Have you ever wondered why shadow work is important?
Before we get into why that is, let's go over a few key concepts.
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
Why Shadow Work is Important
Here are 6 reasons why shadow work is important.
Responsibility for Psychic Inheritance
"Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent."
Everyone inheritance some unconscious influence from their parent's unlived life.
A man who chooses to forego a promising career in boxing to take care of his unexpected child will unconsciously, or even consciously, influence his child to pursue the opportunity he passed up.
This unlived life is often hidden within your parent's shadow because they've convinced themselves that the relevant qualities are "unacceptable."
This is usually because of the seemingly opposing principles surrounding a person's sense of obligation and freedom of choice.
A stereotypical example of this is a God-fearing pastor having a sexually liberal daughter.
Where the potentials of a person's unlived life are passed down to their children via their shadow.
There's a good chance that your psychological inheritance comes from the person you believe family life revolved most around.
Here's a shadow work prompt you should reflect on:
In what ways do you push your children, or your younger companions, to pursue opportunities you felt you've squandered?
Are you pushing people to be more of their authentic selves or less?
Mend Inner Child Wounds & Shadow Beliefs
A child who experiences emotional trauma and isn't given adequate love and time to process it will develop an inner child wound.
An inner child wound is a moment in time where a person's psyche is stuck due to an undigested emotion.
These emotional traumas from the formative years are commonly feelings of:
Over time, these unprocessed inner wounds evolve into an existential belief of the child's own existence. Otherwise referred to as a "shadow belief."
Shadow beliefs are dysfunctional and unconscious. They are the reason many people find themselves in unsavory positions in life and involved in unhealthy relationships.
This is because you will unconsciously seek to fulfill the existential position that gives you the validation you're used to:
Here is a list of common shadow beliefs:
- Nobody can be trusted
- I'm blameless & you'll always forgive me
- I'm always wrong
- I am pure
- I am helpless
- The world wants to dominate me
- I've always been a loser
- Everyone is ungrateful
You will unconsciously live out these positions in your relationships—even when it's against your self-interest.
Until you become aware of this, your psyche is in arrested development.
By going to therapy or performing "self-therapy," such as shadow work and inner child work, you will be able to mend your psyche's wounds and live a healthier life.
Admitting Sado masochistic Desires
There is no such thing as a universally "good" or "bad" quality.
What is considered moral and immoral is entirely determined by the given community and culture.
For example, while the United States had a phase of slavery, plenty of countries today openly engage in slavery.
First-world countries are blessed to have a higher consciousness than less-developed countries.
None are evil because "evil" is simply a way of life that opposes your own.
All anyone is trying to do is survive. And sometimes, the strategies we need to survive are considered evil to other ways of life.
We are taught that getting pleasure for inflicting pain on others or taking pain is "not okay."
This is a blind belief that shames any sado masochistic desires a person may inherently have.
However, destruction and destruction of self are a regular part of life.
In many contexts, you will find someone who is "dominating" and someone who is "being dominated."
In modern society, we've managed to do this with respect—assertiveness, boundaries, leadership, teamwork, etc.
But people who get genuine pleasure from playing out these "roles" may want to feel the more "extreme" cases.
This is typically associated with taboos, such as sexual roleplay.
There is no shame in finding pleasure in dominating or being dominated.
The only real issue is how it hurts others who don't consent or want to be involved with blatant expressions of domination and submission.
That's why it's essential to find healthy, socially acceptable outlets for these desires:
- Sexual Conquest
- BDSM / Kink
Living in shame of these desires will cause you to get triggered and be judgmental towards anyone living out the life you secretly, or unknowingly, want to be a part of.
Becoming aware of these sado masochistic desires will also help you make peace with your current life because you will realize that you wouldn't have had much of your present life if a part of you didn't deeply like it.
Obviously, this isn't always the case. But it is for some.
Owning Projections & Becoming Whole
The shadow can only really be observed indirectly. This means that initially, you won't be able to see it on yourself, but you can see it on others.
The idea of "other" is fundamental here. Because you will instinctively project your shadow onto an "other" who has a quality you've disowned.
Many times this is due to your upbringing. For example, based on a trauma you've experienced or a value you picked up.
For example, if your mother told you that the other boys won't want you if you're fat, then you likely grew up doing two things:
- Judging overweight people
- Doing your best to prevent weight gain
Do you see what's going on here?
You dehumanize and consider yourself superior to an entire group of people—based on the arbitrary belief that wasn't even your own and isn't even true.
Your ego even bases its value on that comparison.
What hurts is that you love food... like a lot.
But you live in a personal hell where you have to deny this part of yourself in fear of becoming "one of them."
Hell is living in a world of your own expectations and hurting every moment you know that you're not living up to them.
And then what happens when you get a bit older and start putting on weight? Or you get injured, and you gain weight due to necessary recovery?
Because of that judgment, you held so deeply, you will now live in shame of your existence.
The same people you looked at with triggered disgust are now the same people you are inarguably able to identify with.
The only way to get over this arbitrary self-hate is to accept this as a part of yourself.
Shadow work is an act of self-love. Every quality that a person has exists within you, too, at varying degrees.
But by altogether rejecting a quality in yourself, you are actively engaging in self-hate.
Life is long, and it's foolish to think that the circumstances people go through that you look down upon won't happen to you.
Now I hope you understand how your mind is tricking you into believing that you and "other" exist.
The idea of "other" is a projection, and it always comes back to bite you in the ass.
Which we'll get more into in the next point—
Negative Judgment Feedback Loop
Everyone's first assumption is that others see the world the same way as themselves.
The most meta way of describing this is by understanding that—
If you judge other people, you will think others are judging you too.
Keep in mind that there is "judging," as in making patronizing comparisons, and there is a discerning judgment that falls under observation.
Mature discernment is self-aware and is much less likely to fool itself the same way as someone with a typical judgmental attitude.
Understand that when you go out and judge others, you are projecting stories at them.
You are assuming you know how they think, how they act, their lives, and circumstances—much of these stories are expectations you've attached to the qualities you've rejected within yourself.
Because keep in mind, you rejected these qualities for a reason. You do have negative expectations and stories attached to your shadow qualities.
Again, the mind is fooling you to believe you are not part of a bigger whole. The self-deception is that there is you and "other" when the concept of "other" is only a mind projection.
When you learn to stop judging people, you will no longer feel as if others are judging you.
This isn't the most straightforward task. But being aware of it helps a lot.
When you stop judging others, you will stop judging yourself; you will stop your self-sabotage.
The negative feedback loops from your shadow beliefs will no longer haunt you; "Everyone is out to get me," "Nobody can be trusted," and any other outlooks that have obvious recoil.
By seeing everyone as perfect, and understanding they are the best they could've possibly been—*at this given moment—*you will be more accepting of others and be more willing to see yourself as part of a whole instead of an "other" separate piece.
Freedom From Your Unseen Forces
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.
Through psychology, we are changed. Through spirituality, we are revealed.
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.