Most of the crap you’re upset about has nothing to do with the person you’re squawking at.
Not an easy pill to swallow for most people.
Shadow work. It’s a theme I’ve dove into the last several years, which in all honesty, has made me feel legit cray-cray at times.
I’m sure I studied Jung’s concept of shadow work briefly in my psych 101 college course MANY years ago, but not one thing stuck.
I mean zilch.
I spent years unconscious to the reality that under the surface, shadows were camped out in my psyche. Things like anxiety, depression, vanity, shame, control — pretty much controlling my waking life.
When I finally did start learning about shadow work, I wasn’t thrilled.
It was one afternoon while I was reading an article that said that when we’re in an argument — all emotionally charged and you know, finger pointing and squawking — that only about 10% of the charged emotions had to do with the present conflict. The other 90% had to do with old, unresolved wounds presumably from childhood.
I was angry and perplexed.
“Wait, what? You’re telling me my arguments with her have more to do with MY unresolved past wounds than the fact that she’s a selfish, controlling jerk?”
Not quite what I wanted to own up to.
That’s when I started learning more about “shadow work”, though I was quite skeptical.
I didn’t want to face my inner demons.
I didn’t want to own that shadow side of me that was selfish, controlling, cynical, fearful, etc.
However, being the “seeker” that I am, I dove in.
I put on my “shadow sh&t kickers” and got busy revisiting my childhood to see what it was really like.
What sort of emotions, beliefs, unhealthy coping skills did I start throwing into my “shadow bag”?
And I’ve been doing shadow work ever since.
What Is Shadow Work?
Let’s start with your ego. The ego is that part of us that we start forming as a youngster. It’s a persona or masks that we wear to fit in better with society. It’s the false self. The YOU that you think others think you are.
The shadow side of the ego is the part where shadows hide. It’s the part that’s dark, because you’re not conscious of it.
The shadow aspect is dingy. It’s chilly. It’s damp.
It’s not a fun place to crawl around.
But, until we do, the parts of ourselves (the shadows) we’ve stuffed there will call for our attention in some way, shape, or form.
You see, our wounds (the darkness) need to be illuminated in order to heal.
Lit up by our conscious attention!
This way, we can become more whole and more authentic, rather than wearing masks that don’t really serve us all the live-long day.
I steered clear of my wounds for decades, taking care of everyone else but ME. I was busy, busy raising three children and hell bent on being the perfect mother, wife, and Christian — in that order.
But inside, I was drying up like the desert. Little by little, growing weary, very sad, and disillusioned.
I wasn’t aware of my deep inner pain for an exceptionally long time — at least until a divorce wrecked my emotional world.
After you’ve stuffed your emotions your whole life, eventually that bubble’s going to pop and it’s not pretty.
They say when the pain gets great enough, you’ll do something different.
Wanting to grow and heal, I went eye-to-eye with things like shame, fear, anxiety, unworthiness, rejection, and much more.
Not to judge those things.
To feel them. To explore them. To sit with them, listen to them.
That’s the shadow work.
Ultimately, to get to a place where I could love them and integrate into my psyche, because that’s what’s necessary to feel more peace and joy in life!
I embarked on a serious inner spiritual journey, adding mindfulness and meditation to my tool belt to deal with positive and negative shadows.
And just a side note here. Had I not started meditation & some sort of real-deal spiritual journey, I believe I would have gone loco.
You know the first thing I discovered?
Me, as a wounded, fragile little girl.
My inner child that felt abandoned and alone. That authentic part of me that I covered up over the years, pursuing things “out there” to try to feel some relief from inner pain.
Like relationships. Like status. Like booze, work, affirmation, toys, etc.
I abandoned the “real” part of myself slowly, splitting off and forming a “shadow side”. And it’s that shadow side that will beg for attention as we journey this life.
Because we came here to forget and then remember who we truly are AS A SPIRIT.
And for me, consistent shadow work has helped me re-connect with that wounded little girl and LOVE her abundantly. I’ve sat with my shadows. I’ve had conversations with them.
I’ve lavished so much love on that wounded little girl, not because I have to, but because I want to. Because learning to love the “shadow bag” allows our whole selves to be enraptured in the LIGHT of consciousness.
It was Rumi that said,
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Shadow Work For The Long Haul
You’d think after so many years of digging up and illuminating shadows that the work would be DONE.
That’s not the way it goes. I can say for myself and others who have been navigating the spiritual path for many years that there are layers of shadows. Layers of “things” we’ve laid over our core, authentic self over the years.
And it takes time — sometimes a lifetime (or more) — to totally free the spirit-self.
To transcend the ego, experience enlightenment, become sanctified, or whatever you want to call it.
But it’s worth it, dear ones, and the world needs more healed, awakened souls roaming the planet to apply healing salve to a world in need.
Do the inner healing work.
What is the dark side?
I’ve found this Mechanics of Your Dark Side video to be quite helpful in understanding my shadow side. It’s based on Carl Jung’s work on the ego and shadow.
SHADOW WORK JOURNAL
Working through a Shadow Work Journal can benefit you no matter how long you’ve been doing the inner healing work. Shadow work prompts are a great way to start digging into the psyche for exploration.
They’ve helped me unearth plenty of hidden aspects of myself and unhealthy coping mechanisms. I’m a firm advocate of having a strong support network as you go about your shadow work via a therapist, friends, community, etc.
I also support a self-directed inner spiritual journey.
Fellow spirits, here’s to a life filled with more Light, Love, and Compassion. Stay on your inner healing & spiritual path, for the long haul.
I believe in YOU.