What is Shadow Work & Why You Need It

May 1, 2017 4:12 am Published by

When was the last time you had an all-consuming work week that resulted in snapping at someone you love? You don’t mean to, you don’t want to, but it just comes out. I’ve certainly been there too.

Just one week, or even less sometimes, of repression can result in some pretty gnarly backlash.

Now, imagine what years of repressing part of your soul might cause. Let’s go one step further. Imagine what the repression of an entire society of souls might look like.

You probably don’t have to spend much time imagining this because it seems to be playing out right in front of our eyes.

I don’t mean to scare you off and promise you that this isn’t a doom and gloom rant! This is a topic that has some stigma attached to it, but it also desperately needs to be talked about.

Shadow work is something that has been calling to me since the passing of my grandma and my dad in 2015. After experiencing this loss, I went into a dark place that I’d never experienced or even knew was possible for me to visit. I was scared of myself. I was scared of what others thought of me. I was scared I’d never come back.

Through therapy and soul searching of my own, I slowly came back to the light, but not as the same person. I was reborn with integration and understanding of the darkness that lives within me, that is a part of me.

Since this experience, I’ve been drawn to explore shadow work more deeply. Before I dive into some methods for exploring shadow work let me give you a brief overview of what it is and why we so desperately need it right now.

What is Shadow Work?

Shadow work is the conscious effort of exploring the dark feelings, often ignored, that bring up shame, embarrassment, and fear in you. Many of these shadow feelings are not on the surface and reside in the subconscious.

The practice of exploring the shadow side of our nature can be found in religions and rituals all over the world, and more recently by psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Here’s another explanation of what the shadow self is:

“…the Shadow Self is an archetype that forms part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, weaknesses, desires, perversions and embarrassing fears.”- Mateo Sol

Why is Shadow Work Important?

In order to become a whole and fully healed person, you must integrate the dark and the light.

The more you suppress shadow the more it will come seeping out in destructive and self-sabotaging ways, oftentimes when you least expect it. When you acknowledge shadow and give it space to be, you may find that you’re more patient, kind, and accepting of yourself and others.

All worldly change must start within first. Taking a closer look at your own dark side can further the progression of our society taking a look within as well. Think of shadow work as a way to lift the veils and expose our earthly troubles. In order to heal, individually and as a species, we must acknowledge the dark.

Getting Started With Shadow Work?

You might be wondering how to identify parts of your shadow side. If these attributes tend to reside in the subconscious how can you become aware of them? You know the phrase, “you spot it you got it”? Most of us walk around projecting our shadow sides onto others, constantly judging and condemning others, for things that secretly reside deep within us.

Next step, cultivate mindfulness.

Now that you understand that your gut feelings of anger and judgment are your own shadows being reflected back to you it’s a matter of being aware of when they come up.

Keeping a journal or a list on your phone can be a great way of keeping track of instances, people, and events that send you down the judgment rabbit hole.

Side note, exploring shadow is heavy work. Though you can certainly work on it alone, it may bring up things that are hard to work through on your own. If you really want to dig deep, I encourage you to recruit guidance from a therapist or healer as well.

Next week I’ll share some rituals and tools for diving deeper into exploring your shadow side.

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About Cassie

Cassie Uhl is the author of five books and two card decks, an artist, intuitive energy healer, and death doula. Her lineage and practices are rooted in pagan earth-based spiritual practices of Northern Europe. She approaches her work and clients with trauma-informed support through all phases of life. She currently resides on the land of the Myaamia people in so-called Indiana of the US.