The shadow is the part of us that we have repressed because we have been conditioned to believe it is unacceptable. It’s the part of us that is greedy, jealous, angry, emotional, sad, unavailable, addicted. Most often, the shadow is comprised of qualities that society deems unwanted, but brilliant aspects of ourselves can also be hiding in the shadow as well. We call it shadow because it is everything hiding outside the light of the consciousness.
At some point in our lives we have been told that something about us is too much. We are walking along being ourselves and then we receive the message that what we are doing is unwanted behavior. When these things happen at any age, but especially at an impressionable age, our brain interprets it as “hide that behavior.”
Imagine you are 5 years old and your mom has taken you on a trip to the grocery store, maybe you want something and she refuses to get it for you – you throw a “tantrum” because you want the thing and are mad. This is totally predictable 5 year old behavior. But your mom doesn’t want to deal with a screaming kid – maybe its because it makes her embarrassed, maybe she just gets stressed out about it – her own shadow is at play in this scenario too. So she snaps at you and tells you to stop and maybe uses some not-so-kind language. In this instance, she just wants to get through the trip. But our brains as children are like sponges, constantly receiving information and filtering the implications of it.
How a child brain interprets this is: Anger is unsafe. I can’t threaten my relationship with mommy, she is my lifeline.
There will always be some aspect of ourself hiding from our consciousness. What typically brings people to shadow work is seeing the same major issues or patterns cropping up in their life and feeling desperate to change it. These major patterns are root wounds manifested in our core behaviors and persona. Most often, they fall in these categories...
- food issues: over-eating, under-eating, eating disorders
- body image issues
- money (overspending, feeling unworthy, irresponsible with money)
- poor choices in romantic partners
- materialism or extreme frugality
- co-dependency and other relational patterns
- anger issues
- lack of self-care
Without becoming aware of, and integrating our shadow, we are powerless against it. Think of it this way: either we own it, or it owns us. We become people who spend a whole life “knowing better,” but unable to make the changes we really need. I am so passionate about this work because I see so many people investing in "tools" (crystals, herbs, essential oils, coaches and healers) but not doing this core work. I will never say that all of the above is a waste, but I will say that without shadow work it won't do as much as it could. This work amplifies the power of those tools, allowing for actual integration.
Whatever is hiding in your shadow is not your fault. You inherited just about all of it as a child, but of course, we want to be able to transcend and integrate our shadow. While the best parts of who we are were also shaped by our parents and childhood, it is a privilege to be able to look at the things we inherited that do not serve us. The generations before us did not have this type of luxury. Additionally, we are able to free the highest aspects of ourselves that have been locked away. This is how we make progress within our lineage and as a collective.
To begin this work, please reflect and answer the questions in this document and hold on to them for later.