot of power over your day to day life, until you shed light on your shadow and take away the power that these feelings hold over you.
So how do you shed light on your shadow and find out what is hidden within it?
This is where "shadow work" comes into play. Shadow work is a process of allowing your shadows to been seen and to come into the light. It's allowing yourself to feel the emotions that you typically try to hide and showing them love.
Today I am going to share some ways to do shadow work but first I want to take a moment to let you know that shadow work is not dangerous, despite it's dark name. In fact it will actually improve your mental health and the way you interact with the world.
Becoming aware of your dark side, will bring up emotions that you might not want to face. However, you cannot fix or heal something if you do not acknowledge that it is broken. That is where the work part of the name comes into play.
If there is one thing you have probably realized in life, it's that anything worth achieving requires work and that work isn't always pleasant, but the results of the work can be.
As you begin to do this work I encourage you not to quit, but rather allow yourself to take breaks and understand that this type of work can take time. These feelings have been hidden within the shadows for a long time and the light you shed on them can be startling at first, but allowing these emotions and feelings to continue living within the shadows can be more damaging than facing them. Shining a light on your shadow will allow you to change or heal it.
Ready to start?
First you need to understand that working through your shadows will not a be a quick and easy process. Your shadows accrued over years of your life, so it will take more than a day of work to address them and allow them to feel seen. Please do not be discouraged by this. You are here because you want to grow and learn and you will if you dedicate the time to work on this.
Next, you'll need to identify your shadow and admit that you have one. Below are some behaviors that can be a sign of a shadow (note: you may have more than 1 and that's okay):
You judge and criticize others.
You repeat toxic behaviors.
You play the victim.
You deny certain feelings and emotions.
You project unwanted feelings and traits onto others.
You are quick to anger within certain situations.
You have addictive or repetitive behavior tendencies.
You will want to pay attention to how you react in certain situations and around different people and in different situations.
If you feel triggered at any time, take a moment to identify what it was that triggered you or "set you off" to cause how you are feeling. Most of the time, your triggers are directly tied to your shadow self.
Below are some questions to ask yourself when you feel these emotions come up in situations:
Why/what caused you to react the way that you did?
How did it make you feel emotionally?
Can you remember another time when you felt this way?
Can you connect these emotions to another even or situation from the past or when you were younger?
Once you acknowledge your shadow, you can have an internal dialog to talk with it and let it know that you see it, feel it and that you understand how it came to be. Many times, bringing the shadow into light can be the first step to overcoming the limiting belief that created it in the first place and allow you to heal this part within yourself.
I may have made this sound really simple, but this is only a basic introduction to shadow work and ways to get started with it. There are many other exercises in shadow work that can help you to dig deeper, such as:
Meditation & Breath Work
Inner Child and Limiting Belief Work
The most important part of shadow work is that you need to be willing to look inward, with honesty in order to acknowledge that you have hidden parts of who you. If you are not ready to be honest with yourself, I do not recommend trying to do shadow work because it requires honesty in order to work.
These shadows or hidden parts, are also known as your authentic self, and they crave to be seen. Once you lose the fear of judgement and the fear of "not fitting in", you authentic self will be allowed to shine, and the true healing can begin.
This is when your courage to pursue your true interests are unleashed and you are able to tap into your passions and creativity with clarity.
I hope you enjoyed this information on shadow work. The benefits of shadow work can vary but many people experience:
Improved self confidence
Putting an end to self sabotage
Allow their authentic self to shine through
As stated above, this is a very basic intro to shadow work and it can go much deeper if you choose to pursue it.
If you enjoy journaling and want to start digging in deeper, try sitting down and answering these questions, without judgement or criticism:
What areas of my life am I struggling in?
What emotions do I try to avoid?
Are there any pattens that keep appearing in any of the above scenarios?
Do I hold grudges? If so, with who and why?
Ready to take the next step in growing your mindset, identifying your limiting beliefs and working on achieving the life of your dreams but unsure where to start? I am now offering 1:1 coaching to help you map out your plan and stay accountable along the way. Message me for more information or send me a DM on Instagram to discuss your goals.