Welcome to our Shadow Work Guide. You will learn about the unconscious side of yourself and how to integrate your shadow to become whole.
If you want to further study the shadow, check out the booklist.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”Carl Jung
Similar to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde, each of us wears a pleasant persona in our daily lives, while blissfully unaware of the repressed shadow that we carry inside.
What is the Shadow?
The Shadow is the side of yourself that is disconnected and unfelt.
It’s the part of yourself that’s been rejected since childhood and you have no awareness of.
But even so, your Shadow is the unseen cause for everything you consider wrong in your life.
Because your unconscious Shadow is the thing running your life when you’re not looking.
It’s why you keep finding yourself in toxic relationships, bad financial situations, and poor mental/physical health.
The Shadow is the part of you that thirsts for power, destruction, and sexuality.
It’s what conceals your darkness, such as shame, resentment, greed, rage, jealousy, along with murderous and suicidal tendencies.
However, the shadow isn’t all evil or immoral—it’s only different.
This unconscious side of you is also a source of hidden creativity, spontaneity, intuition, vitality, joy, spiritual depth, and unexpressed potentials.
Your Shadow is a pool of energy unavailable to you as consequence for not honoring it.
But honoring your Shadow isn’t easy.
Everything about your Shadow is counter-intuitive. By its very nature, the unconscious is not within consciousness.
Your Shadow can only be seen and reached indirectly because it knows your ego would not approve of it.
Because your Shadow is the side of you that your mind isn’t ready to accept.
The unseen enemy is always the most fearsome.George R. R. Martin
How is the unconscious formed?
We are all born whole, but in childhood you leave parts of yourself behind.
Family and culture make you embrace some parts of your Self, while completely abandoning others.
This happens when a child idealizes her parents and follows arbitrary rules for survival.
These rules implicitly embed the child with the unconscious idea that she is "bad"—which is a typical childhood experience.
When the child sees that some of her feelings and thoughts are unacceptable, she chooses to get rid of them.
(This creates the child’s “inner parent”, which encourages obedience at the cost of being whole.)
However, you can’t get rid of who you are. You can only bury it alive for it to come back later in the form of the Shadow.
Then the rules and unconscious beliefs you learned as a child evolve and are carried into adulthood.
The way you plainly know yourself to be becomes the ego. A result of social programming that’s accepted by society.
The parts of yourself that you don’t know are in the unconscious. A result of your personal programming (Shadow, inner child, etc).
The biggest difference between the two is that the conscious is limited, while the unconscious is limitless.
Since childhood, everyone is Shadow Making because it’s how we make ourselves who we are.
But in adulthood, it’s a personal responsibility to engage in Shadow Work, that which makes us who we can be.
The truly powerful exert their influence in ways unseen, unfelt. Some would say that a thing visible is a thing vulnerable.Guillermo del Toro
Shadow Work Meaning
Shadow work is integrating the entire spectrum of your being. It’s the intentional process of admitting the parts of yourself you’ve ignored or repressed.
The shadow can be risen to your awareness and assimilated—so instead of taking unseen control of you, it can lend you its energy and gifts.
Understand that shadow integration doesn’t require you to become completely different—as there is no elimination involved.
Instead, there is a fine balance that you choose to uphold. This balance makes you more positive and less negative.
Know that shadow integration takes time and doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger. It requires confrontation and agreement with your Shadow that you will honor your own depths.
In a sense, shadow work serves as a confessional. In exchange for your innocence, you will be delivered catharsis, self-authenticity, and more compassion for others.
People are called from within to discover their Shadow. What brings this calling is different among everyone.
When you feel the call you must slow your pace in life, listen to your body, and spend time alone to let your shadow’s messages rise to consciousness.
Know there is always darkness within you. But you don’t have to leave it unchecked and fall victim to it.
Instead aim to confront your darkness and develop an ongoing relationship with your unconscious.
Over time you will make peace with your personal darkness that resides within and experience a symbolic death and renewal.
It’s important to know that shadow integration isn’t simply living out your darkest impulses. This is not a real solution.
Anyone who has been forced to meet their shadow can tell you this. Allowing yourself to be completely absorbed by the Shadow will only lead to murder, followed by suicide.
Understand: Not everyone can integrate with their shadow. Wholeness is only possible if a person has built morality and human decency. For people who have not built this conscious persona, there is no whole to acquire.
These people lack guilt and lack self-reflection, which leaves no room for the spiritual depth that the Shadow requires.
These people are defected, stuck in a cycle of cheating, dishonesty, and violence—incapable of having healthy relationships with others, much less themselves.
In a sense, they are perfect as they are. More importantly, they aren’t your burden and it’s best to leave them be.
Why is Shadow Work Important?
Your shadow makes you live out your unconscious beliefs—even if they’re against your self-interest.
Because you secretly enjoy them.
They bring you the validation you’re used to—and until you become aware of this, your psyche is stunted.
You must become aware of your shadow side and integrate its qualities in correct proportions.
This creates a balance between yourself and your shadow.
However, when either the ego or shadow overcomes the other, we lose balance and fall into psychosis.
The shadow becomes hostile when ignored or misunderstood. To the point that one’s view of reality, his body, his emotions, and people, get distorted.
Reason and thought are overruled.
The person becomes sick and he views the source of all his troubles to be outside of himself.
Too deeply repressed and the shadow’s inevitable expression can bring regrettable tragedy.
Tragedy is essentially becoming aware of the shadow when it’s already too late to do anything about it.
Ironically, it’s typically after disturbing ourselves with who we truly are that we see the first step towards wholeness.
When illusions of who we are shatter, we are involuntarily forced into meeting our Shadow.
Reader, you won’t need the privilege of tragedy to perform Shadow Work.
Your life mirrors your unconscious beliefs. And if your life isn’t what you want it to be, you’re not to blame.
How can you be at fault for something beyond your conscious control?
However, you are the only person capable of altering your unconscious and restoring yourself.
Take the responsibility.
When you do the emotional labor of making your unconscious desires conscious, with vast approval, they will lose their hold on you.
When you dare to confront your Shadow, you will find that it doesn’t need to take over—It only needs to be honored.
It’s by confining it within our recognition that we have a choice of how to express it.
This is also how you let your true self emerge. Through integration, you dissolve the fake persona you’ve put on for the world.
Because believe it or not, who you think you are now is hardly anything close to who you truly are.
Wholeness is completeness, not perfectionCarl Jung
Benefits of Shadow Work
When you consciously carry your shadow it will operate and work to your benefit.
These shadow work benefits include:
- Genuine Self-Acceptance
- Complete Self-Knowledge
- Defused Emotions
- Accurate View of Reality
- Healthy Relationships
- Creative Insights
- Disrupt Destructive Patterns
- Reclaim Life Ownership
When you integrate your shadow you experience more genuine emotion and move with grace. As opposed to the tense, clunky behavior of someone who is repressed.
You also don’t have to worry about losing yourself to your integration.
Anything that burns in the process is better off gone, while anything fireproof is evidence of emotional maturity.
With this new awareness, it’s common to suddenly “outgrow” some of your poor relationships and gain attraction towards healthy people and healthy relationships.
This brand new outlook on life makes you a force of nature, able to change your outward condition drastically and easily.
You are one step closer to taking back complete control of your life.
However, there is one major drawback—
You can never go back to feeling sorry for yourself because you’ve already seen through your own game.
This is the price you pay for your inclusive relationship with your Shadow.
Awareness is curative.Fritz Perlz
How to Identify Your Shadow
There are plenty of ways to identify your unconscious shadow. All of which are very tied together.
Here is a list of ways to identify the shadow within yourself:
1 - Projection
Projection is unconsciously taking qualities you don’t want in yourself and attributing those qualities onto 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 in return.
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 extremely important that you retrieve all of your projections. Because a single person can only carry so many projections 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 special 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 she will act judgmental towards the jokester.
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. She will act badly without feeling responsible for her actions.
4 - Sadism/ Masochism
Sadism is an expression of destruction and power. Masochism is an expression of pleasure for receiving humiliation and pain.
It’s important to recognize the joy in destroying others and self-destruction.
Because there is more damage done when you don't give due recognition to 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 some 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 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 place yourself in within relationships show 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.
NOTE: 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.
8 - 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 is only an excuse to point blame.
It’s also worth noting that passive-aggressiveness is common among repressed people.
And true anger is neither dangerous nor violent. Instead, these are attributes of drama and should be avoided.
How to do Inner Shadow Work & Integrate Your Shadow Self
Like all things unconscious, integration is your ability to bring your awareness to it.
You can get started with reading the beginner material:
Or you can jump into the advanced material to help you retrieve your Shadow from outside of yourself:
Each of these addresses different aspects of yourself, along with in-depth shadow work.
Until then, here is a basic list of behaviors and mindsets anyone can follow to appease their shadow:
- Honor your ideas and opinions more than those of others.
- Make it known to others what you want.
- Accept that you can’t rewire your childhood internally in any other way than it already is within.
- The alternative to torture—to affect others—is creativity.
- Care less what others think.
- Use moments of injustice to show your shadow freely.
- Live vicariously through characters in books, movies, etc.
- Let go of work and embrace being lazy and useless from time to time.
- Recognize painful fulfillments as fulfillments.
- Over 90% of the time your view is subjective, your creative opinion—you can't read minds
- Commit to seeing people as they are—neutral beings.
- Use shadow work journal prompts
- Go your own way.
Understand: Balancing the ego and the shadow is not a contradiction, it’s a paradox.
Ultimately, the cure for it all involves being present and seeing everything as is—without attachment to the past or future.
A person who is integrated with her shadow is in a healthy state.
She sees life as her creative canvas and she’s immersed with feelings of love and oneness with all things.
Loving oneself means loving all of oneself.
This includes the shadow—that which was unacceptable and previously rejected.
At this level of awareness, she can enjoy life and act with spontaneity.
She enjoys true intimacy without the unconscious need to play dysfunctional games.
She has total control of her life and she’s able to pursue what she desires without resistance.
All it took was the journey within.
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.
Through psychology, we are changed.
Through spirituality, we are revealed.