Carl Jung said “the shadow is the unknown ‘dark side’ of our personality.” Consider times you may have acted irrationally despite knowing it was wrong. This devious side of you seems to act of its own accord, yet on a conscious level you know what is right, but that doesn’t stop your impulsivity. It may get to the point you feel like you are battling your logical and emotional brain throughout the day with equal victories.
Our thoughts are governed by both our conscious and subconscious mind, with our subconscious being the most powerful. Neuroscientists have documented our subconscious mind accounts for 95-99% of our emotions, actions, and decision making! Yet, because it resides in the depths of our brain we can’t easily access or understand the complexity of its functions.
This is where our shadow self resides. Our shadow is comprised of traumatic memories and limiting beliefs. It is the part of us we distain and work hard to avoid. Yet, working with one’s shadow was a major theme in ancient society. Our ancestors were keenly aware of its impact on their daily lives and major religious or philosophical figures journaled about their experiences. In modern society, people have become too busy or indifferent to do the inner work requires to process its energy. Sadly, if we ignore our shadow for too long, it will wreak havoc on our lives.
When done properly, people can minimize the discomfort of working with one’s shadow. In fact, it can be cathartic to purge our irrational patterns. Instead, we gain acceptance and understanding the flaws of others in our lives. Society must embrace working with the shadow, since our dark sides are part of our authentic self, and through uncovering and honoring our shadow we can become whole.
How to perform shadow work
- Explore your innermost self: To reveal our shadow, we must dive headfirst into the abyss of our psyche and being. Uncover and address childhood or repressed traumas and the resulting psychological or spiritual wounds. By working with a therapist, we can process our experiences, feelings, emotions, beliefs, and traits we run from. This work is vital so we can bring our psyche back into alignment and safely open ourselves up to the blessings of the Universe.
- Observe behavioral patterns: Document real time data on the pattern of your thoughts or actions. Notice any discrepancies or deviations from your normal or preferred course of action in your journal. With time and practice you will reveal patterns and gain insight into your traits and trigger of your shadow self. Work to remain objective and speak kindly to yourself, even when you see things you don’t like.
- Don’t project: Often when we criticize or judge the actions of another, it signals a shadow aspect of our persona that we can’t accept. What we repress within ourselves can be projected onto another. A specific trait that greatly irks you is a clear sing you aren’t owning this aspect within yourself.
- Get creative: Our shadow side doesn’t only come out in negative ways like violence or aggression. You can dialog with your shadow through artistic mediums and it can be helpful to experiment with various creative avenues to see which one you find most appealing.
- Be kind to yourself: Never judge yourself during shadow work. Though it is messy to explore our ugly side, we must avoid falling victim to the shame or guilt game. Self-generated harsh criticism will help no one. Tell yourself that interacting with your shadow is a courageous and loving act to help you grow spiritual and within your community.
Light will never exist without the dark. This is also true of human personality! By performing shadow work, you will create harmony and alignment within the totality of your psyche and bring you closer to the Divine.