DISCLAIMER: Long post ahead. It is advisable to do shadow work alongside therapy.
I’m gonna start this by saying that I am in no way an expert on this subject. But, I believe I’ve done an intense amount of shadow work that makes me confident enough to want to post this.
To begin, the “shadow” is a Jungian concept. Given by the swiss psychiatrist (and my personal role model/inspiration)- Carl Gustav Jung.
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”
— Carl Jung, Aion (1951)
(anima- the masculine in a feminine identifying person, animus- the feminine in a masculine identifying person).
What is the ego? The ego has many definitions, and can be defined in multiple ways. Simply put, the ego is a part of our consciousness, and we’re usually acting out from our ego in our day to day lives. It is a part of our persona- the mask we use when talking to others. Our personality. It is not complete in itself, it’s just one side of the coin which is visible to the outer world. The shadow is the other side, and it is mostly “hidden” in our inner world.
The Shadow mostly lies in the unconscious, because of which many people aren’t aware when they’re acting from their shadows.
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”
— Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion (1938)
Those words you spoke in anger or tears, projecting your insecurities, that impulsive thing you did, the vices you have, they’re all part of your shadow. We cope, because we feel a dissonance from the ego and the shadow. The shadow consists of all your trauma, your insecurities, your fears, your fantasies, your shame. Everything you push into the darkness, everything you want to hide, your shadow has it.
The shadow is equally a part of you as the ego is, ignoring it does nothing but call for more problems. It is equally important to understand your shadow as it’s important to understand your ego. It is important to call it out of the darkness and into the light, if you want to truly understand yourself and heal. Unlocking and integrating your shadow also unlocks hidden clairs or magickal powers/affiliations you may have been previously unaware of.
Trauma causes the brain to hide memories, because the ego always wants to lessen pain to protect. The shadow holds those memories, it resists or fights to protect. Both have similar intentions- safety and preservation, but different ways of doing it.
By now I hope I have been able to explain well what the shadow is and what it consists of. Which brings us to the next part- what is shadow work and how to do shadow work?
Shadow work is, in simple words, working on your shadow. Drawing it out from the unconscious to your consciousness, healing it, understanding it, and integrating it.
There are different ways of doing shadow work, I am aware of 3 which I will be writing about. If you have any more please do add them.
- Mirror gazing
This is done in a dark room. Sit in front of a mirror, light a candle and place it between you and the mirror. Gaze at your reflection with the intention of meeting your shadow. I personally believe that this is a very scary method, but then I’ve also never done this so I won’t comment on that.
There are guided meditations on YouTube, or you could meditate like you usually would but this time you will have the intention of meeting your shadow.
- Journaling, self reflection
Usually in this method, you use a prompt which you reflect upon. You write your thoughts, emotions and whatever memory brings up and then analyse them.
Analysis is a big part of this. You have to understand what you’re feeling and why to decode it and get to the roots of your emotions and your attachment, detachment, anger or jealousy or etc towards anything or anyone.
Having difficulty recognizing what you’re feeling? Use this:
This is an emotion wheel given by psychologist Robert Plutchik. Here’s how you use this:
- There are 8 core emotions. 4 pairs, in opposites (ecstasy-grief, rage-terror, loathing-admiration).
- The intensity of the color is the intensity of the emotion. eg, the darker the color, the more intense the emotion is.
- The emotion in between the petals is what arises from the combination of the emotions in the petal. eg, anger+disgust= contempt, fear+surprise+awe.
That being said, first read the emotions written on the wheel, see which one resonates the most with you. Then, look at the different intensities. See which one you feel describes what you’re feeling best.
Now you know what you’re feeling. The next step is to understand why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. If it’s an insecurity or a personal issue, see how you can improve on it. Look or ask your therapists for tools that will help you navigate the situation or help you improve on it.
It is advisable to do shadow work alongside therapy, some things that come up can be too intense to deal with alone. Plus therapy is always good
This is just the surface of the shadow and what shadow work is, but I hope I was able to give you some useful information regarding this topic. If you have other information, please do add them.
That’s all for now, thank you for your time. Take care of yourself people
Till next time
P.S: I did not beta read this, ignore errors till they’re so wrong they change the meaning lol. In that case please tell me about it.