When asked by clients as to which method of personal growth tools worked on the deepest level for me, my response is always first and foremost Shadow Work.
Shadow work is the process of exploring our inner darkness or “Shadow Self.” The Shadow Self is a part of our unconscious mind and contains everything we feel guilty for thinking and feeling. It is where our projections toward others waits in the darkness, ready to pounce at any moment, and where our limiting beliefs of Self live and breathe. When we live life through the perception of our Shadow there is a veil of distortion for what is actually real and therefore we make decisions out of reaction versus response.
“Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar's gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throughout the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.”
-- Carl Jung
(from "New Paths in Psychology", in Collected Papers on Analytic Psychology, London, 1916)
From the shadows point of view it is protecting you, keeping you safe, and avoiding any perceived pain and upset by keeping other people at a safe distance. But in reality it stops your ability to feel intimacy, connection and most important vulnerability.
We may heal the body, mind and spirit temporarily through medical or alternative healing modalities, but unless there is transformation at the level of self where our beliefs are held, no lasting healing takes place. Leaving us destined to repeat these deep patterns and we may even end up recreating the same or similar situations again and again until the shadow is reintegrated.
The benefits of doing Shadow Work is the bringing forward of our transcended qualities that have been hiding for a long time. These include our inner power, voice, energy, sexuality, abundance, breaking of family systems and pushing through societal pressures or expectations.
One of the easiest ways to find out what lies in your Shadow is to ask your partner or family what drives them nuts about you. Another option is when your button is being pushed, instead of being upset about your button being pushed and lashing out at the person pushing the button… ask yourself where has the button come from and when have I felt this feeling before?
When diving deep and discovering the Shadow keep a watchful eye out for feelings of anger, frustration, depression, and any other types of emotional upset. Lack of empathy or compassion for others, over working, disconnect, addictions and any other avoidance of emotions through methods of numbing out are also great signs you are getting close.
Here are some tips for owning/healing your Shadow?
- One of the first things you must address is giving yourself permission to think the negative thoughts, feel the feelings, and say the uncomfortable words. Not necessarily to the person directly, but instead through journaling.
- A great exercise to do is ask yourself the following question about a person that upsets or triggers you the most and journal the answer…
What I see in you that I don’t like about myself is?……
- Connect to the emotion and connect to that little part of you who has felt it for a very long time.
- The lenses on your glasses are dirty and need to be cleaned, you think the specks you see are actually on the other person when in fact what needs to be cleaned are your actual lenses, but we want the specks to be on the other person and therefore not our responsibility. Because who actually likes cleaning their glasses?
In the end… self-acceptance and a reduction of hostility is the result of this Shadow journey, regardless of whether the hostility is directed toward others or our self. Once acknowledged, integrated and transcended the Shadow qualities now become the fuel and fire to drive our lives and new-found passion. From a place of ownership in our Shadow, we become not just trustworthy but begin to embody an essence of warmth and creative power that now has the potential of contributing to the expansion of our entire human race. We come into an awareness that we are not just living for ourselves but rather for the highest and greatest good of this vast universe for which we share with one another.