Shadow work is working with your unconscious mind to uncover parts of yourself that you may have repressed or hide from yourself. This could include past traumas, hurts, or negative aspects of the shadow self, that we all possess.
What is our shadow self?
Our shadow self is thought to be the parts of ourselves that make us undesirable to others. Or parts of ourselves that hold us back from success or happiness. Our shadows can represent things like anger, sadness or depression, anxiety, self-doubt or self-loathing. It can have an impact on your overall well-being and cause blockages with your spiritual beliefs and practices.
Giving in for far too long to our shadow self, can result in struggling in relationships or connections in general. When you suffer from chronic anxiety and depression, it can really make it hard to sustain relationships with others who seem more positive or can shrug off challenges more easily. I am not one of those people.
This was the first time I really dived into shadow work, and it was a draining and exhausting process. It was also lonely as hell. But it’s something I will work continue to work on to help heal.
How to recognize your shadow self
A good way to test yourself, is to gauge how you interact and react towards others. How do you respond when people become aggressive towards you? What about those who do not respect your boundaries?
Are you firm in telling them to stop? Are you firm in sticking to your core values and principles? Or are you the type of person who avoids conflict or difficult situations and tend to ignore your selfcare because you are a people pleaser?
There’s nothing wrong with being a people pleaser, as long as you don’t dismiss your own values in the process.
Consequences of shadow work
When you do shadow work, you get a better sense of what those core values in relationships might look like for you. This can change your entire outlook on current connections in your life. You might lose friends or even your primary relationships.
People who aren’t ready to face their trauma or do shadow work themselves, will often revolt or shy away from those that do.
Shadow work can also reveal trauma you may have suppressed for years and this can open a flood gate of feelings you aren’t prepared for. I do suggest working with trained professionals in counseling or therapy. Or find a support group that you can trust.
You may find yourself becoming emotional for no reason even on those good days. Crying is a big part of it. You may also find you want to sleep more. Pain might surface. Same with tension headaches. If you struggle with any of these new symptoms, please check in with your primary care provider.
Your intuition will peak during this process. You will notice toxic behaviors more and people that you considered to be close friends, will not look the same.
You will go through it. The stages of grief are real. I’m kind of in between I’m ready to let it all go, I’m mad at the world, and I just want to have fun again.
Thankfully, the crying myself to sleep daily has stopped.
Setting intentions with shadow work
One of your intentions with shadow work might be to help heal from trauma or hurt that triggered something from the past. For me, it was an abrupt ending to a relationship. Being made to feel like I was a terrible person when in reality, I wasn’t. Unresolved conflict led me to an anxiety spiral and a serious depressive episode. This led to being ghosted.
This experience brought out a lot of insecurities and resentment from past partners. It also triggered my abandonment anxiety and I went into a bad spiral.
Intentions can be anything you want to work on. I find bullet journaling, writing here in this block and working with Tarot cards really helps to pick things I should focus on. Ideas will often come to me while meditating or working on crafts as well.
You can read more about intention setting here.
Lessons learned during my shadow work
- Make sure you have clear intentions and an outcome for your work.
- You will need breaks in between to remember the good things in life.
- Give yourself a deadline for the hardest parts.
- Surround yourself with people who are on similar paths that you can learn from. Be wary of those who are “leaders” and stick to ones you get good vibes from. Trust your intuition.
- Your intuition will peak during this process.
- You will feel things you’ve never felt before and these can manifest into physical symptoms.
- You will want to isolate yourself. That’s fine. But don’t isolate too long. You will need friends to help you.
Most importantly: you will lose people. Those who are false friends will reveal their masks once you start taking care of you. It will hurt you more. But you are better off without these people. This will open new doors for new people to come in.
You will discover who your real friends are. The ones who are happy with you as you are and accept you fully despite your faults.
It’s a lifelong healing process
Shadow work can be rewarding and can speed up your healing process from recent hurts. That said, the more trauma you unpack, the more you connect it to your early memories. This can be a lifelong process and you may have to relearn coping mechanism along the way.
The point of shadow work isn’t to stay in the darkness forever. The point of it is to learn to let go of that darkness that hides your shine. You WILL find your inner light again. You will get your spark back.
You just have to keep working at it.
Also, this song came on while I was writing this and I thought I’d share the video. It’s fitting.
Have you ever done shadow work? If so, what were your biggest lessons? What methods worked for you? Did you have a support group? Let me know in the comments.
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