Today is Part 1. Check out Part II here.
Shadow work is very important work that is often confused, misrepresented, and feared by people.
Shadow work does not mean indulging in your worst desires and fantasies, it doesn’t mean that you let them take you over.
The fact is that your unconscious pains, grudges, fears, and impulses are ALREADY running the show from the background, from the shadow. By shining light onto these things, we do what Carl Jung refers to as “making the unconscious conscious” – a pivotal process in individuation.
By recognizing, acknowledging, and giving voice to that which is ugly and shameful in yourself, you may find that these things lose their power to control patterns of behavior and therefore your life.
Creative work is shadow work
Many of us already do shadow work as we create music, art, and writing. However, there are some issues with this if it is your only shadow work practice.
First, we do not want to necessarily spread our most disgusting and painful experiences into the wider world without transmuting them into something more productive first. Some people might want to do that for expressive or ideological reasons, and that is fine. For myself, I like to express painful or hateful things with a more conscientious approach.
Second, most of us do this rather subconsciously, or without the necessary clarity of approach needed for “deep” shadow work. We might not explore every internal hiding spot we need to. We may still be worried about what others will think of us.
For example, in black metal it is very common for people do try to say the most vulgar and blasphemous things they can think of. But its not necessarily because they truly feel that way, but because they want to fit in with other people doing that same thing. This is not “shadow work” because it does not originate in your personal shadow.
Loss of control versus gaining control
This practice can be quite intense, and you may feel that you are “losing control” of your emotions.
Literally SO MUCH addiction, ignoring of reality, and escapism is caused by this fear of actually feeling your feelings.
Your feelings are likely messy, and you probably have years of anger and grief and loss bottled inside of every cell in your body. Stressing you, aging you, draining you, and you may or may not even be aware of it.
You have to look at it face on. If you stare into it, it will dissolve with the light of your conscious acceptance and perception.
We are taught to be civilized, controlled, quiet, calm, accepting, loving – at all costs. At the cost of honesty and self-preservation. At the cost of loving and accepting and honoring ourselves.
We do not have to lose our socialization, we do not have to become psychotic. But we do have to be aware and “okay” with our own “not-okayness”. It is there.
Zack Delaroche of Rage Against the Machine said, “Your Anger is A Gift”. And at times it very much is. Anger is what protects us, it is what drives us to defend our loved ones. However, anger is a secondary emotion – the primary ones often being fear, grief, abandonment, disappointment, sorrow.
These “softer” emotions make us feel vulnerable. Anger is a weapon. Anger is armor. Anger is often the most socially acceptable expression of these primary emotions, especially for men. Men aren’t supposed to cry, so men punch walls (and sometimes their loved ones).
There’s a good article called The Anger Iceberg here.
Shadow work is meant to help us express our anger and the primary emotions that lead to it in a healthy manner – and then get on with life.
There is no such thing as bottling an emotion
Bottled emotions always bubble up, sometimes when you least suspect. The abandoned lover or neglected child soon becomes the addict, the person flying into a rage at the deli clerk, the abuser. Hurt people hurt people. Unless they acknowledge the wound and work to heal it.
There is no way to “ignore” yourself to psychological health.
How to do Shadow work
In Part II, I will talk about therapy and Morning Pages as regular Shadow Work practices. In addition to these methods, I do a dedicated and specific shadow work practice.
I do shadow work like this:
Find a time when you are alone and will not be disturbed for some time. This process can be very quick or very long, and it is normal to cry and scream. Don’t be afraid of this.
Plan to be a little exhausted, so if you have chores or meal preparation or anything to do, try to do it beforehand.
Get some scrap paper, or whatever you prefer writing with. We will be burning or flushing or tearing the paper into shreds afterwards so you do not need anything fancy.
Make yourself comfortable. Grab a tea if that soothes you. You may want to light a candle.
Next, dig deep in yourself.
Let yourself acknowledge the fear, anger, hatred and sorrow in your heart.
Are you still grieving the loss of a person, relationship or job? What still hurts you that happened a long time ago? Do you have lingering guilt for something you did to hurt someone else?
No one will ever see this. This is between you and God/your higher self/your subconscious.
Scream your heart out onto the paper. Deeply.
Feel the pain. Feel the loathing of self and others.
Write over and over on top of the older words. Let your paper get black with the things you have held inside out of politeness, out of the desire for sanity, out of the wish for peace, out of shame.
Do this until you become exhausted.
Look at what you have written, focus on what your body feels now.
You may feel disturbed at what you have written. That is ok. It was inside of you, eating you up anyways. This information is not “new”. It was already there. Now you are aware of it, and if you are aware of it, that means you can do something about it.
Say thank you for the insight, thank you to these thoughts for trying to protect you. Thank you that you are alive and capable of feeling and change.
Now rip up the paper, burn it, flush it, bury it – however you want to “let it go”.
Now try to pamper and comfort yourself. Relax and rest.
How do you feel?
I like to do this on a semi-regular basis, maybe 2-3 times a year.
Check out Part II tomorrow!
If you have any questions do not hesitate to comment below.
Thanks for reading!
~ Blessed Be and Happy Creating ~
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