Shadow Work 101: What It Is And How To Use It To Heal Yourself
Everyone has negative qualities—everyone has a dark side. Famous psychologist Dr. Carl Jung was fascinated with researching the person’s darker half as it arises from the subconscious mind and carries answers for the way you are in life. It also explains the areas in your life that are not working out. Your dark side may be sabotaging them. This side is called your shadow, and the spiritual-psychological tool of addressing these issues is known as shadow work
Made popular by Jung, shadow work has nothing to do with demons as it may sound—if only inner ones. Finding and addressing your shadow takes work, but the growth coming from integrating the shadow instead of hiding it can bring phenomenal self-growth and transformation. This work is not just possible, it is highly recommended. Highly spiritual and healed individuals have met their shadow and made it their friend.
Avoid Spiritual Bypassing
Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. – Carl Jung
The first step to finding your shadow is to not partake is spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing is an often unconscious method of ignoring anything negative. In the spiritual and self-growth communities, it is a very common occurrence. Reacting to all negativity the same way such as saying: “The universe has our back!” or “Everything is perfect!” or “I am a powerful creator!” or something similar sometimes creates a blindfold to the areas of our lives and ourselves that may not be so perfect.
There is nothing wrong with positivity, but if it becomes a way of ignoring reality, it can become an issue. You cannot ignore negative emotions and thoughts and hope that yoga (or other positive focused practices) will eventually take them away. They need to be addressed and taken care of in order for you to transmute the ‘darkness’ and grow.
This so-called darkness does not have to be so dark in order to be your shadow. You can be an amazing person and still have feelings of jealousy, fear, or regret. Accepting them as a part of who you are instead of ignoring them will make you a more enlightened and emotionally-healthy person.
Other People Are Your Mirrors
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung
Often times the shadow is hidden, so you may wonder, how do you see it clearly. One way to do that is to notice which behaviors in others trigger you, and what frustrates you in people close to you. Psychologically speaking, you cannot be angry at something in another person that you cannot see in your own self.
You do not have to tell anyone when your negative feeling(s) come up, they have nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with you. Instead, you can journal on it and write out everything that is bothering you. From there, you can make a list of qualities or events that upset you. Pay particular attention to things that cause a strong reaction in you, maybe even invoke a strong language response out of you.
The qualities and behaviors on this list are the ones that you are secretly disliking about yourself. They are your shadow.
Focus on Self Forgiveness
After you recognize any negative qualities and behaviors that you do, instead of ignoring and repressing them as before, the next step is to forgive yourself for them. No one is perfect and you do not have to be either. It is also perfectly okay to experience negative emotions.
The human experience is about the richness of how much you can feel, the variety of thoughts and reactions possible, and the contrast of positive and negative events. Some of the negative emotions serve an important purpose in growth and as a coping mechanism. The key with any negative thoughts or emotions—your shadow—is not to ignore them, but not get stuck in them either. Instead, acknowledge them, thank them for their service or lesson, send them love, and tell them you do not need them anymore.
What qualities does your shadow have? Leave us a comment below!