What is Shadow Work? • Angelica Horvatic
“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are. “( Robin Williams )
When, at the end of his life, Carl Jung was asked if there was a hope for humanity, his answer was:“
Only if enough individuals on this planet do the inner Shadow work. One does not become enlightened by imaging figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular. “
What is Our “Shadow Work?”
SHADOW represents our darker half – everything about us that we try to deny or hide from each other and our own self – hate, rage, shame, guilt, blame, fear, jealousy, envy, selfishness and so on.
From the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night, we put on emotional masks we feel we need to wear in order to go about our day, to be able to meet our professional and personal goals and – ‘live our dreams’…
In the meantime our parents are getting sick, our grandparents are dying, our children are getting bullied, we ourselves are going through divorces, our best friends are getting diagnosed with the cancer…….
Yet – ‘We are fine, life goes on’ – we keep on smiling…
Why do we try SO hard to hide from our shadow?
Most of us were raised with the notion that children were to be seen and not heard, which implied a certain behavior standard, especially in the company of adults.
From the day we were born most of our caretakers have praised us only when we were ‘behaving’. Light side of our personality was the only one accepted and celebrated.
We were shamed and/or punished as kids every time we felt scared, angry, jealous, sad – whenever we have ‘misbehaved’.
All our painful emotions were put in the ‘negative emotions’ box which we never felt safe enough to open and fully explore.
And because as children we weren’t able to express our thoughts, emotions, problems or conflicts by play, gestures, sounds or language – we then grew up into sad, depressed, angry, scared adults with fake smiles who always feel ‘FINE’.
By the time we have reached our adulthood, we got so uncomfortable with our negative emotions that we started doing ANYTHING to be able to run away from our shadow – whether that is by eating, drinking, taking drugs, having sex, watching TV, climbing mountains, internet surfing or practicing yoga.
The ‘most spiritual’ adults amongst us are trying to escape their shadow aspects by claiming and ‘proving’ the world they are Connected with The Source, and they always feel ONLY a pure love, light, selflessness and peace – and NEVER the negative emotions. :p
‘ Spiritual bypassing is the Art of using our spiritual beliefs to avoid facing or healing one’s painful feelings, unresolved wounds and unmet needs. It is a State of AVOIDANCE. Because it is a state of avoidance, it is a state of RESISTANCE. Spiritual Bypassing is the Shadow Side of Spirituality.’ ( Teal Swan )
But as our fear of shadow is never too far and it keeps lurking behind even our brightest life moments – when the genie finally jumps out of the bottle – it is, unfortunately, too often – TOO LATE.
Too Late to Run Away and also Too Late to Fix our ‘sudden’ Problem.
We come to the stage of our life where we feel absolutely incapable to deal with our issues.
We then break down, mentally and emotionally.
We then get terminally or chronically ill.
And the worst about it – when our shadow strikes and our masks finally fall off – in this world which sells and promotes Happiness and Positive Focus – we NOW feel totally and utterly ALONE with our PAIN.
How can we practice owning our shadow?
We can start shadow work by accessing ALL our emotions, including the ‘negative’ ones.
We need to first acknowledge and accept the fact – No Emotion is Wrong or Bad.
To access our emotions best is to lie down, close our eyes, breathe deep and ask ourselves these questions:
- What am I feeling right now?
- Where is that feeling / sensation / emotion in my body?
- What is the reason I feel this way?
- Who or what is making me feel this way?
- When was the last time I felt this way?
- When was the first time I felt this way?
Be PATIENT – allow whatever comes up and try to stay ( at least for a bit ) with your uncomfortable emotions.
Next step would be to notice and observe the ongoing patterns in our life that don’t make us feel good. This could be our frequent arguments with the partner or our strong negative reactions with our children or our parents.
We can use the same questions (listed just above) for accessing our negative emotions. Or try a few new ones.
Questions to get to our shadow beliefs
- When the person is treating me this way, what does that mean for me?
- What would that mean if it would be true?
- What else…..?
Some common shadow beliefs
- Something is wrong with me.
- I am not worthy.
- I am unlovable.
- I am not good enough.
- Nobody cares about me.
Useful shadow work tools
Diary – daily writing down everything and anything that we FEEL, think, notice, observe
Letters – writing down everything we feel, to the person we are in the conflict with ( we don’t need to actually send the letter! )
Inner Child Work – as it’s a very broad topic please read my previous article about it.
Meditation – access your darkest emotions, stay with them, FEEL them, breathe into them and observe what happens
Art – some of the best art pieces out there wouldn’t be created if it wasn’t for our shadow! Feel your dark emotions, explore them, draw them, paint them, sculpt them, write about them, sing, move, dance – CREATE…..!
Let us Acknowledge, Claim and Understand our Deepest Darkness.
Let us Accept and Validate our Negative Emotions.
Let us Dare to Sit and Stare at our own Shadow.
Because as long as there is the Sun shining – There Will be the Shadow following it.
And because one of the most painful but also MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCES IN LIFE IS – Being able to LOOK IN THE MIRROR and SEE Who We Truly ARE ( NOT who we would like to be ).
And that, my friends, is the place of our true PEACE and HEALING.
Conquer your mountain! ?