Have you ever heard people talk about the shadow self or their shadow side?
If you’re unfamiliar with the topic, it may sound a little “woo-woo.”
But the truth is that shadow work has been a psychological staple for several decades.
So what is your shadow self?
How can you access it?
Should you explore it?
We’re going to unpack all of it in this post.
So get comfortable, and let’s dive into the whats, hows, and whys of shadow work.
- What Is Your Spiritual Shadow or Shadow Self?
- Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Shadow Self
- What Is Shadow Work Spirituality, and What Is Its Purpose?
- 9 Steps To Practice Shadow Work and Heal Your Spiritual Shadow
What Is Your Spiritual Shadow or Shadow Self?
Freud called it the “subconscious,” and Jung labeled it “the shadow self.”
Although time has muted several of Freud’s and Jung’s ideas, their work on this issue still holds.
If we’re going to break down how to address the shadow, it’s critical to define it. First, we all have a shadow self-composed of good and bad qualities.
On the one hand, shadow selves help you stay safe and protected; on the other hand, they store your implicit biases, personality flaws, and fears.
Jung broke down the self into several archetypes:
- Self: Who you are
- Shadow: The parts of your personality that you’d rather not acknowledge
- Anima: Your feminine side (which men also have)
- Animus: Your capacity for self-reflection
- Persona: The public mask you display; the way you want people to see and embrace you
- Hero: The part of your personality used to overcome adversity and trauma
- Wise Old Man/Woman: The personification of your collected wisdom
- Trickster: The piece of you that craves gratification and likes to feel needed
Jung labeled “the shadow self” because it contains parts of your personality that the ego/conscious self would rather ignore. Or, to put it another way, it’s in the dark.
Jung taught that the shadow was an inferior part of your being, but that’s not necessarily true. While it does hold your darker elements, it also hides talents swaddled in fears.
The shadow self is often preoccupied with money, sex, power, and popularity angst, but it’s also where we store energy generated from the four big fears:
- Being evil/disliked
The shadow holds feelings related to these big topics, tremendously impacting our personalities.
Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Shadow Self
Depression, emptiness, fear, and anxiety are all products of the shadow self. So, if you want to be the best you possible, it’s essential to acknowledge and communicate with it.
When you dedicate energy to maintaining your fears and shame, you’re not using it optimally. Redirecting it to overcome personality obstacles and defensiveness is the smart move.
The shadow self is a vault where you lock away everything you reject about yourself, and ignoring it will lead to:
- Pathological defensiveness
- Relationship-wrecking projection
- Inability to work through troubles with friends, family, and colleagues
- Money problems
- More judgmental toward others
- Low self-esteem
- Enhanced self-deceit
- Inflated ego
Basically, the longer you ignore your shadow, the more control it has over you.
What Is Shadow Work Spirituality, and What Is Its Purpose?
What is spiritual shadow work?
It’s the process of penetrating the unconscious mind and confronting your shadow self. The journey is often long because our culture grooms us to present ourselves as perfect beings.
We spend an excessive amount of time thinking about money, power, and popularity, in addition to ways to secure all three.
Besides, accessing the subconscious isn’t an easy task. It is a cauldron of emotional baggage and so-called flaws that we’d rather not acknowledge, but also, it’s mentally challenging to shine a light on things our conscious minds demand we ignore.
But once we stare down our uglier parts, your shadow begins to move toward a higher light, and the negativity you’ve harbored starts dissipating.
If all goes well, you’ll be less freighted by the end of your shadow work journey with less anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. Moreover, you’ll realize that your shadow is a natural part of who you are and nothing to be embarrassed about.
Clearing it out will feel like a miracle if your shadow self contains the residual ick of substantial trauma.
How Spiritual Shadow Work Benefits You
Ultimately, embarking on the road to “Shadow Land” will infuse you with clarity, grace, and contentment. Specifically, it will:
- Boost Your Confidence: Lack of self-esteem and self-doubt demolish your confidence. And guess what? Self-esteem issues are almost always living in your shadow self.
- Gift You With Better Relationships: Confronting your shadow will help you better understand life’s complications and allow you to build stronger, more authentic bonds with others.
- Improve Your Wellness: Facing faults gives us better control over mental and physical health because we make more intelligent, thoughtful decisions.
- Improve Your Creativity: Shadow elements do an excellent job of hiding talents. When you crack the barrier, creativity gushes out.
- Tackle Root Causes of Mental Health Hurdles: Are you plagued with debilitating anxiety or depression? Shadow work can help you neutralize their root causes.
- Increases Your Capacity for Compassion: Recognizing your subconscious thoughts widens your capacity window. Addressing our shadows allows us to better understand others’ weak points and behavioral quirks. After all, when you look your own faults directly in the face, you’re more tolerant of others’ flaws.
9 Steps To Practice Shadow Work and Heal Your Spiritual Shadow
At this point, you’re probably wondering: How do I find my shadow self?
For people who work with their chakras, shadow work is done at the following energy points:
When the three lower chakras are cleared and balanced, we can better confront ourselves. Plus, they can better support your upper chakras when they’re in good condition.
Moreover, it takes courage to evaluate your shadow objectively. So let’s explore nine ways you can access and work with your shadow.
1. Decide on Your Methodological Approach
Before starting the road, determine how you want to go about the journey. Do you want to see a licensed therapist, or would a life coach better fit your needs, beliefs, and personality?
Or perhaps you want to go the self-help route.
All three — or a combination of all three — are fine.
But before committing, consider that a professional — whether a therapist or coach — is more equipped to help you spot destructive patterns and triggers that are holding you back.
Plus, they have the experience to set you on a personalized path tailored to your situation and issues.
2. Acknowledge Your Inner Shadow
After figuring out how you want to structure your journey, it’s time to come to grips with the fact that you, like every other human on this planet, carry flaws, bad habits, embarrassments, and fears.
Not only that, but you must conjure the courage to acknowledge and explore them.
At this point in the process, dig for your own dirt. How do you get in the way of yourself? What faults are holding you back? Constantly challenge yourself and ask if there’s any way you could be part of the problem.
Your instinct may initially insist that you’re right. It may even bully you into defensiveness. Do your best to get past this initial frustration and consider that you may be letting your shadow self rule your roost.
3. Asses Your Childhood
The first place to start unpacking your shadow self is plunging into your childhood. Most of your fears, anxieties, and shame come from childhood experiences.
What things were you shamed about as a child? Were you always told to “get over it” when harmful or hurtful things landed in your lap? Were you raised in an environment where your parents or guardians scolded you for being sad or having outsized emotions?
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4. Avoid Shaming Your Shadow
It’s important not to hate your shadow self. For starters, it’s not all bad. Plus, it’s extremely sensitive.
Like a child, the shadow craves and needs attention. After all, we all want to feel complete, and if we ignore our shadow selves, we reject part of who we are.
During this part of the process, self-compassion is the key. When you feel yourself getting worked up or filled with shame, sit back and treat yourself as you would someone you love in the same situation. In a phrase: mother yourself.
Collect a set of affirmations with which you can soothe your shadow self. Some people find the following mantras helpful:
- I trust you
- I believe in you
- I’m glad you’re part of me
- You’re worthy
- You’re enough
- You have a lot to offer
5. Meditate Daily
Studies prove meditation is exceptionally beneficial for both your mind and body. Not only does it calm your parasympathetic nervous system, but meditating provides an opportunity to observe your situation from a detached viewpoint.
Try not to be judgmental of things that come to the surface during meditation. Simply take notice and let them move on. Don’t mute or shame your emotions or thoughts.
Learning how to do this will strengthen your self-compassion muscle, better allowing you to grapple with your shadow self.
6. Practice Journaling
Journaling is a terrific way to work through issues, and maintaining a separate shadow journal is a good idea.
How do you go about it?
First, power through a list of shadow work journal prompts. Tackle one a day till you reach the end. Also, do some freeform journal entries that address issues related to fears, embarrassments, or anxieties.
Try to make it a daily practice.
Moreover, don’t censor yourself or expect perfection to flow from your pen at all times. Remember that excellent writing requires lots and lots of editing. So let go of your perfectionism and just write.
Put pen to paper and go. Plus, when you read it back, you may discover that it wasn’t nearly as terrible as you initially assumed.
7. Approach It Artistically
Art is powerful, and studies prove it’s an effective treatment for pre-verbal trauma from childhood.
Whether you choose painting, sculpting, music, or dance, put your all into it, and don’t be afraid to explore dark places via your art.
Furthermore, don’t feel the need to share your art. It’s perfectly acceptable to keep it all to yourself.
8. Reflect and Celebrate Your Progress
Pat yourself on the back for facing your demons. Being proud of yourself is OK, and getting through shadow work is a significant accomplishment.
Rereading your journals can be a powerful tool, allowing you to reflect on what you’ve been through and how you’ve survived. Self-discovery worksheets are another valuable tool and a great way to track your progress.
9. Start an Ongoing Dialogue With Yourself
Sometimes, it’s perfectly acceptable to talk to yourself — and chatting with your shadow can be highly beneficial.
Use a question-and-answer format to dialogue with your shadow self. Ask things like:
- Of what are you most afraid? Why?
- What makes you angry?
- Why are you acting out? What has triggered you?
- How can I help you?
Keep an open mind and do your best not to be overly critical. Remember, your shadow self is a fragile, sensitive force — and a part of your personality. So be gentle. No yelling or shaming it!
The goal of shadow work is to live life more deliberately and authentically. It will be scary at first. After all, starting your own faults in the face can shatter your psyche. But it’s worth the effort, as you will become a more well-rounded, intelligent, happy person on the other end.