Just like we all have a shadow that follows us around when the light is right, each of us also holds a shadow of a more psychological nature. It’s also always around and waiting for the right conditions to make an appearance. The trick is accepting that the shadow is there, and knowing what to look for. Your shadow is still going to stalk and surprise you, even if you take this advice to heart and practice diligently, but at least you will be better prepared.
Think of a shadow as boogeymen that will actually turn out to be your friends if you take a real good look to stop rejecting and denying them. If you get to know your shadows they’ll help you empathize and understand yourself and your fellow humans.
We all have parts of ourselves that are hidden away in our unconscious mind. This is where our Shadows lurk. It’s the things that we may not be able to see about ourselves. There are aspects of our awareness that we have cut off/repressed and we no longer take responsibility for them. Some clues that you have stumbled into a Shadow Trigger are very intense feelings and eruptive reactions. In other words, the things that really get under your skin and boil your blood. Take a second to think about that.
For example, if you’re thinking about someone that is NEEDY and that gets you quite angry, then it’s quite possible that it’s your Shadow. Deep down, without you seeing it, you’re NEEDY as well. Make sense?
Another example to spot your Shadow projections is if you get annoyed when someone is being rude towards you, then it’s most likely you haven’t owned up to your own rudeness. This doesn’t mean the person isn’t being rude to you. However, if rudeness wasn’t in your shadow self, someone else’s rudeness wouldn’t bother you so much. So pay attention to your allergies and addictions, things you can’t stand, and cannot resist.
Oh! and there is also a thing called a Golden Shadow or Shadow Hugging. This is where you disassociate from some of your better qualities, tendencies and talents. The clue here is to look at who your are drawn to and/or admire. For example, if I look up to Steve Jobs because he is so smart, then my Golden Shadow/Shadow Hugging may be negating my own intellectual ability.
There are all kinds of reasons our little human psyches get splintered off like this and develop shadows. How you get raised is a big one, your culture, faith and especially your family of origin all have the possibility of impacting your development. This is not at all our faults but certainly our own responsibility to find, integrate and heal, so we can stop lying to ourselves and operate less encumbered with more awareness.
For now, the simplest way to start growing in your awareness of Shadow is by following these steps.
- Every night – Review the day that has passed.
- Notice all the things that jumped out the most.
- What drove you crazy?
- What did you really admire?
- Did anything else cause you to hijack your attention?
If you follow the above five questions, that’s enough to get you started 😉
Having Shadow is so very, very, human, so go forward with these insights and loads and loads of compassion for yourself and everybody else!!
Why I Like the Tool
I guess I first was exposed to the idea that we had fractured parts of self that acted out and sabotaged us in a Gestalt Encounter Group. But I didn’t really hear the term shadow work until I started to dive into the world of Ken Wilber’s Integral model (another fantastic tool to come) where I found some very illuminating talks on the subject. That got me watching myself and my reactions to get a sense of my own hidden unconscious and what was lurking there.
What did I find? Well, my biggest piece of work so far was on realizing that I have issues with disassociating from my anger (which is likely an ingredient of my depression. I have heard that unexpressed anger turns inward and that feels pretty true). I have always had a very hard time expressing feelings in this part of the spectrum (which dovetails nicely with the wisdom of the Enneagram and my very 9 like tendencies. Our beloved Ellis recently explored this too) and thus I also have a life-long pattern of unconsciously attracting people with the opposite relationship to anger issues. Again with that annoying magnetism thing that makes sure you get to encounter your shit What you do with that is entirely up to you though.
While it hasn’t been especially fun uncovering these truths and taking responsibility for them (and by no means am I done with the learning and growing here) it has been powerful and helped me tremendously. I am much less likely to suck it up and passive aggressively sip on the poisonous brew of my unknown rage. I am learning the art of being assertive, letting people know where I am so they don’t mistakenly step on my metaphoric toes, and that it is also well within my rights to tell them to back off when they do, or to fuck off when they do it on purpose. I am better when I see, accept and, own my anger. On a really good day, I know it is a clue of “intense clarity and deep caring”!
This work has also been incredible for helping me see and understand other people, and take them less personally. Once you start to get the concept, you see it popping up with people all the time. It is endlessly fascinating, and gives you at least a sense of the underground topography that others are also navigating. Things aren’t always as they seem on the surface!
I know that shadow work is an ongoing and life long undertaking…
This is on one hand a reasonably simple idea to grasp and then on another it is incredibly complex. I guess because a human being is composed of so many layers of development there are many places we can get stuck. That and the fact that it is the nature of the shadow to be hidden from self. I highly, highly recommend that your follow some of these trails and dive into your understanding of this deep and dense topic!!
This article “Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: What is the “Shadow”? Understanding the “dark side” of our psyche” by Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D (who’s work on Psychology Today, I always enjoy) is a great comprehensive look at the history of this concept in psychotherapy and also a great general overview of the idea. A great place to start and you can read it by CLICKING HERE.
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This post was created with the help of Grammarly.