The term “shadow” was derived by psychologist Carl Jung. He refers to it as both our deepest wounds and the parts of ourselves which we repress and deny. When beginning shadow work, we must start to unlock the emotions attached from these wounds, from deep within ourselves.
These wounds usually develop in childhood, leaving us feeling unworthy or unlovable.
When left, these wounds can develop into negative self beliefs, which can affect our life deeply.
The other part of the “shadow”, comes from the parts of our personality which we deny to ourselves, like anger, bitterness, envy and hatred. In order to lead a fullfilling, loving life, we must bring our shadow self into the light.
By recognizing the parts of ourselves that we try to hide, we can begin to love ourselves as a whole. There are several exercises that your can do to bring forth what has been hiding in your shadow. By completing these exercises your are allowing yourself to be at peace with and love every aspect of yourself .
Shadow traits that your shadow side might possess include:
Anger/Outbursts of rage
Obsessed with appearance
I am a big fan of journaling. I always find that by writing things down, I can really access some deep thoughts and emotions. The best part about using a journal is that your can read back over what your have written and get a good feel of what is happening within your thoughts.
Most of the exercises used for “shadow work” involve writing so it’s a good idea to invest in a journal or notebook for this.
6 different ways to access the shadow self
When beginning shadow work, your must first recognize the people in your life that play out your shadow.
1.) Sit quietly and remember back to your childhood. Think about an incident that happened before your were 10 years old, where your experienced fear, shame, sorrow or loneliness. How did this leave your feeling? Examples would be, ” I am bad”, “I am weak, stupid or ugly”.
Allow the memory to drift into your thoughts.
Now take our your journal and write down a few sentences to describe this event and the emotions that your felt. For example: ” I remember when I was …..years old, I felt afraid when ….. happened. When that happened, I felt hurt because ……. The outcome was that I saw myself as ………
Do this same exercise, this time with an incident that occurred in your teenage years.
2.) Review the people who have been in your life and pinpoint the traits they exhibit which your refuse to own. Look at the traits which trigger a negative reaction or an intense emotional response from yourself. Look at the times when your remember yourself saying, ” I am not like that”
Start with your parents and siblings. Make a list of the negative qualities that they exhibit. Ask yourself which of these traits do your own and which do your deny.
Do the same exercise but this time with other people in your life, friends, lovers, co-workers. Examine which traits of these your own and which your deny.
3.) Next, take time to reflect on the positive qualities which these people exhibit. Look in particular at the traits which cause your an emotional response, be that good or bad. For example, ” I wish I could be more like that”.
Write out a list of all the positive qualities that the people in your life possess. Try to find examples which really stand out to your. Now write down which of these qualities your own and which your deny.
4.) Now it is time to uncover exactly what your have kept in your shadow.
Look back at exercise number 1. Write down any labels your may have attached to certain parts of yourself, based upon your answers.
Ask yourself, did your play down any part of yourself in the past in order to avoid conflict, or an uncomfortable situation, or even just to please somebody else.
Where your told that your were greedy, selfish, demanding, vain or a bully? Did being pretty or clever cause others jealousy? Did others see your as a threat or think that your were better than them? Have your ever felt awkward or uncomfortable about your strength or weaknesses?
Now write down 2 separate lists, one named dark one named light.
In these 2 lists, write down any defining moments in your young life where your dumped specific qualities into your shadow. List these qualities as either dark or light.
5.) Take a look at the list your have made of dark and light qualities. See which results stand out the most and highlight them.
Starting with the dark list, which parts of your shadow do your really dislike? What qualities do your see in others that your avoid as your believe them to be negative?
Looking at the light list, what qualities do your see in others that leave your feeling inferior, jealous or inadequate?
Which of these qualities do your believe that your do not own?
6.) If your had to have a tattoo of a statement on your forehead for the day, what would be the most terrifying or embarrassing trait that would be in view for everyone to see?
For example: ” I am stupid”, ” I am beautiful”, ” I am lazy”.
Write down one statement for dark and one for light.
Next your need to begin to reinterpret the meanings that your have attached to each of these traits. Try to see them in a different context.
The easiest way to do this is to write it down. For example, :
” If I cannot be bothered to do something, I can say no, even if that appears to be rude or selfish. I also acknowledge that I am generous and thoughtful, therefore I have nothing to fear regarding selfishness.
“Eventually, the goal is for your to learn to forgive yourself for your shadow traits, come to realize why your have these less desirable attributes, accept the sides of yourself that your might have kept hidden in the past, and move into a much happier, more accepting mindset
Through this work, your can decipher and decide which patterns and behaviors no longer serve your so that your can move forward with enhanced awareness. Instead of reacting to life all the time, your can play its game and respond to life instead. You don’t have to suppress hurt feelings or run away from painful experiences – they are simply tools that are begging for growth. Shadow work helps us to accept that which we’ve found unacceptable so that real change, healing, and transformation can occur.
Give these excersises a go. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you would like to offer any personal experiences with shadow work feel free to leave a comment below.