Author: Amanda Roudels
What is the shadow? The term was coined by Jung to describe hidden aspects of yourself that lay within your unconscious (or subconscious) mind. We all have a shadow. It is created by our Ego to ensure that we can live within the constructs of social and societal norms and survive. The philosophy behind understanding your shadow is the integration of all your thoughts, emotions, and desires so that you can live in a place where you create the life you truly want. You may recognize your shadow trying to come to the surface if your thoughts don’t seem to align with your emotions or actions.
The dark aspects of your shadow are the sides of yourself you may consider “bad”. This can include anything from anger, lust, violence, sadness, depression, etc.
There a misconception that your shadow is JUST the dark parts of yourself. I don’t necessarily believe that shadows are entirely “dark”. There are a lot of beneficial aspects that can be suppressed as well. When I was little, I very much enjoyed expressing my self in a goofy and silly manner. My parents did not appreciate this at all. They were very stern, practical, and intelligence focused. From a young age, I learned to suppress that goofy aspect of me in order to avoid punishment and fit in with my family unit. My Ego was protecting me. In order to get love and acceptance, this needed to be suppressed. SO, my point to this is that shadow work isn’t all about demons and darkness like some portray it to be.
Figuring out yourself is a lifelong process for most of us. Below are some of the techniques that I utilized to bring the aspects of my shadow to light.
Judgments can be seen as a projection of some aspect of our subconscious outwardly toward another. Judgment journaling is pretty self-explanatory. When I first started this, I literally walked around with a small pocket notebook and wrote down every time I noticed myself judging someone else.
You don’t have to analyze the why behind these experiences right away. Just bringing them to light is a start. Some of the reasons will be easy to deduce, others may take time. Don’t put yourself in a place where you get frustrated if you can’t figure out the reasons right away, because if you do this you may just be contributing more to your shadow! Write them down and revisit them further along your journey. You may surprise yourself.
I’ll give you an example of how one of these played out for me. There was a woman I worked with that was very stern, loud and authoritarian. Every time I was around her I would find myself thinking “I can’t stand this woman, she is a (insert swear word)”. After I noticed this judgment, I realized subconsciously I was mad at this woman because I had problems asserting myself and being confident doing so.
Don’t be ashamed of your dark thoughts. Have you ever thought about hurting or killing someone? Well, surprise- we all have! The social paradigm tells us we are wrong to think things like this. We need help if we have these thoughts, so we push them deep into our shadow. Jung believed that if you suppress these aspects too much, they can come to the surface in very dangerous ways.
If you have a dark thought let yourself know this is entirely normal, there is nothing wrong with it! Grasp the fact that you do have the ability to act out these desires if you choose. Don’t say, oh I could never harm a fly… Yes, you easily could! In fact, you could probably easily harm anything you choose if you wanted to. YOU chose not to. It’s not because of society or what your parents taught you, it’s your choice.
Have you ever had an emotional reaction and afterward you felt very shameful about it? You can’t understand why you acted that way? Or even more confusing, you feel something you don’t understand that may seem even unprovoked? Part of shadow work is to not brush these experiences off.
Most people are trained to feel shame when they experience emotions they don’t understand. They are programmed by society from a young age to think if they don’t react in the right way this is not normal, there’s something wrong with me. This is an awful paradigm that grows the shadow. I started replacing these thoughts with thank you. I may not understand right this second why this is happening, but I know my body and subconscious are coming from a place of self-protection.
During my meditations, I will revisit situations through visualization. I pay close attention to how my body feels. I will ask myself to re-visit other times in my memory I felt this emotion or had this reaction. The goal is to get to the root, or first experience that this stemmed from and understand why.
Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a root cause. Using the way our body is wired to explore can be interesting. Your emotions are tied into the right side of your brain. I will focus on the emotion during my meditation (say fear), and although I am right-handed, I will write down every thought connected to fear with my left-hand. Using your left hand will activate the right side of your brain and help you to bypass the left logical aspects.
I’ll share with you one very personal experience I had with this in my life. I was one of those people that self-sabotaged good relationships. Everything would be going so well, and I would start flipping out. I would get angry and fight for no real reason. I would find every little thing wrong with the other person and nitpick them. When I started exploring this shadow, I came to the realization that these reactions stemmed from some major childhood trauma. My parents had a volatile relationship and my mother left when I was two years old. My stepmother suffered from bi-polar disorder and ended up committing suicide when I was 17. I realized my Ego concluded that love for me was attached to this suppressed subconscious pain. In order to protect myself from feeling the pain of loss. My Ego would create reasons for me to leave before I got to attached and again, wound up being left by someone I loved.
I could probably write an entire book on the paradigms that contribute to our shadows. I wanted to just touch on starting the process because once you accept all sides of yourself I truly believe you can start to figure out and live your purpose. I know people shy away from the real aspects of this topic, but I encourage everyone to share. The more we accept and share our shadow aspects, the more social paradigms we break, the smaller our collective shadow gets. I encourage everyone to study Jung!
Written by: Amanda Roudels