So you're probably wondering what is Shadow Work spiritually?
Well, the answer is a bit in-depth, but I'll try to explain it to you as simply as possible.
Before telling you what Shadow Work is spiritually, you need to understand what consciousness and the unconscious are.
Consciousness is essentially everything that's in front of you. It's everything that you see, smell, touch, taste, and feel. It also includes all the thoughts that you're aware of, as well as your beliefs.
Your unconscious is the opposite. It is essentially everything that is not in front of you. It is everything that you are not aware of.
The most significant difference between the conscious and the unconscious is that the conscious is actually very limited.
You are aware of what you are conscious of.
Meanwhile, your unconscious is entirely limitless. It is everything that you are NOT aware of. And when I say everything, I mean everything.
The way I like to describe the unconscious is like this:
Your unconscious is in the back of your head, while your consciousness is right in front of your face.
While your consciousness is working with everything that's right in front of you, your unconscious gets to work with everything else.
This includes your beliefs that are outside of your awareness. As well as all the people, places, and things that are not immediately in front of you.
The unconscious is a realm full of unlimited possibilities. It contains everything that you don't know. And everything that you don't know that you know.
Hopefully, I didn't lose you because now I can start to zone in on what makes Shadow Work spiritual.
Within your unconscious is something called the shadow.
Everybody has a shadow. It contains all parts of your personality that you left behind because somewhere along the way, someone told you that these parts of your personality were unacceptable.
However, you can't just get rid of a part of who you are. That's impossible.
Instead, what happens is that you push this part of yourself into your unconscious. You disconnect entirely from a part of who you are, and it becomes what we call your shadow.
Your shadow is the other half of who you are. It's the part of you that's disconnected and unfelt from your awareness. The shadow is where the rest of your potential lies.
Now keep in mind, you are limited to what is within your consciousness.
On the other hand, your shadow operates within the unconscious realm, which is entirely limitless.
This is why your shadow is your greatest source of creativity.
Your shadow, along with other archetypes, can tap into the surrounding unconscious where it resides. From there, it brings you these creative ideas in the form of epiphanies or aha moments.
How does your shadow work spiritually?
Your shadow holds a lot of your uniqueness.
Can you explain why you are interested in the things that you are interested in? No, there's no way to explain your interests. Your interests are simply a part of who you are that makes you unique. You aren't consciously aware of why. All we know is that there's an internal feeling that guides us to pursue different things.
This is our shadow in action. Our shadow likes to unconsciously nudge us into the things it desires. Furthermore, your interests directly correlate to how you uniquely impact the world and how you live your life.
Your shadow is in direct relation with your higher self.
It's the part of you that sees your life from a bird's eye view. It delivers insights and epiphanies that take a higher perspective to notice.
For example, have you ever worked on a problem or issue to the point where you can no longer figure out the next step? Then it isn't until you're doing something else that, all of a sudden, you get an epiphany of how to solve your problem.
It's thanks to your shadow, being in direct relation to your higher self, that you've been able to get this answer.
Again, there's no real way of knowing how you got your answer. All you can say is that the answer came to you. As if out of nowhere.
What happened is that it was delivered to you by your unconscious.
Your shadow is a source of energy.
Keep in mind that your shadow is the unconscious part of yourself. It contains those things that you don't know that you desire.
For example, if you consider yourself well-behaved and well-mannered, then when you allow yourself to be rash and reckless, you will find that you get a quick burst of energy.
This is your shadow lending you energy for validating its wants.
Another way to access this surplus energy is by acting on the interests that the shadow guides you towards.
For example, you'll notice that starting a new project can give you a great burst of energy as if you've uncovered a new purpose in life.
Again, because you validated your shadow, it lets you take from its pool of energy.
The funny thing is, all of this energy is already within you. But you aren't aware of it. You have no access to it until you validate your other half.
Your shadow is how the world manifests itself through you.
Thanks to this creativity, energy, and intuition, you are guided to do things and impact the world. People who believe in God like the saying, "Everything happens for a reason." Well, this is that reason.
By the spiritual qualities alone, you're doing "God's Will" and manifesting the world as he wanted it.
The Intuitive Shadow
Have you ever heard of those stories where a person will say, "I just got a bad feeling, so I got out of there"?
Then it turns out that they had just avoided some sort of robbery or life-threatening situation?
The reason for this is because, for that moment, that person got in contact with their shadow. The shadow is a source of your intuition.
A brief story of the intuitive shadow in action:
Several years ago, my cousin was on his way back home from work. On his way back, he stopped at a local Kmart to use their public restroom.
When he walked into their restroom facilities, he got this very, very weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. He could tell that something wasn't right.
He decided to turn back and leave.
That very night, there was news that someone committed suicide in that same restroom he had visited.
He didn't explicitly know it, but he was standing within 10 feet of a dead body.
Now there is no real way he could have actually known that there was a dead person inside that restroom. But somehow, he knew something was wrong, and his intuition told him to leave.
Your intuition gives you profound insights that seem to come out of nowhere as if it were a message from God. This is precisely why Shadow Work is spiritual.
Because when you develop an ongoing relationship with your shadow, you get to take advantage of the energy, creativity, and insights from the unconscious that the shadow can bring you.
Although people use the word shadow, or inner child, or other archetypes interchangeably, they are your bridge to accessing the unconscious.
Many people do not know this distinction.
Some people have had breakthroughs with their unconscious and have mistaken it with God-like enlightenment.
Tapping into your unconscious and reaching a point of God-like enlightenment are two very different things. The latter is outside the scope of this website.
However, we focus on how to integrate these inner archetypes, such as your shadow or your inner child, into your personality.
How to do Shadow Work Spiritually
The typical way you do shadow work is to uncover your specific unconscious desires and traits and integrate your shadow self into your personality.
Doing Shadow Work spiritually is different.
This is because most religions actually inhibit a person who helps create a shadow but doesn't necessarily help you get in touch with it.
And if you look at more spiritual (nontheistic) practices, such as Buddhism, you'll find that there are monks who validate their shadow's desire for sadomasochism by flogging themselves.
But this isn't something that you can really do in regular day-to-day life. And you probably wouldn't want to.
If you want to know the best ways of doing Shadow Work check out our Shadow Work guide.
You must keep in mind that everyone's shadow is different. Although we share many similarities, each of us has unique unconscious preferences.
For more spiritually-focused shadow work, there are four forms that most reoccur in history:
1 ) Fasting
Believe it or not, one of the primary desires that the shadow wants to be fulfilled is the desire for suffering. A way of validating this desire is to go on a fast. When you go on a fast, you're letting go of your conscious desire for fast food and junk.
As we mentioned earlier, you are given access to more energy when you validate your shadow's desires. Obviously, this isn't just spiritually, but also physically. For example, when you're on a fast, you build a better connection to your higher self, and you're able to think more clearly.
Have you noticed that when you're hungry, you also get a bit of an attitude? I'm sure growing up, your parents told you "don't have that attitude." And over time, you've decided to tuck that part of yourself away. What you didn't know is that having an attitude is a sign that you believe you see something that other people do not.
For whatever reason, you've become conscious of what was hidden in plain sight before. This fasting-induced attitude is an expression of the Shadow, the side of you that doesn't want to be ignored and wants its thoughts honored.
When you refrain from having sex or masturbating, you're also fulfilling your shadow's desire to suffer. The most prominent example of abstinence is the NoFap November challenge that many young men partake in.
According to people who refrain from sexual expression, you experience a boost of energy, increased vitality, clear thinking, more creativity, etc.
Some people have a sadistically-inclined shadow that likes to cause tragedy, knowing that they won't receive punishment and will be let off the hook. This is why you might know some people who proudly claim to be religious but regularly commit debauchery. Those people specifically go to church to confess their sins and are forgiven, so they can do it all again despite repentance being an essential staple of the church.
These people live out unconscious patterns of "I am blameless, and you will forgive me for anything I do." I personally find people with this type of shadow to be abusive and detestable. It should be noted that the more disturbed a person is, the stronger their unconscious patterns present themselves.
Your shadow is validated when you express gratitude for your present situation. This is because what your unconscious self wants, it always gets. So by validating what you have, you are validating your shadow.
This sort of agreement between your conscious mind and your unconscious mind is the entire point of shadow work. And when you finally give the shadow the love and validation it seeks, it feels that its desires have been fulfilled, and it lends its powers to your conscious desires.
So what is Shadow Work spiritually?
Shadow Work is validating and integrating the lost parts of who you are back into yourself. And in return, you get to tap into the unconscious that brings you higher intuition, higher creativity, and higher insight.
Although the more traditional methods of shadow work don't necessarily make you aware of your unconscious self and its desires, you still gain the benefits of tapping into your higher self.
The idea of spirituality is that everything is one.
And by making yourself whole by integrating your shadow, you will resonate more with spirituality. The same way people believe they are reaching holy levels of enlightenment.
You become more accepting of who you are, how other people are, and how the world is as a whole.
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.