Shadow work involves taking emotional inventory from within ourselves and throughout our lives -- getting curious about what lies beneath the surface. It is the practice of diving deep and unearthing the buried pieces we have pushed into the shadows, acknowledging them as part of our being, and integrating what we've learned to ultimately bring us to wholeness and a better understanding of self. Leaning into our shadows with empathy and courage will help us to access our truth – honoring our past, present, and future self.
What is Shadow Work?
To understand what shadow work is, we must first understand the shadow. The shadow self is the dark side of our psyche which consists of repressed memories, ideas, emotions, weaknesses, desires, instincts, chaos, and the unknown. It is the side of ourselves that we often turn away from because of the discomfort that comes from acknowledging those pieces as parts of your whole self - still very much you, but hidden away for one reason or another. Working with your shadow self is a practice of working with your unconscious mind to uncover the exiled parts of yourself that you have repressed and hidden from yourself in order to fully accept all parts of your being, heal, and grow.
The purpose of this work is to seek out and solidify the connection between your mind, body, and soul. Our shadow parts live within the unconscious – they are separate from our ego and our conscious mind. They show up in moments of fear, limiting beliefs, and relationships - often without us realizing that they have taken control. By bringing our shadow self into the light, we give ourselves the opportunity to heal. If we do not put in the work, we will stay consciously unaware – living in perpetual stagnancy and reacting to situations rather than responding with intention. This part of your healing journey is essential to truly manifest the life you desire to create. Until you shine light on your shadows and tap into what’s underneath the limitations, you will continue to operate via old programming and coping mechanisms.
Our shadows develop throughout our lifetime, typically stemming from childhood experiences. They may even be passed down from intergenerational and ancestral trauma. Shadows may manifest themselves as codependency, self sabotage, addiction, an inability to set or keep boundaries, etc. If you continue to live tainted by the shadows of your past, you will not allow yourself to grow beyond your limiting beliefs. Typically, we as humans shy away from the discomfort of facing our darkness – we naturally try to distract ourselves from any form of negativity. However, it is important to know that facing and working with our shadows, we are provided with unparalleled freedom through the growth that is born from that very discomfort.
Tapping into this work
You must feel to heal. In order to tap into your shadows, you must be prepared to fully face and release all that comes up for you throughout the process without judgement. It requires bringing honest and radical awareness to the patterns that need breaking. The habits that hold you back from flourishing in the present moment. The goal of shadow work is to discover who you are at your core and live a more authentic life – one where you navigate through the darkness to transform and free yourself all that you are not. The more intentional, present, and in touch you are with your inner dialogue, the more effective you will be at working through the shadows. Keep in mind, this is a lifelong process – shadows will continue to surface throughout the years. Shadow work is not meant to eliminate the dark parts of you, but rather teach you how to flip the script of your life and integrate those lessons learned to continue evolving into an even more authentic version of yourself.
Personally, tapping into this work has allowed me to better self-identify. To take responsibility for who I am, and how I show up in this world every single day. I have worked through many of my own deep rooted unconscious blocks – the underlying emotions and triggers that I couldn’t quite make sense of. This work has led me on a journey to helping clients to peel back their own layers. To look at why they feel unfulfilled, and identify what past experiences may be blocking them from achieving their goals in life. Together we look at the habits and patterns they have written into their stories and dig deeper into the ones that are no longer serving them. Through this process, they befriend their shadow self, work through the trauma, and ultimately rewrite their stories to move forward with confidence and authenticity. By aligning themselves with their goals they are able to enter fully into the life they desire.
What are the benefits?
Gain more self awareness – why do you do the things you do?
Teaches you boundaries – to prevent adding more shadows
Heal intergenerational/ancestral trauma – allows you to write new stories for future generations
Develop healthy coping mechanisms – learn to respond, not react
Be in connection with your mind, body, and soul – to provide a sense of wholeness from within
Shadow Repression Consequences
Avoidance of our shadows is a learned self-preservation technique. Living in fear of your exiled parts is synonymous with living in fear of your truth. When you don’t confront what’s hurting you, you’re actually hurting yourself more. This is a perpetual cycle as a result of repression that causes a progressive build-up of discomfort.
Spoiler alert: we are not here to live comfortable lives. We are meant to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If we are never pushed out of our comfort zones, we would never grow and progress forward. The ability to see and be seen as the raw, unfiltered versions of ourselves is powerful and freeing for our souls. When we keep the darkness at bay, hidden from the light, we’re telling ourselves that we are not worthy because those parts are still very much pieces of us as a whole. By ignoring those pieces and deeming them unworthy of attention, we are reaffirming the belief that we are not worthy of unconditional love. The true consequence of shadow repression is believing that any part of who you are, is not good enough. When you shine light on your shadows and work through them consciously, with compassion for self, they diffuse. Our shadows are only scary if we keep them in the dark. Fear itself is far more unbearable than facing and healing our dark parts. In the process of identifying and making peace with your shadows, you are allowing yourself to grow beyond any limits you may have placed on yourself in the past.
If you have been struggling to bring about lasting, impactful change, then it may be time to get working on your shadow self. To explore your limiting beliefs and identify any areas you may be holding yourself back from living the life you want to life. Though you may know how to level up, until you tap into your unconscious mind, you will not transform your life. You have to do the work.
Here is a Shadow Work Test to help kickstart your journey:
Who am I?
What do I want?
What do I have to let go of, to get the things I desire?
Who do I have to become, to receive those things?
How do I want to show up?
If you're looking for guidance on how to tap into your shadow self and the unconscious mind, reach out today for a free consultation! Let's talk about how a holistic health coach can help you to live your happiest and healthiest life yet.
Or, if you’re looking to dive a little deeper on your own first, check out my Top Ten Shadow Work Prompts blog.