Having embarked on a journey of self-discovery and personal development for approximately 27 years, I have frequently encountered the concept of shadow work. However, it’s only in recent months that I’ve begun delving deeper into it. In this blog post, I look at why shadow work is important and how I practice it.
I should state for the record that I am not an expert in shadow work. I am merely sharing my personal experience.
The Importance of Shadow Work
I’ve come to realise that it’s important for me embrace all aspects of myself, including the parts I don’t like. I need to learn to love all of me, including my flaws. This is essential in achieving self-esteem.
Whenever I used to think of my shadow, I always thought of anger. Recently I had an aha moment when I realised that anything that causes me to feel emotional pain is part of my shadow, and that includes fear and low self-esteem.
All so called negative parts of me have a positive side. Shadow work enables me to express the parts of me that I might otherwise want to repress in healthy ways. If I don’t learn to express these so-called negative parts of myself in healthy ways, I will express them in unhealthy ways.
When I embrace the darker aspects of my personality, I can harness it and alchemise it.
“Shadow work is the sacred alchemy of seeing all of ourselves as Divine and worthy of love.
It is learning to use discernment to connect with our inner wisdom and remember what is true for us and what aligns with our true self.” – Massage Studio Jordan
Shadow work helps me to love myself and contributes to my continued growth and transformation.
How I do Shadow Work
I recently attended a Heart IQ retreat with Christian Pankhurst, where we practiced some shadow work. Apart from that I am mainly self-taught.
A few years ago I read The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. While it was very interesting and provided many insights, I felt overwhelmed by what I perceived to be complex exercises to alchemise the shadow. I prefer to keep things simple.
Feel the Feels
My first tip for shadow work is to feel the feels; fully embrace the whole spectrum of emotions and feel the pain.
One way I do this is with somatic tracking. I notice what I am feeling and where I am feeling it in my body.
Another technique that I learned from The Greatest Secret by Rhonda Bhyrne, is to notice the feeling and welcome it. If I am aware that a feeling or a memory is making me feel uncomfortable, this is the perfect time to practice this. I find this works particularly well for embarrassment, shame, and guilt.
I say to myself “I welcome this feeling of X, eg. guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger, fear, stress, anxiety etc and I notice it flowing through my body”. This can also be used in conjunction with somatic tracking. If it is appropriate, I will put my hands up in a welcoming embrace to demonstrate to the Universe that I am open to these feelings.
It’s important for me to recognise any shame I feel about my shadow and transcend it, otherwise it can be a self-perpetuating cycle. Brene Brown suggests one way to do this is to share our shame story with a friend. It’s important that friend is someone we trust and who won’t judge us.
I believe that fully feeling the feelings is always the first step in any healing journey.
Exploring the Shadow
Exploring the uncomfortable feelings through journalling and mediation can be helpful. I often do this when I am practicing my Buddhist chanting. In his book Boddhisatva Blues, Edward Canfor Dumas calls it truffle hunting.
Another way I know that I need to address my shadow side is when I am triggered. I explore why I feel like this. If someone has done something that triggers me, I look at the reasons why.
One of my mentors, Jason Goldberg, says that when someone triggers us it’s because either they are doing something we do that we wish we didn’t, they are doing something we don’t do, that we wish we did, or they are doing something that conflicts with our values. I would add here that it can also be due to someone overstepping our boundaries.
Once I’ve established the reasons why I feel like this I can decide how to proceed. It may be that I need to take action or speak my truth. It maybe, in this instance, I need to let it go.
Making friends with our shadow
Something I find helpful to is make friends with my shadow or fundamental darkness, as we call it in the Buddhism I practice. One way I do this is to go into a meditative state and picture the feeling. I notice where I feel it in my body and I ask what it wants from me.
I recently did this when fear came up. Surprisingly I saw a Gollum like creature crouched in the corner, with long stringy, greasy hair. I reached out my arms to her and held her in my embrace. As she sat in my lap, she turned into my inner child, and I stroked and kissed her hair.
I asked her what she wanted, and she told me that she wanted me to keep her safe.
As you can see, shadow work is essential for our personal growth, mental health, and self-esteem. What’s your experience of shadow work? Have you found healthy ways to express your feelings? Let me know in the comments or in the Happiness Club Facebook group.
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