The Meaning of Shadow Work in Spirituality and How To Do It

Shadow Work involves deep introspection during which you examine the parts of yourself that you have rejected, learn why you have rejected them, and learn to accept them.
Miguel Angel
October 12, 2021
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What is The Shadow?

The shadow is the part of us that we hide from others – and often – ourselves. The shadow is a manifestation of repressed behaviors, memories, traumas, thoughts, feelings, truths, beliefs, intuitions, and fears.

In other words, the shadow is your inner demon, the demon that lives deep within your subconscious mind. And it is part of you, whether you accept it or not. The longer you ignore it, the angrier it becomes, and the more it eats away at you, poisoning your experiences and behaviors.

How is The Shadow formed?

The shadow forms when we experience thoughts, feelings, or events that are either traumatic or very confusing to us.

For example, you may have been teased for certain behaviors when you were a child. If the teasing hurt you enough to change your behaviors, those behaviors were added to your shadow.

You may be in possession of dark secrets, about others or yourself, that you choose to ignore. Those secrets are also part of your shadow.

You may have experienced great traumas in your life that have left you shaken and stuck in negative cycles. Perhaps you feel unloved or unworthy, so you seek validation from others through harmful ways. That is your shadow manifesting itself into your life.

What is the meaning of Shadow Work?

Let me ask you a question. Does this sound like you?

When you first began to spiritually awaken, you felt a feeling unlike anything you’ve ever felt. Then, you began to search for information about what was happening to you. You found spiritual communities, and began connecting with like-minded individuals and spiritual teachers.

You learned about consciousness, the divine, the light, and love. You began your journey and started learning how to love others, love yourself, and heal wounds and maladaptive behaviors.

But something is missing. You still feel broken. You are still afraid – but you may not even know of what. You’re still stuck. You’re still repeating negative cycles over and other again. Something still isn’t right.

That is because you are, in fact, missing something.  Most spiritual communities and teachers do not talk about one of the most important parts of spiritual transformation and healing – shadow work.

Shadow work is a process of deep introspection in which you examine the parts of yourself that you have rejected, learn why you have rejected them, and learn to accept them.

In other words, shadow work is integrating your shadow into your self. Only after you integrate your shadow can you become whole and begin to heal. Only after integrating your shadow can you pick up the pieces and put your heart back together. Only after integrating your shadow can you learn to fully love yourself and others.

How do you do Shadow Work?

Shadow work involves a lot of introspection and can be very frightening. The truth is that most people are not ready for shadow work. They are not ready to come face-to-face with their greatest disappointments and fears. They are not ready for true self-discovery. But the longer they keep the shadow hidden, the stronger it becomes and the more it will overpower them.

Shadow work begins with being present in the moment and watching your thoughts and feelings objectively, as if you were someone else. Here’s how:

When a negative thought or feeling pops into your mind, identify it. Then, ask yourself these questions:

  • What situation triggered this thought or feeling?
  • Where and when did I first think or feel that?
  • Are these someone else's words or my own?
  • How did I cope with this thought or feeling?
  • Did I take it out on others or myself?
  • Do I feel like I deserve punishment?

You will find that you cannot control your thoughts or feelings, but you can control how you react to them. While this realization alone is greatly empowering, it is only the surface.

Shadow work is not easy, and requires a consistent effort. You will examine your entire life and your darkest memories. You will travel inwards and unpack parts of yourself that you have hidden for years or even decades.

There are many ways to reflect on your feelings and thoughts in order to get a better understanding of yourself. Through evaluating how you react to situations, which situations upset you, and how you managed those feelings, you’re able to build the foundation to understanding your emotions and bridge the gap between your subconscious and conscious mind.

After deep reflection, you will find that your negative emotions and behaviors are manifestations of unhealed wounds and traumas that weigh on your psyche. To begin healing these wounds and traumas, you must learn the root causes of your pain, and learn how to accept the things that people have done to you and the things that you have done to others.

Shadow work can bring up a lot of repressed memories and feelings. It should not be done if you feel unstable or are going through an especially difficult time in your life.

If you feel ready, here are some ways you can proceed:

Journaling

Journaling is an incredibly powerful form of shadow work because our minds subconsciously process and detangle information when we write it down.

You can journal using a word document on your computer, the notes app on your phone, or a physical journal. Record your negative thoughts, feelings, and how you reacted to them. Then, try to identify the source of these thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself the same questions that I posted earlier in this blog post.

You can also write letters to people that have hurt you. You can write them hate mail! Just don’t send it. 😊

If you are feeling brave, you can try writing down in great detail what happened during your traumas. While this can be very painful at first, it can be incredibly healing in the end.

In truth, you should write what feels best to you. You should write what brings you the most understanding and relief. Sometimes, just venting can be deeply healing.

Healing your inner child

Most of our personality is created in our young formative years, before we could even think or fend for ourselves. As children, our mind gets filled with whatever other people tell us about ourselves, others, and the world.

As adults, it is our job to unwind our beliefs and examine how they are affecting our behaviors. By doing so, you will find that many of your negative beliefs and behaviors were learned during childhood.

You may think negatively about yourself because your parents or friends taught you to think that way.

If any events from your childhood make you heated or upset, you should examine them. Every time something traumatic happens in our lives, we leave a piece of ourselves behind. Only through shadow work can we pick these pieces up and reclaim our energy.

To heal past traumas, you must provide closure to your past self. Healing your inner child means providing closure to and being there for your inner child.

Healing your inner child begins with starting a conversation with herself or himself. If you do not know how to speak to your inner child, do this:

Think about yourself in your childhood. What did you look like? What did you like? What did you want to be when you grew up? What memories can you bring up?

Once you have that image of yourself in your mind, say “Hi, I’m you, from the future. How are you?”

If you speak to your inner child, she or he will talk back to you.

“I am hurt. I am in pain. I am scared. I do not know if I will be okay.”

Listen to your inner child. Tell your inner child that you are present, that you are there for them, that they have someone they can rely on. Answer their questions. Tell them where you are now, and tell them of the positive things in your life. Tell them what you are grateful of, and of the good things that they can look forward to. Explain to them why things happened the way they did and tell them that things will be OK. Tell them that you have made it, so they will too. Be the person that they needed back then.

By giving you inner child closure, you will begin to heal from the negative experiences of your childhood. You will release the negativity that your inner child has been holding on to, and allow them to move on.

By doing so, you pick up the pieces that your inner child has left behind, these shards of your shadow, and integrate them into yourself.

Your inner child will thank you.

Getting outside help

During shadow work you will feel sadness, grief, anger, pain, disgust – every negative emotion that you can imagine. You may even get stuck in low vibrational states, and feel like you are sliding backwards.

But that is okay. Negative emotions or low vibrational states are not intrinsically bad. The life, the self, and the universe – are all made up of both light and dark.

But sometimes it can be too hard to experience the dark alone.

And that is okay as well. You may seek a mentor, therapist, or spiritual guide for help. There is no reason to be embarrassed. Everyone has a shadow, and some of us carry wounds too deep for us to handle without help.

Having someone guide you through the dark and steer you towards the light can be very beneficial. While you are the only person that can heal yourself, others can teach you how. There are even more ways to do shadow work than we discuss in this blog post. Shadow work is a very deep and difficult process and there are many ways to go about it. If you are interested in getting help with shadow work, my Golden Illumination Healing Package may be of interest to you. Click here to check it out.

Any way that you proceed with shadow work, understand that healing is a long-term commitment.

There is no end date or ultimate goal in healing. There is no way that you can honestly say “I am healed completely and will never again need healing.” But, certainly, if you have read this blog post this far, your life could be improved. You can become more whole than you are now. You can become more healed.

Conclusion

You can only reach the heavens if you have reached through hell. And you can only heal if you clean the wound. To do shadow work is to integrate the dark parts of yourself that you have kept hidden away. Only then can you see the light. As above, so below.

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