Psychologist Carl Jung has proposed the term Shadow to refer to an unconscious aspect of our personality that we don’t identify in ourselves. Basically, our Shadow Self is a part that we don’t know, recognize or acknowledge. In general, it is considered to be negative because everyone tends to unconsciously reject the aspects that they dislike. Most of them relate to our primitive Self and include negative emotions and impulses such as envy, greed, rage, and others. This is because we, as social animals, always want to protect our image. However, there are positive aspects that may also remain hidden in one’s Shadow. Unveiling our Shadow Self can be a challenging yet very productive experience. This is when Shadow Work comes to play.
How does the Shadow form?
When we are children, we can express negative emotions in a more direct way. An example would be selfishness, which we accept in children but dislike in adults. When we grow up, we realize that society tends to accept some traits and reject others. Desires and behaviors that are associated with being “good” are accepted, but those associated with being “bad” are rejected. At the same time, we all have the need to belong and to be loved. So, there comes a moment when we realize that our behavior is not tolerated, and this threatens our need to belong. We then start to deny and repress the parts of ourselves that we consider unacceptable, unlovable, inferior, or even “evil”. This is how our Shadow Self is created.
How can I realize I have repressed my Shadow?
One good starting point is to start paying attention to the traits you dislike in other people. For instance, if you hate it when other people are loud, that might be an indicator that you still haven’t owned up to your loudness. This is possible through a psychological process called Projection. This happens when we see in other people the things we have repressed in ourselves. The problem is that we don’t realize that we are projecting. In Jung’s words, these projections create a veil between how we perceive ourselves and how we really are.
What is Shadow Work? Why is it important?
The term “Shadow Work” refers to an introspective process that can help you discover your Shadow. Exploring the hidden aspects of your personality can lead to a personal awakening and personal growth. Shadow Work is also useful because the Shadow sometimes has a mind of its own. The Shadow can take control and operate without us being fully aware. For example, we do things that we later regret, or we say things that we don’t mean. If we don’t unveil our Shadow, it can appear at any moment. This can affect our life. Our Shadow Self can damage our relationships with family, friends, and partners.
Benefits of doing Shadow Work
There are many psychological, personal, and interpersonal benefits to uncovering our Shadow Self. First of all, if you unveil your Shadow, you will discover some aspects of yourself that you might not like, but are also a part of you. Then, you can see yourself more clearly. Integrating these Shadow aspects into your conscious Self will make you feel whole and more grounded.
Secondly, if you become aware of your Shadow, you will have a clearer sense of who you are. You will be one step closer to your authentic Self. This means that all feelings of inferiority or superiority that you might have will start to disappear. As we have mentioned before, in our Shadow not everything is negative. There are also some things that we have repressed but would help us in our lives, like being fearless or always speaking up.
In third place, after seeing your repressed impulses, it is much easier to accept other people’s Shadow selves. You can also improve the communication that you have with others, and this is why your relationships will improve. In addition, you will have more energy. Keeping the Shadow repressed at all times drains our energy. With Shadow Work, you might begin to claim back the energy that you were unconsciously spending in keeping your Shadow Self away.
Another benefit of Shadow Work is that you will unlock your creativity. This is because psychologists believe that creativity flows spontaneously if you are in a healthy mental space. The more you integrate your Shadow Self into your Self, the more creative you will be. Finally, doing Shadow Work helps with manifesting our desires into our lives. If you feel stuck and your manifestations don’t come to fruition, you will benefit from doing Shadow Work. Shadow Work might help us discover not only who we are, but what we truly desire. Knowing this is key when manifesting.
How do I start shadow work?
First of all, please note that Shadow Work works the best when you have professional support. If you don’t have access to therapy services, be very careful with how and when you do Shadow Work. First of all, don’t do Shadow work after you have suffered recent trauma. In this vulnerable state, you won’t be ready to face certain aspects of your Shadow. In addition, trauma plays tricks with our memory and perception, and recent trauma can prevent us from seeing things clearly. You also have to avoid doing Shadow Work after you have suffered a loss and you are grieving. This is not a period to start doing introspection. Once again, be very careful and only start Shadow Work if you feel like you’re in a good mental space.
First of all, center yourself. Try to be in a neutral space, free from any judgment. Approach Shadow Work with an open mind and an open heart. Be compassionate with yourself. Nothing that you can find in your Shadow Self will mean that you are a bad person or that certain events are your fault. Accept that you are human and remember that all of us have repressed similar things.
Notice and accept that Shadow Work takes time. It won’t solve all your problems immediately, and you cannot rush it. Also, before you start, you need to observe yourself. Take a moment every day to reflect on your behavior, words, and feelings of that day. Write them down. Do this for several days, even weeks, until you start working with Shadow Work prompts.
It might be a good idea to meditate before you attempt Shadow Work. Meditation helps you gain self-awareness. If possible, try to meditate for a couple of minutes a day. You can sit on the floor, on a chair, or even lay down. You can play some calming music, if you want. Close your eyes and let your mind go to a peaceful place. Observe everything that you think or feel, but don’t stay in your feelings or thoughts for a long time. Don’t force your mind to go blank. Instead, imagine a peaceful landscape.
Once you are ready, begin Shadow Work by asking yourself simple questions. For example:
- What traits bother me the most in other people?
- What are some traits that I would like to have?
- How was I when I was a child?
After that, you can explore deeper questions, such as:
- Which personality traits of my family tree are reflected in me?
- When was a time when I opened up and I felt rejected?
- What image am I trying to project?
We hope this introduction has been useful. Remember that unveiling the Shadow takes time, so take it easy. In the beginning, it is better to rest some days before attempting it again. We wish you the best of luck in this journey of self-discovery!