Self-awareness to self-transformation
Shadow Work: A Simple Guide to Transcending The Darker Aspects of Yourself
What Is the Shadow?
For many people, the term ‘shadow’ brings up all kinds of negative and dark associations. Because of this, it is easy to assume that shadow work is a dark spiritual practice that involves the negative and sinister aspects of our personality.
The shadow is dark because we are made of both light and dark aspects. But it is part of who we are and we can't be afraid of ourselves.
The shadow was first brought into the Western world by psychologist Carl Jung. He described it as the unconscious and disowned parts of our personalities that the ego fails to see, acknowledge, and accept. It is any aspect of ourselves that is not exposed to the light of our consciousness.
As children, we are born whole and complete, but that wholeness is short-lived. The shadow is born in our childhood as a byproduct of certain interactions we had with the people closest to us. Our caretakers make us believe that certain aspects of ourselves are good and others are not. The aspects that are seen as bad are rejected and, consequently, form the shadow.
How the Shadow Affects You
When we depend on our caregivers for survival, we suppress the aspects that are disapproved, and we exaggerate the aspects that are approved.
For example, imagine a 5-year-old boy who is very much in touch with his feelings. He is sensitive and emotional. Something happens, and he gets mad and cries. In response, his dad says, “Stop crying like a little boy, be a man!”
His dad believes crying is bad, so he suppresses his son’s emotions. As a result, the latter pushes this gentle and sensitive side of himself into the shadows and begins “acting tough.”
As an adult, he has trouble feeling things and will not show his emotions even when it’s required. Because of that, he struggles in his relationships, never allowing himself to be fully seen.
The shadow grows every time…