The shadow originated with one of the earliest psychologists, Carl Jung. (Originated with science anyway, the idea is ancient). Jung defined the shadow as the gatekeeper of the unconscious, a mediator between the conscious and unconscious. The conscious has created an identity that is socially acceptable. The shadow holds everything that has been rejected by that identity. Anything that doesn’t fit in with the identity created, things considered bad by society, unwanted feelings and emotions, etc.
The idea is to integrate what is put into the shadow, into the whole person. According to David Rosen, a Jungian psychiatrist, when a person comes to terms with the unconscious and sees the positive contributions, then the shadow is less repulsive and more playful. So when the shadow is made conscious, the shadow becomes a source of creativity, a tool to access all parts of the personality. Access all of your gifts, talents, and potential.
Jung viewed the unconscious as more of an ally than something to fear. The only thing that fears the unconscious is the ego. As humans, we become very attached to our perceived identities. But truly, there is nothing to be afraid of. As our perceived identities crumble, our true selves emerge.
Shadow work is just that, it is work. It isn’t something you try once and then suddenly all of your problems are solved. It is a daily practice, and if anyone has been reading my blog and posts, you know I am all about that daily practice. Over time you will shed layers of yourself that aren’t truly you. In my personal experience, I feel like I have died a hundred times and a better version of me rises through the ashes each time.
Hopefully you have a basic understanding of shadow work now. If not, please send me a message and I will better explain it. Here are some techniques to get started on. Warning, it is not for the faint hearted. Shadow work can be easy when you surrender to the lessons and allow the changes to happen. But, if you are human, you won’t always do it that way. You will uncover many gifts and talents with shadow work and you will also see all of your bull shit.
Create the intention to explore the subconscious and integrate the shadow. Write it down on paper. Just making the intention is powerful and is the beginning of your self development journey. Just making the decision will bring change.
Journaling is a great way to get to the core of what is in the shadow. Especially finding questions that are angled in a way that get you to confront the truth. You can find specific questions and/or when you are aware of something bothering you, start questioning yourself. You can ask questions like, why does that bother me? What does that mean or say about me?
The world is a Mirror
Start seeing the world as a mirror, a reflection of how you think and feel. When you feel irritation at a pet peeve or something, ask yourself those questions I listed above. For example, say your child won’t clean their room. It really bothers you, so ask yourself why? What does it say about me, that my child won’t clean their room? When you find something you dislike in another person, ask yourself, where do I exhibit that trait or behavior?
Being aware is the most important thing you can do when beginning shadow work. Just be aware of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Notice when you would usually go on auto pilot. Pay attention to your patterns and habits. There is no need to judge. When you are aware of your behaviors and thoughts, you can change them with intention.
As you practice being aware, you will begin to notice all of your bull shit. There is never a reason to feel shame or judge. Only acceptance, compassion, and love. It is also important to take responsibility.
I will always tell you to meditate. Always. The best tool to going within is meditation. Set the timer for at least five minutes and focus on being aware. Focus on being present, and noticing sounds, tastes, smells, physical sensations, etc. Any thought that arises, notice it and let it pass. Anytime you find yourself back into the monkey mind, gently bring yourself back.
Rest and Recover
When you let go of something that does not serve you, you’ll know. Every time another layer has shed, take some time to recover. Drink lots of water, eat lots of vegetables, and get plenty of sleep. Do things that bring you joy, especially creative activities. Don’t dwell in the shadow. Lean into love and do lots of self care.
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