How to Identify Your Shadow
There are plenty of ways to identify your unconscious shadow. All of which are very tied together.
First, let's quickly go over what is the shadow.
What is Shadow Self & Shadow Work?
Your shadow self, or shadow, is the side of yourself you have no awareness of. It holds all the qualities you disowned during your formative years.
Although you learned to repress these qualities to push them outside of your awareness, they are still living underneath the surface.
They unconsciously guide your actions and are the unseen cause for many of the troubles in your life.
Shadow work is the intentional practice of becoming aware of your unconscious shadow and integrating these neglected qualities into your being—becoming whole.
This is a process of building self-awareness, self-acceptance, and universal Love.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."
7 ways to spot your shadow self
1 - Projection
Projection is unconsciously taking qualities you don’t want in yourself and attributing those qualities to someone else.
Since projection is easier than assimilation, we direct these qualities outside of us.
But when we project these qualities outside of ourselves, we are left less than whole.
These negative projections cause us to unconsciously provoke others with hostility. This makes people defensive and project their own shadows onto us.
Negative projection is the source of scapegoating, racism, and enemy-making.
But not all projection is problematic.
Admiration for others is a positive projection. Because we can only admire others if we have a sense of our own worthiness.
However, it’s crucial that you retrieve all of your projections. Because a single person can only hold so many shadows and survive.
Projection is one of the most essential topics to fully perform Shadow Work. You can read more about it here.
2 - Humor
All laughter comes from the shadow because laughter is a form of repressed sadism.
You can get a better understanding of your personal shadow by paying particular attention to what makes you laugh uncontrollably.
This is typically a signal of what you wouldn’t do but would like to do.
However, a person who strongly represses their shadow will generally lack a sense of humor.
Instead, she will not find the joke humorous and act judgmental towards the subject.
3 - Neuroticism
This usually appears as something related to mental illness or substance abuse.
Keep in mind that the unconscious will create neurotic symptoms to push a person towards inner work.
This is because depression and anxiety tend to come from not being who you truly are—from playing a role.
Until then, the neurotic will seek to blame, and they will misbehave without feeling responsible for her actions.
4 - Sadism/ Masochism
Sadism is an expression of destruction and power. Masochism is an expression of pleasure to humiliation and pain.
It’s essential to recognize the joy in destroying others and self-destruction.
Otherwise, you will find more damage done without recognizing this normal fact of life.
Some examples of sadomasochism include workaholism, BDSM, and “getting triggered.”
For example, a repressed reaction towards masochism is clunky shock and disgust towards what unconsciously gives the person pleasure.
Sadomasochism is one of the most essential topics to fully understand for Shadow Work. You can read more about it here.
5 - Body Language
The body is always conveying what the unconscious mind is saying.
For example, a person who acts modestly and feels timid internally can unintentionally appear prideful and conceited externally.
It’d be wise to study body language so you can read people’s true intentions, as well as your own.
6 - Dreams
The shadow likes to appear in our dreams as the same sex as ourselves.
However, we typically try to avoid it when it appears in our dreams for the same reason we don’t consciously see it when we’re awake—
Because the mind doesn’t want to acknowledge it.
7 - Dysfunctional Relationships
Most people aren’t aware that they’ve been replaying the same unconscious roles from childhood.
Therefore the unconscious positions you put yourself in relationships are how you’re comfortable receiving validation and recognition.
This is why you’ll notice the same patterns repeating among your relationships. Your way of relating to people is built on these unconscious, destructive games.
The most troubled people are the ones who avoid being left alone, the fear of confronting oneself.
The best way to break out of this cycle is through maturity and awareness, which involves doing inner child work.
BONUS - Immaturity
Immaturity includes not understanding one’s own emotions and not setting boundaries.
For example, the biggest obstacles to genuine, mature relationships are (1) being needy and (2) caretaking others.
Beliefs that are mistaken for feelings are:
Each of these are only excuses to point blame.
It’s also worth noting that passive-aggressiveness is common among repressed people.
And genuine anger is neither dangerous nor violent. Instead, these are attributes of drama and should be avoided.
That's 7 ways to spot your shadow self!
Here are some resources I recommend:
Shadow Work Course is based on my in-depth research and personal experiences with shadow work, projection, sadomasochism, inner child healing, triggers, and all things shadow. This course is updated every year and gets new content at no additional cost. Learn more here.
A Light Among Shadows is a guide on self-love and being. This short course goes over consciousness, spirituality, philosophy, and makes sense of why people are the way they are. Recommended for people dealing with resentment and self-hate. Learn more here.
Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Shadow Work Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.
Manifestation Manual: The Path of Least Resistance bundle teaches you some holistic and systems thinking along with how to mend your inner child wounds so you can align with your higher self and move forward in life. This includes 20 video clips as a free bonus.
Shadow Play (or “DsR”) is a small sister website that goes over “sensual” shadow work through my BDSM experiences. If you are 18+ and are interested, go here.