Understanding and Honoring The Shadow Self
What Is The Shadow Self?
We are all a sum of many parts. While we all have the “light” parts of ourselves, we also have the “dark” parts of ourselves, or the “shadow self”, that formulates our unconscious thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. These unconscious parts often derive from our past experiences, memories or trauma associated with feelings of pain, sorrow, frustration, grief, or anger.
Oftentimes when we operate from our shadow self, we unconsciously operate from our old patterns and past conditioning. Our shadow self can show up in a multitude of ways – within our relationships, when our emotions feel “triggered” by a specific circumstance, or when our nervous system is operating from a place of fear, anxiety or depression.
What Is Shadow Work?
Shadow work involves digging into the roots of our patterns and getting in touch with certain parts of ourselves that we’ve either consciously or unconsciously repressed. When our shadow self shows up, we may carry resistance, tension or a negative perception towards it. However, these feelings that surface are neither good nor bad. They are simply emotions – energy in motion – attempting to move through us to release, heal and transform stagnant energy within the body.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung
Why Is Shadow Work Important?
Shadow work invites us to embrace all parts of ourselves with compassion and realize that we are not our past conditioning, beliefs or behaviors. The more we meet and understand our shadow self, the more we integrate and embody our most authentic self. With this higher awareness, we open ourselves up to the abundance of lessons our shadow self has to offer for us to heal and grow.
“By opening up to the shadow that you were previously resisting, you can see how your thoughts and feelings influence your behavior and create your reality. You empower yourself as you take responsibility for your projections.” – Akua Boateng
How Do I Begin Shadow Work?
The first step to shadow work is simply awareness. Even reading this article will help make the unconscious conscious, where you can begin to take the necessary steps to support, sooth and integrate all parts of your nervous system.
There are countless ways to practice shadow work – breathwork and meditation, conscious and unconscious movement, affirmations, past life regressions, journaling, therapeutic practices – practically anything that cultivates a higher perspective of yourself and your life. There is no right or wrong way to practice shadow work. Everyone’s story is different, and therefore anything you personally do to connect with your whole self, matters.
Two examples of shadow work could look like:
- Meditation: create space to be still. Be a mindful observer of your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
- Journaling: reflect on your day to day encounters and interactions. How did you react or respond? How did you feel? How did you speak to others? What were your triggers? What were your projections?
As you move through your days, try inviting more conscious awareness into your relationship dynamics, habitual patterns, and emotional triggers. Reflect on your lived experiences and practice being the witness of yourself through your “light” and “dark” parts. The more accepting we are of our whole self, the more space we create to fully embody our true, authentic expression.
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