In this post, we'll be going over ideas about shadow work for shame.
First, let's quickly go over what shadow and shadow work is.
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 and push them outside of your awareness, they still live 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."Carl Jung
Shadow Work for Shame
The main difference between shame and guilt is that shame originally comes from another person.
Shame is one of the most utilized tools for civilizing a child to become someone who can function in society.
Although this is partly necessary for the good of society, shaming someone comes at the cost of their wholeness.
What is shamed is typically repressed—thrown into the shadow.
That's why the first twenty years of life are known as the "shadow-making" years.
Since you are young and rely on others for survival, you react to shame very powerfully. Because to a child, being disapproved can cost their survival.
Keep in mind that a child's ego inherently comes with a degree of belief that the world revolves around them. Thus, to a child, approval, validation, connection, and love are connected to the survival of that ego.
How Shame Can Impact Development
Many inner child wounds are caused by a child being traumatized emotionally, typically through shame and the inability to process it.
When emotional trauma isn't digested, it forms into a shadow belief, a dysfunctional and unconscious belief about one's own existence.
How this happens depends on how the child perceives the shame.
For example, there's a massive difference between:
- What you did is shameful, and you mustn't do that, and
- You are shameful by your very being, and your actions are proof of that
This is subtle but massively important.
What is Guilt?
To feel guilt, someone has to have already internalized a set of values that they would not want to betray.
Then it's after betraying one's own values that one would feel guilt for their actions.
For example, when I was a child, my little brother and I hadn't yet learned how to swim. So when we were both in a pool, we would dabble with the shallow and deeper ends.
Multiple times my brother latched onto me, bringing me under the water when he went too deep.
Keep in mind, I was taller and he was shorter. So I could manage the depth he was dabbling with except when he was pulling me under.
I hated that he did it, but he's incredibly stubborn and kept doing it.
Then one time, I went too far into the deep end.
I immediately grab my brother, bringing him under the water and buying myself more time to breathe in air.
We both thrashed about until someone jumped into the pool and pulled my brother, then myself, out.
That night, when I was lying in my bed, and he laid in his bed on the other side of the room, I couldn't help myself—
"Andy... I'm sorry".
He asked why and I had to explain.
At some point in my childhood, I made a conscious decision that my brothers mattered very much to me, despite any unfairness.
Betraying my values created more internal guilt than I could handle. So I spoke up to make amends.
What Happens if Someone Doesn't Form Values
If these values weren't formed in a person's "shadow-making" years, then it's up to society to inflict discomfort on the person to make them obey the social standards.
Shameful Behavior & Shadow
Many times when a person is betraying their own belief system, they will experience momentary dissociation.
This is because they don't see themselves as a person who behaves in such a way.
But sometimes, being caught in the heat of the moment, a person may be vulnerable and possessed by their shadow.
The shadow holds those qualities that we believe are shameful and have repressed within us.
For example, for a very long time, I disowned my anger. I remember having a girlfriend and she kept nagging me in the car about how I wasn't "loving enough." She kept going on and on until I reached a breaking point.
I ended up yelling back at her in anger because I had already done all these things to show my love and affection. But it was as if enough was never enough.
It was a moment where I wasn't myself because I never got angry.
But in retrospect, I needed to express anger to make space for my emotions in the relationship.
Someone with a values problem is a person who comes off as psychopathic.
Abusers take zero issues with expressing "anger" (read: abuse and drama) on their partners.
This is because their values are warped and distorted.
For example, a narcissist believes he is entitled to treat a partner abusively.
In the case of an abuser—
He is not an abuser because he is angry.
He is angry because he is an abuser.
Check out my short video Genuine Anger versus Abuse & Drama.
Existential Shame & Lack of Parental Connection
When a child approaches a parent, they want some sort of connection.
A child wants to be enjoyed, and her feats recognized.
But when an inattentive or narcissistic parent offers no feedback to the child—
This display of indifference shows the child, who was seeking some sort of validation, that there is something inherently wrong with them.
Since the child's ego assumes everything is about her, she makes up a story to make sense of their parent's indifference.
This tends to give birth to existential shame. That your actions don't matter, and you will not get the attention you are looking for despite what you do.
Meanwhile, I sufficient parent will make you feel like you were enjoyed. That you don't need to "deserve" being enjoyed. You're enjoyable to have around simply because you are someone's beloved child.
Children are happiness in this world. They love to be amused and to amuse you. To deprive a child of feeling worthy of your enjoyment is a deep trauma and tragedy.
How to Cleanse Existential Shame
This "silent" shame can be healed and mended. But to do that, it's important to give words to that shame.
By acknowledging that the "unspoken" experience did happen, you bring it to the forefront of consciousness. Giving it the attention it needs to be digested and understood.
You can cleanse yourself of shame by being deeply seen and accepted for all your experiences by supportive people.
Being seen and accepted for all that you are as a human being.
A being worthy of love and self-love for simply existing, as all beings are.
Check out What is Shadow Work and Inner Child Work.
My experience cleansing existential shame with acceptance and purpose
The following is from my old blog:
Most people have trouble discovering their life purpose. Not me.
I was your typical fat loner growing up. My family was always broken, and I felt like I didn't matter.
When I was a child, perhaps 10 years old, I remember talking to a friend about my depression.
"I feel like if I died today, nobody would care. Not a single person would come to my funeral. It would just be an empty room with a casket. I don't matter."
The following words I heard would change my life. He said:
"I would go. I think you matter."
My eyes swelled up with tears. Because I finally heard what I needed to hear:
I did matter.
Since then, my life purpose has been clear: To positively impact people's lives.
It was a very broad purpose. But it was purpose.
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.