”One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.- Carl Jung
So, what is shadow work?
The shadow is a collective term, first used by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, to describe everything within ourselves that we have disowned or suppressed.
This includes aspects of our personality as well as unprocessed challenging emotions like anger, fear, sadness and shame.
In order to become whole and to live a healthy and authentic life, we have to go within and shine the light on everything that’s in our psyche.
Embracing our own Shadow is important
Doing shadow work is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Jung suggests that suppressing our shadow content may result in low self-esteem, anxiety, and even disease.
Doing shadow work is scary – no one wants to take ownership of their own darkness. However, the work is necessary in order to find peace and to become our true selves.
My own shadow work experience was incredibly transformative and at the same time very challenging.
I got to know myself at a deep level, and I learned a whole lot.
Here are 5 things I learned from doing Shadow Work:
1. Every human being has flaws… and that’s okay.
“Everyone carries a shadow…and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” – Carl Jung
Yes, we all have darkness. No human being is perfect.
In the human experience, no one is happy, joyful, and experiencing bliss all of the time. This is not the purpose of life on Earth.
Doing shadow work made me realize that much of what we condemn and dislike in other people are aspects we haven’t acknowledged in ourselves.
Exploring my own shadow made me much more loving towards myself and others. By going within and examining my own wounds, I managed to release the harmful idea that perfectionism is indeed a thing and an ideal to strive for.
I learned how to stop expecting perfection from myself. And then, I was much more able to accept people, as they are with their wounds, without judgment. I learned what it means to truly love unconditionally – not needing myself or others to be anything else but themselves.
2. True Compassion comes with wholeness
One of the most important things I learned from doing shadow work is the true meaning behind the word “compassion”.
We cannot have real and deep compassion for someone if we feel like their actions are somewhat beneath us. True compassion comes from recognizing our fellow humanness.
This kind of compassion only grows out of looking at our own darkness. Doing shadow work made me realize that even if someone did something I consider to be wrong, I have the ability to choose compassion over judgment.
Instead of concluding:
“That’s horrible, I would never have done that.”
I was, after doing my own inner work, able to switch to the mindset of:
“Wow, yes. Being human is challenging. I’m sorry it got so bad for that person that they felt like walking down that dark path was the right thing to do. And now, as a result of that, they have to face the consequences of their actions.”
3. Darkness and light go together
Yes, darkness and light co-exist. They are the yin and the yang, the day and night, the sun, and the thunderstorm.
The truth is that we wouldn’t recognize light if there was no darkness, and we wouldn’t have appreciated our greatest moments if we’d never experienced less than them. From the highest point of view, there exists no good or bad experience – everything just is and nothing has meaning other than the meaning we give it.
Thus, doing shadow work has taught me that just like the dark night sky, my own individual darkness, too, is natural. Integrating all of it makes me a whole person.
Further, I learned that it’s not my wounds that cause problems and disharmony. It’s the denying of our Shadow’s existence and the desire to make it go away.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung
It doesn’t go away, it demands to be expressed, and so we see it projected onto other people and situations we encounter in life.
When we integrate our shadow, we can let its power assist us. Let’s use anger as an example. It can assist us in placing healthy boundaries if we are about to give too much of ourselves. However, in order to learn how to healthily express our anger, we must acknowledge it.
4. There is light in our shadow too
When we are in the habit of emotional suppression, we don’t simply suppress the challenging emotions, we suppress our creativity as well.
Further exploring my shadow has made it a lot easier for me to celebrate my uniqueness. Everything that makes us different – our superpowers – are often exactly what we’ve been suppressing. This is a social survival mechanism – we do what we can to be normal and fit in.
Especially psychic gifts or other delightful gifts related to energy or the paranormal that we have deemed unacceptable. Shadow work is the doorway to authentic consciousness because it reunites us with our unique traits.
Doing this work connected me with the truth that we all have special gifts, (even if we don’t think we do) and individual paths to walk down. I learned that becoming myself, with everything that I am, is my ultimate life purpose.
5. Adversity is a gift
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi
I know that there have been times in my life where I’ve felt like a victim.
I’ve asked myself:
“Why does stuff like this keep happening to me“?
I also know that if I didn’t go through what I did, I probably would never have moved.
We can choose to look at life as something happening for us, or something happening to us.
The former way of perceiving our life experience is much more empowering. It puts us in the driver’s seat of our own life.
The truth is the painful situations that are urging us forward into greater flow help us to let go and grow.
We, humans, like to feel safe and comfortable, and therefore the status quo must become so painful that it finally forces us to surrender and follow the voice of our hearts.
Further, by reflecting back on my life I’ve realized that some of the moments where I’ve felt most fulfilled are when I’ve been using my wisdom to help other people.
By overcoming challenging situations in my own life I’ve been able to offer love and light to other people. And in this respect, the wound was a gift as its pain gave me purpose.
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