What is the "shadow"? This is a term that was first used in psychological context by Carl G. Jung. He described the shadow as a denied part of the self, a part we repress because we have been given a message that it is "bad" or "evil" or that we need to feel shame and guilt if we have it.
All of us have a shadow part, and it is not something that an "evil" person possesses. The shadow or the dark side of us is what gives us a perspective to the light side and makes us a whole human being. When we start doing shadow work, our personal growth process gets easier, since it brings out our hidden powers and turns them into light.
We have all been hurt because of these hidden shadow sides, which have been repressed and denied. When they get repressed, they control us; when we bring them out and learn to work with them, we are in control. Some of us have learned to take this pain and hurt and to bring a sense of balance to our disordered parts of the shadow. We do this because we want to feel a sense of liberation from unnecessary pain and sorrow. Through our shadow, we can face our hurt, fear and anger and learn how to live from our fullest functioning individual self, one that is content with his life and where it's taking him. One that is positively functioning to his fullest.
In order to do shadow work, you may find these steps helpful:
- Recognize your shadow: One way to do this is to see what it is that you project onto others. When you deny or repress something in yourself, you tend to become more aware of that trend in others. If this becomes a pattern, then pay attention to it, since it may be a part of your shadow calling out for some attention. When this happens, that trait in the other person may annoy you too much, or you may tend to overreact to it. This could also be the same with positive qualities you admire in others -- if you do that too much, you may want to look and see if you have disowned that quality in yourself and are thirsty to experience it.
- What things do you do by accident: This is when your baggage, which is so carefully sealed by you, starts to leak here and there. When you repeat a behavior or a pattern of it while you don't want to, then you need to pay attention to what shadow part needs to be released or balanced.
- Self monitor: Look at your baggage and what you have stuffed in it and have not let out, anything you have repressed or denied, anything you are scared to show the world. Put the fear aside, move beyond the persona you are presenting to the world and show it to yourself. Accept it and then make any changes you want.
- Give yourself some time and be patient: This process takes time. So, expectations have to be reasonable, and there are no quick fixes. Sometimes this shadow has been repressed for so long that you have to go through layers of work to get to the root, so be patient with that.
- Open up: When you carry and feel this heavy thing on your shoulder that is preventing you from walking your path, then it may be time to open up. Find a safe place to look at your baggage and evaluate what is in there. Then, start the process of letting go of what does not serve you and is counterproductive to your nature.
- Don't judge yourself: Do a safe exploration of your own emotions and try to be objective with them. Don't judge but evaluate yourself through self reflection. See which emotions are running your life and learn to balance them out. You have to be the master of your emotions, not the other way around.
- Be willing to take a risk: Shadow work is risky and at first may be uncomfortable. Stepping out of that denial and comfort zone is not easy, but once you learn how to do it, the challenge becomes exciting, and you learn more skills for future and deeper work.
When you work on the shadow, you can turn your anger into something positive -- for example, a set of boundaries to be assertive and to say yes or no to what your heart wants. Or, you can turn your sadness into a door to connect and understand others by expanding your compassion. Or, you can turn your fear into a tool to become emotionally detached from an upsetting situation.
In addition, you may find yourself needing help and support in doing and discovering your shadow side. You need to work on feelings like fear, anger, jealously, insecurity, hate, resentment, guilt and shame or any other self-restraining feelings that are irrational, out of balance or too intense. You may also need to focus on how to get rid of the old patterns of behavior and thoughts that are not serving you well anymore. This can be done through behavioral and cognitive modification, which can be mixed with the shadow work.
At the end, don't forget to have a little faith and set your intention to get to your fullest potential while you let others do the same. With enough motivation to change, change in terms of growth becomes a part of your life.
Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD | Self Knowledge Base & Foundation | A non-profit dedicated to public education | www.SelfKnowledgeBase.com | If you want to receive our information, email us at email@example.com.