Are you wondering why is shadow work so painful?
Shadow work comes more naturally to some people. The people who do best with shadow work are those who are inclined to be intuitive or emotional. People who are very logical or those who don't think beyond superficialities will struggle to do shadow work.
Before I get more into why shadow work is painful, let's go over some key ideas.
What is shadow and what is shadow work?
The shadow is the side of yourself that's disconnected and unfelt. It's the part of yourself that's been rejected since childhood and you have no awareness of.
Shadow Work is integrating the entire spectrum of your being. It's the intentional process of admitting the parts of yourself you've ignored and repressed.
The shadow is the embodiment of potential that you’ve cast away and now need to integrate.
Admitting you have an unconscious shadow is the first step to be able to “see” it voluntarily.
Integrating the shadow, without biting off too much, is the real challenge. You want to start cultivating these shadow qualities in a safe and ritualized way in your waking life.
Why is shadow work so painful?
You aren't ready for shadow work.
People are typically "called" to do shadow work when their time comes. This is usually around a time of tragedy. Because tragedy is essentially becoming aware of the shadow when it’s already too late to do anything about it.
This isn't always the case, but it's the typical experience for people who have gone too long without looking accurately within.
As you go through life you will enter and exit several phases. During your earliest phases, you won't be able to do any substantial shadow work since it requires life experience and enough time for retrospection.
In other phases, you actually can't bother to look within because you are too preoccupied with life outside of yourself. This is incredibly necessary since the outer world portrays itself as more pressing than your inner world.
Painful truths about yourself.
Doing shadow work and uncovering the unconscious side of your personality places great responsibility on oneself.
Failure to understand these qualities or a shirking of ethical responsibility deprives you of your wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on your life.
True integration doesn't come from glossing over or repressing painful feelings. It only comes from experiencing them to the fullest.
An ongoing relationship is absolutely necessary for dealing with the shadow. Otherwise, its integration cannot be made.
Only in this painful way is it possible to gain a positive insight into the complex nature of one’s own personality.
All insight you make with your inner work must be converted into an ethical obligation – to live it in life.
What does the inner shadow want?
All your shadow wants is to be honored and its desires validated. But because much of what it wants isn't socially appropriate, you aren't able to nourish its demands 24/7.
For example, your shadow has a natural desire towards sadomasochism, power, destruction, and sexuality. But if you ran around doing all of these things willy-nilly you would quickly find yourself behind bars.
Instead, you need healthy outlets to express these desires safely. That's why I've done some research and found several shadow work exercises and techniques a beginner can do to validate their unconscious shadow.
What you can do instead to manage your unconscious desires
Shadow work means building a higher awareness of yourself. You do this because you want to manage your unconscious and how far it influences your life.
The following is a list of activities you can do to express typical shadow desires so you don't necessarily have to do any self-inquiry and introspection (for the time being).
I still recommend you learn the deepest truths about yourself. But until then, here are activities you can do to manage your unconscious desires:
- Read books that resonate or allow you to live vicariously
- Have a laugh to discover where your shadow desires reside
- Be useless if you are useless
- Embrace solitude if you are needy
- Write in a shadow work journal
- Engage in competition to express your desire to dominate
- Create something to express the shadow desire to "play God"
- Criticize others, preferably in privacy, to show you honor your own thoughts
- Express gratitude for what you have; you'd be surprised how your unconscious prevents you from moving forward for not being grateful
To get a better understanding of why these activities can help manage your unconscious desires, read:
- How Sadomasochism is Ruling Your Life Without Your Permission
- Shadow Work Exercises & Techniques for Beginners
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.