Every single one of us has the ability to be a pain in the butt. We can all be Negative Nancy’s (sorry to any Nancy’s out there).
We all put up walls sometimes. We all project our crap onto others and make them feel bad.
We all have that one thing that drags us down into the dark abyss:
The shadow, in Jungian psychology, is the unknown dark side of our personality that we often try to hide or deny. It tends to be negative and is an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify itself with. Imagine that—we don’t want to own up to the negative aspects of our behavior because it hurts the ego (in this aspect, the ego that thinks highly of one’s self).
Shadow work is a personal growth journey that helps to bring about our powers that are hidden by the darkness of our shadow. These powers are hidden because we have all been hurt, fearful, angry, sad—and we have learned to hide these parts of ourselves so that we don’t feel these ways again. By working on our shadow, we are creating an illumination of love and light that helps to bring awareness to theses areas and heal these feelings that have probably been with us since childhood.
Childhood is often where we develop these shadows and behaviors. Whether or not we had an amazing childhood, sometimes we are naturally predisposed to these shadows. Our fears could have been based on attachment to our caregivers, or maybe moving too much and not feeling secure.
They could also stem from watching parents fight, watching parents struggle, and listening to negative talk from our caregivers. Some of us may have been bullied in school. Some may have done the bullying. Just because these things have happened to us does not mean we have to let them take over our sense of wellbeing for our entire lives.
The goal of shadow work is to no longer run and hide from our shadows, but to greet them without fear.
I greet my shadow. I wave at her with the playful, curiosity a three-year-old does when a scary clown passes by on the sidewalk.
There are lots of ways we can bring our shadows to light if we are looking to grow and break the cycle of negative thoughts and behavior. For example, look at how we project on to others. When we deny a trait in ourselves, we tend to be hyper-aware of that trait in other people. We could also be repeating the same behavior over and over again allowing our shadows to run the show of our lives. When we see the repetitiveness of self destructive behavior, our shadow is lurking.
We can polish our mirrors and turn them around so we can see ourselves clearly. Wiping away the murkiness of the hardships of our lives, we clean the slate to see who we truly are. Begin that journey of being conscious of your actions, conscious of your thoughts, conscious of your words. By putting out all of the positivity into your world, you are breaking down each negative thought that lurks in the back of your mind. You are wiping away the sadness that has held on from your childhood. You are taking a stand and taking back your life.
Whether or not we want to work on our shadows is up to us. We may enjoy living life on the dark side. But if we want to come to the light side (we have better cookies—I promise!), be prepared to work, to cry, to get angry, to find happiness, and to walk away lighter and freer from the ties that bind.
Shadow Work can be done in many different ways:
- There are many seminars available for self-growth and working with our obstacles.
- Practice Yoga: a lot of shadows come up in a steady yoga practice.
- Practice the 3-2-1 Process
Author: Hannah Hutcheson
Editor: Travis May