SO you’ve heard the term.. sounds kinda intriguing.. but what IS this thing called shadow work?!
Let me break it down. Shadow work can seem pretty daunting at first (we haven’t all got a psychology degree!) but it doesn’t need to be. So first off, let’s talk about what the shadow is…
We all have a shadow
Even the most enlightened of folk (especially the most enlightened of folk!) have a shadow (or as I like to call her, a shadow twin).
Just like the shadow that casts on the ground wherever you stand, your shadow twin is like an energetic, psychological, emotional shadow. And s/he is your constant companion.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung first coined the term “Shadow Self”, meaning the unknown, unconscious side of the psyche.
So… the shadow is a part of the psyche that contains all of the feelings, qualities, characters, behaviours, urges, impulses, and desires that are unconsciously you. Separate, yet intrinsically part of you, as both your ego (that’s conscious you) and your shadow (that’s unconscious you) both developed simultaneously.
WHY does the shadow form?
Because at some point in your story, you unknowingly decided – probably due to a need to survive – that some parts of you were unwelcome, undesirable, unlovable, and pretty much unacceptable. SO you pushed these pieces of yourself away, stuffed them down, and told them very clearly to never, ever remerge into the life you went on to live. End of.
Your shadow is the “container” for the unwanted aspect, or pieces of you.
This is called fragmentation.
..Because it’s the process by which fragments of your psyche are split off from the whole. Sounds dramatic, but it usually happens without any conscious awareness.
The personal shadow usually forms in childhood, or even before. Some of the qualities that your shadow twin holds may have been ‘in the shadows’ for many, many past lives. We’ve been suppressing aspects of the self for millennia – it’s nothing new, especially in the West.
Personal shadows and shadow trends?
Our personal shadows tend to be unique, yet follow similar trends because the people around us all grow up within the same cultural frameworks. It’s interesting to note, though, that there are qualities that get routinely relegated to the shadow in some cultures, yet are openly accepted in others.
For example, in India, it’s normal to see grown men hugging each other and holding hands in public. Yet in the UK, it’s far less likely – because the expression of sensitivity and platonic love between men tends to be something pushed into the male shadow.
What does the shadow actually do?
Many, many things…!
But the main thing to realise is that by her very nature, you’re usually totally unaware of your shadow.
You’ve unknowingly created her, as a container for all those fragments you didn’t want taking up residence in your consciousness. BUT they haven’t really gone anywhere. Those awful pieces, (in the shape of your shadow) have only left the conscious perception you have of yourself.
In truth, those fragments are right there by your side. 100% of the time.
Your Shadow is actually holding a *lot* of power
Stay with me here: If your conscious self and your unconscious self have developed in tandem for all these years you’ve been alive, AND you’re essentially twins, then it follows that both parts contain equal amounts of energy and power.
Yes – your shadow is holding a LOT of power. Likely even more than your ego.
This means that:
- There’s a huge amount of latent power and energy that you don’t have access to, and
- That latent power and energy are likely stirring up an unconscious storm that you’re not aware of, or in control of.
It doesn’t matter how much work spiritual work you do, unless you tap into the shadow, you’re only accessing half of yourself (and your power)… at most!
However much healing, conscious manifestation or even release work you do, your Shadow twin will always be there in your unconscious mind and inside your energy field, pulling strings, whether you want her to, or not.
Want to know what you can do about this?
The real trick to stop ignoring her, and to befriend your shadow twin.
What is Shadow Work? (In 2 Steps)
Shadow work is a deeply personal process. It requires presence, kindness, and utter compassion. Shadow work involves looking into the dark, unconscious, fragmented aspects of the self, feeling into what you find there, and working to re-integrate the pieces of your shadow twin.
Step 1 is awareness
This is tricky. The nature of the shadow means that you’re unaware of what she contains. It’s hard to see her for what she is… PLUS, what you do find, you’ve already decided to disown!
What you can see however, is the projection of your shadow. This shows up when the shadow self reacts to triggers – specifically, situations, confrontations, conversations and things that happen in everyday life to remind you (unconsciously) of the initial trauma that caused the fragmentation in the first place.
Step 2 is shadow integration
SO you know now that the shadow contains the fragmented pieces of your true self that were repressed, disowned and pushed out of your awareness.
Shadow work is the reversal of this process.
Instead of pushing these pieces away, you need to welcome them back in.
There are many different methods for integration – some will work better for you than others, but all involve acceptance.
This is probably the simplest 2-step shadow integration practice, and perfect for beginners:
✶ Allow yourself to feel
When you feel triggered, allow yourself to fully feel. Whether your emotions are anger, frustration, sadness, despair, or anything in between – dive into them.
Sit with them.
Give them space to express and most importantly, be validated.
In our culture, we rarely validate “negative” emotions, but this is where shadow work begins.
If you’re in a situation where you can’t do this (ummm, triggered by your boss in a meeting at work?) then make space to do this work later on, when you DO have time.
✶ Love Yourself Unconditionally
Because, for the most part, the aspect of your shadow that’s appearing in this moment was disowned by you in childhood, this is where you need to return to, to re-integrate it.
Of course, you’re an adult now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be “parented”. So parent yourself.
Give yourself unconditional love in this moment, particularly focusing on your shadow.
Gently speaking words of acceptance and encouragement (internally or aloud) as though you were talking directly to your inner child could really help.
“ Your feelings have value”
“ I love and accept you, exactly as you are”
“You are safe to feel whatever you need to, in this moment”
This may feel a little strange at first, but actually talking to your Shadow Self (or as I like to call her, your shadow twin) will really serve to transmute the unconscious and suppressed fear that we all feel towards our own shadows, and help to integrate them fully.
Shadow integration isn’t a quick fix or a magic bullet
Shadow work t’s an ongoing process that you’ll likely need to keep practicing over and over. But each time you do, your shadow will integrate a little more, you’ll become more whole, and the emotional blocks that your unconscious used to hold over you will loosen up.
What your conscious mind yearns for will gain more momentum, and you’ll find that miraculously, life changes for the better! Yes, it really does!
Leave me a comment below ⬇️ if you’ve started work to integrate your shadow twin. And if you want to learn more?