There are a lot of mixed emotions around this time of self-isolation and quarantine.
Some people are using it to go within themselves, meditate, learn more about themselves, and explore. Others are struggling without the social connection and community that day-to-day life normally offers them, or are struggling to be with family for such an extended time.
There are many who fit these descriptions and more who are engaging with their shadow selves, uncovering thoughts and behaviors that come from their childhood or that no longer serve them.
But in this time of isolation and already heightened emotion, how can this deep inner work be done in a way that is still safe and grounded?
Let’s first talk about what a shadow aspect is.
Shadow work was first coined by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1930s. Shadow work, at its core, means working with the unconscious.
Throughout our childhoods, and even into our adult lives (unless we have a killer memory, and even then) we store our memories in our unconscious. Everything that has ever happened to us is retained even if we don’t consciously remember it.
Shadow work is essentially shining a light onto the shadows of our brain—our unconscious—in order to fully connect with our entire being and shift us into alignment.
So how do we safely engage in shadow work?
1. Work from a place of self-love and radical self-acceptance.
With shadow work, it is easy to get caught up in the dark.
Regrets of past behavior may surface, leading to resentment toward ourselves, or just spiraling in our thoughts. If we are not working from a strong foundation of radical self-acceptance and love, we will be more likely to experience such things.
>> Why are you choosing to go within?
>> Do you feel it is a punishment for something you did?
>> Or, are you working from a place of fun, self-exploration, and understanding?
The power of intention is really important here.
Switching the place from where you are working seems small, but it will have a large impact on the acceptance of the information you may be receiving from doing this work.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of self-awareness.
There are so many ways to do shadow work, and you can find different journal prompts and activities to engage with your shadow online, but what shadow work comes down to is the self-awareness of your thoughts and actions.
I would argue to start there before even engaging in other activities so you don’t feel overwhelmed in engaging with the numerous different shadow aspects all at once.
If you are struggling in your life, or notice a repeating pattern, begin by bringing awareness to this pattern and why it is happening. Allow yourself to sit with the emotions you are having and be okay experiencing them instead of trying to reprogram it to something lighter right away. Give yourself permission to be, feel, and observe your raw emotions.
3. Have an outlet.
Having an outlet while doing shadow work is extremely beneficial, as it prevents it all from piling up in your mind until you explode.
You have options here, and should choose what feels best for you.
It is common to journal your experiences, but talking it out with a friend, therapist, or coach is just as (if not more) useful—especially if you aren’t as interested in writing. Even making art with your thoughts can be helpful. Just find a way to express the work you are doing.
The energy released as we process has to move somewhere.
4. Remain grounded.
It is easy and common, when doing shadow work, to get overwhelmed at some point. When this happens, our energy quite literally moves into our headspace.
Putting your feet in the grass or getting outside is a quick and efficient way to help shift that mental energy into the earth and out of your head.
When this type of activity isn’t accessible, I have also done chakra energy meditations or—even more simply—imagined the energy from my head going down into my heart space or through the floor. I also recommend grounding crystals such as hematite (my personal favorite right now), black tourmaline, or smokey quartz.
The most important thing when doing shadow work is to feel safe, supported, and connected.
You never have to take on more than you have space to, and it’s always okay to come back to it after stepping away for a bit.
I hope this was helpful in navigating shadow work in an accessible and valuable way for you.