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  • Writer's pictureRuth Cato

Shadow Work.

What is the shadow?

Everyone has a shadow. Jungian psychotherapists would say the shadow starts with the birth of the ego which is our earliest conditioning, around 2 years old and by age 4 we have an idea of who we should be and who we shouldn’t so the shadow has been formed. What does not fit the ego becomes shadow. Jung said the shadow is merely the person I’d rather not be. It’s what doesn’t fit our ego ideal of who we are. We are conditioned to believe that some characteristics are not ok. The shadow then forms out of these characteristics, that person we’d rather not be. It can become so enormous our shadow can act like a sub person so the importance of recognising it is not to be understated, t comprises a great deal of who we are. You can’t work on being whole if you don’t account for this large proportion of who you are – it brings you more into account; more on course, more into flow.

We cannot directly see our own shadow, it’s just at the threshold of consciousness. I see the parallels here with shamanic work because some translate a 'shaman' as one who can see in the dark.

Remember this is us rejecting these large parts of ourselves based on what society teaches us who we should be.

And much of our gifts are in there. The shadow is not just darkness its everything we can’t see.

It lives right at the edge of our consciousness. We push them away for social acceptance.

To see into it we need a mirror often in the form of our relationships.

Healing and working with the shadow:

It’s about self-acceptance, not just about being with the parts you like. Saying to yourself ‘This too is me’.

We can’t necessarily observe it directly, because by definition it is the parts we cannot see. So to see it we see it through our projections onto and judgements of others. Relationships are our greatest mirrors into our shadows.

What decisions do we make to reject certain elements of other people’s selves (judgment) – this will be based on the things we have rejected about ourselves.

Projection is a way we offload and attribute to others, qualities that may actually be our own. The world is our projection screen. To deeply heal our shadows we must begin taking responsibility for what we are projecting.

Some steps in shadow work:

To become aware of the shadow: look at what we have an aversion to in someone else, and where we put others on a pedestal.

Journal on (I like to notice when these things come up in life and note them down at the time, then come back to them later when i'm feeling grounded or reflective):

What are you judging people on?

What emotions do you try to avoid?

If someone described, you - What description would be triggering to you?

Why would this be a problem if it were true?

What do you think is your worst trait?

Why do you think it’s bad?

What is the positive side of this trait?

What subject, phrase or situation gets you out-of-proportionally mad, panicked or fearful (you may not be aware it is out of proportion to begin with, so allowing all of your feelings without shame is essential or you push it further out of reach).

What traumatic or upsetting situations in your childhood could be linked to these topics?

Or how did your parents respond to these topics?

What were you taught as a child was bad, wrong or absolutely never to be talked about? Where in your life and personality do these things arise?

Using the RAIN technique can help us process our shadow work when triggers arise:

R Recognise what is happening: how am I feeling, where do I feel it?

A Allow it. Allowing all thoughts and feelings to just be here.

I Investigate with self kindness. Why do I feel this way? Is it a true feeling or a memory of a feeling from years ago?

N Non identification – I am having these feelings I am not these feelings “I am feeling sad not I am sad” I am bigger than how I feel in this moment.

Reaching out for help is important and an important step as you step out of shame and allow others to hear parts of your shadow work. I work in a 1:1 setting and in groups where allowing space for shadow work is always welcome. An online course is also being created for you to step into your shadow work healing.

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