Shadow work is the process of allowing our shadows to arise, to acknowledge them and to explore them thoroughly.
We start on our journey into our so-called 'dark side', when we want to break through certain patterns, or work on fears, anger or shame, or when we want to know why we react and behave the way we do.
Shadows are those parts of our personality that live in us and that we have locked away for one reason or another. We all have been born with a wide range of traits and in our innocence we played them out, but right from the start of our little lives we have been forced to suppress chunks of our human nature.
May be we cried too much, or asked to much. Maybe we were too active or too sensitive, or we wanted too much attention, or too little. Possibly we were laughed at for our tears or fears, or maybe for being proud of our first achievements. Later in life we tried to fit in what we perceived as a desirable personality and suppressed more fears, passions or shame.
How do we find our shadow ?
If we are not aware of the unwanted and hidden parts that make up our shadow self, we will probably have a keen eye for certain traits in others that we admire or dislike. Because ‘It takes one, to know one.’ This means that we are very conscious (to the point of blowing them out of proportion) of the traits in others that reflect our own shadow. Somehow the shadow wants to play out, to come out of its closet, regardless how deep we have buried it and how long we have denied it.
Another way of noticing shadow parts is when we feel uncomfortable or restless by being on our own, or when we feel anxious or depressed. We can be stuck in a story of victim hood, whether that is as a perpetrator or as the one who is wronged. Or when we catch ourselves reacting emotionally on something, i.e. angry, envious, ashamed, shocked, terrified or guilty.
How do we work with shadows ?
In shadow work we have to have the willingness to be honest with ourselves and open to our real experience–not our experience as we think it ‘should be’ conform to certain expectations. This process is about becoming who you really are, the whole, unique, magnificent you. Flaws and failures are relative, you are. Full stop.
Some shadows are real demons and may have gained a lot of strength during the many years they have been suppressed, sometimes over different generations. They can overwhelm us easily and keep us under the hypnosis of fear. Or they play out unconsciously, in self-sabotaging behavior, undermining our good intentions and causing mental or physical havoc.
However, it is possible, with a special technique of observation and after some practice, to work through them too. How transforming and uplifting this work can be you will experience as soon as you feel the power of such a demon subside and you are able to take back the power you have given it, which is pure life energy.
The result of shadow work is usually a sense of great relief, empowerment and inner peace, as denying and avoiding unwanted thoughts and feelings cost a lot of energy.
Our relationships, as much as the one with ourselves as those with others, will change when we gain more self-knowledge, when we are more aware of our projections and when we communicate with more honesty and clarity.
To gain and maintain mental health and have a sustainable joy for life, regular shadow work is in fact inevitable. Bear in mind that when you first start practicing, your everyday life might not be the most appropriate place to face your anger or resentments. Furthermore, if your shadows have messed up your life seriously, we wouldn’t recommend you to do it on your own either. Please contact us when you are interested.
As everyone who has ever been in a severe depression knows, it comes in stages and it can take many years to develop. At first we deny it, followed by a period of coping with less and less successful strategies, until we are no longer able to cope with it and we have to face and deal with this darkness inside of us.
There is no quick fix available. Even a mind blowing event as a deeply transforming encounter with unconditional love, through meditation, a dark night of the soul or plant medicine for example, is -only- just the beginning. Jack Kornfield, a well known meditation teacher and writer of several books on meditation and enlightenment, has written one under the title 'After The Ecstasy, the Laundry'.. that says it all.
When we see the depression as just an illness to beat, a battle to be won, we miss the (spiritual) meaning of it. The depressed, or the one in 'deep rest', is in a process of transformation. S/he needs to nourish and nurture himself in a proper way to be able to contemplate in a clear mental state on his life and make life changing decisions, instead of numbing himself down with (a mix of) substances. We see depression as a spiritual crisis and I have a few tips on how to nurture yourself during this period of deep inner transition.
6 Essential tips to nurture yourself in depression