Shadow Work: Confronting your inner demons on your journey of spiritual awakening

Shadow Work: Confronting your inner demons on your journey of spiritual awakening

Shadow Work: Confronting your inner demons on your journey of spiritual awakening

Many Spiritual teachers only teach the lighter side of awakening.  The thought of rising above it all, wearing your crystals, meditating, saying your affirmations, and life will be wonderful and nice.  However, the reality is something much more raw and real is needed from us.  If we are to find the light, we have to work with our darkness.

Not enough teachers paint the honest picture of how much pain we actually carry, of what we have endured and taken on unconsciously from our parents, their parents, and society at large.  This pain clutters our senses and keeps the light faded from sight.  Unless we acknowledge our darkness and feel the raw emotion that comes with it, we can never truly enter the light.  We are essentially only performing the ritual without committing ourselves fully to the process.  Repressing our inner shadow can have dangerous consequences.  Most often our shadow manifests as our triggers – emotional reactions we haven’t fully dealt with.  This darkness is not just caused by the pain we are conscious of but also pain we aren’t conscious of.  For example, as children we are told to be confident and proud of ourselves, so we did that.  Then our confidence and pride triggered insecurities in other people and they told us we were smug, arrogant, or conceited, which in turn made us feel bad.  Now anytime we have any bit of confidence or pride in ourselves, we feel we have to balance it with self-deprecating humor and tear ourselves down.  You can see this with people like me who have difficulty taking compliments.  We deflect compliments and turn the attention away from ourselves so we don’t come off as arrogant.  This was something I recently discovered about myself and I wouldn’t have found it if not for my shadow work.

Why do these unconscious things trigger us?  It’s because we are highly invested in the way we present ourselves to the world and anything that threatens this is viewed as a threat to our identity and ultimately our safety.  Our shadow self craves to be understood and explored because it was ignored and potentially shamed throughout your life.  We have to integrate our shadow and light selves so we are able to be mentally and emotionally at our best at all times.  It also helps you to understand why others are reacting so you are able to help them understand themselves so healing can begin.  When we try to repress our shadow self it can lead to issues like: 

  • Self-loathing or poor self-esteem
  • Self-deceit and deceiving others
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Offensive behavior toward others
  • Struggling to have healthy relationships with others
  • Self-sabotage
  • Self-absorption
  • An inflated ego 

It is important to understand our shadow isn’t a flaw or a mistake, it is a natural part of who we are.  So now the big question is, how do we integrate our shadow self?  First, if you struggle with severe trauma, consider seeking out a licensed therapist for treatment.  It is difficult to resolve severe trauma on your own.  To start shadow work on your own: 

  • Decide if you’ll see therapy or do shadow work on your own – You don’t need to have a therapist to do shadow work. However, it can be helpful to have someone else guide you through the process.
  • Practice spotting your inner shadow – What patterns do you tend to replicate repeatedly in your life that you feel are holding you back? You can also pay attention to your triggers.  Triggers remind you of past pain and are messages to help you realize your shadow self wants to be seen.  Finally, notice when you find yourself projecting.  You can do this using the mirror technique.  To practice this, pay attention to how you think and feel when you interact with others.  When negative feelings come up, ask yourself if you may be projecting. As an example, let’s say you’re talking to a friend, and they start taking over the conversation. You’re struggling to put a word in. You may start to judge this behavior and get upset. But perhaps this could be a projection of the shame you feel when you want to speak up and don’t.
  • Think back to your childhood – which emotions were you punished for having? We grow up believing these emotions are bad and therefore, we are bad for having them.
  • Avoid shaming or being ashamed of your shadow – embrace your shadow and have some compassion for yourself. Remember that it’s tough to not feel accepted, especially by yourself.
  • Mediate to observe your triggers – this allows you to take a step back and observe what happens. Observe without being judgmental.  When emotions come up, allow yourself to have them.  Using crystals like black moonstone, black obsidian, black onyx, lapis lazuli, and selenite can assist in your meditations to delve into your shadow self.  See my article on the best stones for shadow work for further insight into what these crystals will bring to you.
  • Keep a shadow journal – a shadow journal is a safe and practical way to express all sides of yourself. You can let out your thoughts, both light and dark, using the written word.  Make it a daily practice to sit down and write in your journal.  Don’t censor yourself.  Write whatever comes up without overthinking it.
  • Express your inner shadow artistically - Art is a powerful way to let your shadow self-express itself. It can be especially beneficial if journaling isn’t the way you prefer to express yourself. According to recent research, art therapy can even be used to treat pre-verbal trauma. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions you need to feel when you’re creating art, even if they’re dark. Express them while using the medium of your choice. This can be painting, sculpture, singing, digital art, music, or anything else you feel called to try.  Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous. Create what your inner self wants to create, no matter what it looks like.
  • Start an inner dialogue – you can learn from your shadow by having an inner conversation with it. To do this, you can use a process similar to meditation.  Ask your shadow some questions and wait for an answer.  Keep an open mind, even if it feels weird.  Take note of the answer and make sure you’re listening without judgment. 

The only way to live authentically as yourself is to discover and accept your shadow self. By accepting yourself fully, you can not only improve your own wellness and mental health, but you can also be ready to accept others for who they are, too.  By doing so, you will truly be in the light and can help lead others to the light.

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