Human Behaviour for me is a bit like travel – the more I see the more I want to learn and explore!
Like … why do so many women seem to consistently attract the ‘wrong guy’?
Or … why do so many women feel too afraid to make change in their lives?
Or ….. why do they struggle so much with self acceptance?
Shadow Work is the perfect tool to help you answer all these questions. So let’s unpack what is shadow work and how you can get started, so you can answer these (and more) questions for your own life.
The concept of the Shadow is credited toward famous Psychologist, Carl Jung from back in the early 1900’s, and he defined it as ‘the thing a person has no wish to be’. But the concept of shadows has been around for a lot longer.
It’s the parts of ourselves that we tend to ignore, push away or deny – both positive and negative.
We do this in an effort to adapt to society and fit in, to stay safe and have our needs met. These traits or shadows are all the things that we believe’ll make us bad or unacceptable if we owned them or acknowledged them.
And i’ll share a few examples further below.
We can try to deny these qualities in us but we can’t get rid of them. And the more we deny, repress or avoid them, the deeper buried they become and the more control they have over us. We often bury them so deeply that we have no idea these parts of us exist.
Those parts that we ignore, push away or deny – when we see those in other people it triggers us. And that is us projecting these shadow parts onto others, because we don’t feel safe enough in our nervous system to own these traits.
These traits can be “negative” (our dark shadow) or positive (our golden shadow).
As an example:
Your partner gets really angry at someone while driving. He swears and raises his voice.
You feel triggered
You have a reaction in your body.
You might feel a bit hot, feel your heart rate increase, you might get angry at him yourself.
You think something like “he shouldn’t do that, it’s so rude” and even express that anger towards him.
The shadow that’s playing out here is you not owning your ANGER.
And that could have been because as a child you got in trouble for showing anger. Which is pretty normal right, because especially as women (or those socialised as women) we’re taught that anger isn’t nice.
But it’s just an emotion and a valid one.
One that we should be allowed to express safely (yell, hit a pillow, whatever). But again because anger isn’t necessarily socially acceptable, we repress it – and then it shows up as projections like in this example.
If you owned your anger, if your partner did this while driving – it wouldn’t trigger you.
Here’s another example:
My Shadow work teacher pointed out one of my shadows a while back around money.
For a long time i’d been actively trying NOT to have a relationship with money like my dad used to. I’d say out loud – I don’t want to end up like him, Always scared there’s not enough and just worried about it all the time. Guess what I was creating!
While I was busy trying NOT to end up like “that” – I was disowning my own feelings of WORRY and SCARED. I’m slowly learning to own them now but it aint perfect that’s for sure.
These two examples are of dark shadows playing out.
But what about golden shadow?
Say you grew up in a family that really valued academic studies, hard work and “suitable careers” but you had a huge creative part to you and desperately wanted to be an artist or designer.
You might have disowned that creative side of you because you didn’t feel safe to own it in that academic household.
I worked with a client recently who told me he wasn’t a good leader and wasn’t sure about progressing his career because he didn’t feel confident enough. I asked him to tell me about the 3 people he admired the most and their top 3 traits. Guess what they were – yup – they were kick ass leaders, and confident AF.
And so I told him, you have those traits in you, you’re just now owning them.
Other traits that could be in your golden shadow are intelligence, expressive, lovable and so on.
And while these traits, these shadows stay repressed, ignored or denied they hold us back in every area of life.
But when we explore our Shadows, and integrate them:
- We can heal
- Become more self-aware
- Create better relationships
- Be more accepting of others and ourselves
- Create self love
- Begin to stop repeating patterns of self-sabotage
And we integrate them by first creating a shift. By meeting those parts/those shadows, by unpacking them and understanding them.
We then look for the gift in the shadow. This really brings the shadow into the light – because they all have a gift.
Take selfish for example – we’re told it’s bad to be selfish. But the gift in being selfish is that we can put boundaries in place, that we can perhaps say no to things, that we have self care and don’t deplete all our energy being self-less.
And finally we integrate by owning the trait/the shadow. Which could be simply sharing with someone or embodying the part with action.
I want to be clear here though, Shadow work (like any coaching modality or therapy) isn’t about becoming this perfect human who never gets angry or triggered, and eliminating all our flaws, its about embracing ourselves and others.
It can also be uncomfortable AF, and there may be parts of you – some of your shadows that you’re not willing to explore and that’s okay. BUT if you’re willing to go there it can be so so freeing.
Something practical you can today is reflect on what parts of yourself you tend to avoid or dislike – maybe it’s your anger, your bossiness, or maybe it’s your intelligence.
- Make a list of the traits.
- Then grab a journal out and with curiosity and compassion, and without judgement, write how this shows up in your life, where you might judge other people with that trait (remember, the dark and the golden shadows – the so called negative and positive) ….. that’ll begin to create some awareness around your Shadows.
And if you’d like more support in creating self-acceptance, in healing, in creating better relationships, contact me here.