Shadow Work: What is it and should I try it?
On our witchcraft and spiritual journey, we meet other people who talk about something called “shadows work”. This is crucial to develop our ability, but also to improve your personal life and self-perception. It helps to heal past injuries, traumas, and accept things we can’t change about ourselves. It even helps to discover things we don’t imagine, and it could be as good as bad. In the shadow is our shame, our wildest instincts, but also our unseen power.
What is the shadow
In the 20th century Carl Jung coined the term “shadow” to appoint an archetype (collective unconscious), and a part of every person (personal unconscious), what is behind the Self.
The shadow is the hidden face of the humans, it’s all what is housed in the unconscious, and it’s more extensive than you think. From a young age we learn what is “good” and what is “bad”, but the “bad” things never disappear, we just send them to the shadow. That’s how it is formed. There are the things we don’t want to admit, or don’t want other people to know because they would judge us. The concept of “good” and “bad” are not the same to everyone, it if different according to family, culture, religion, country, and many factors, and each person has in their shadow what is not “acceptable” to them. What is acceptable are usually things that are good to the others, even though sometimes are not to us. And what is not acceptable is usually frowned upon or bad from society or someone, like our lust, jealousy, lies, rage, envy, and everything driven by the egoism.
Is nothing bad to have a shadow, it is actually inevitable. After all, we are social beings and we want, or rather need, to relate to other people and be well received. It means that you are human, so you shouldn't reject your shadow.
It is not necessarily evil and harm, the extremes are rather a consequence of an unbalanced and repressed shadow. Although in case of having a mental disorder or disability there may not be an external motivation, but in any case, shadow work is useful to make it more manageable and accept it. We all have a shadow that will never disappear, but the consequences of its existence can vary, and in order for it to be the least damaging for ourselves, we must work and face it. It is not only about repression, traumas and hidden desires, but also about intuition and our inclination towards the spiritual and intangible. The shadow is simply that which is not seen, in the light in view of everyone.
How to identify it
If you often feel resentment, rage, or dissatisfied with yourself or your life, that’s a sign of the presence of your shadow. But if is not that simple to you, answer these questions, have you ever:
1. Reacted uncontrollably to a situation?
2. Disliked towards someone for no apparent reason?
3. Had strict and extreme prejudices or judgments against opinions different from yours?
4. Had superiority and inferiority complexes?
5. Felt angry, sad, or ashamed by something apparently insignificant?
If you said “yes” to some of them, then you should try to work on it. Actually, there are a lot of things in your shadow that you probably don’t know they exist. You can make your own questions like “why do I hate this?”, “why do I think obsessively about that?”, or “why do am I so ashamed about that?”. Everything you avoid from yourself, all the repressions, rejections, frustrations, prejudices, all the wild instincts, like sexual or homicidal, are in your shadow. You must know some of them, but other some are so scary that could be on the deepest of your shadow. Face them to take the control.
Shadows work: Why you should try it
Some reactions, words, and attitudes are manifestations of the shadow. The best way to keep it under control and not be dominated by our demons is make it conscious, look at that abyss. Making shadows work is not to illuminate it, and not to show it to everyone. Is about to meet our defects, mistakes, and limitations; forgive and accept us to live in peace with the person we are. It’s important to become aware of all those things as an integral part of us to keep them aligned. So, there are some reasons why you should try to:
1. No one will make you feel bad if you know your own weakness
Anybody can make you feel worse than yourself. When you can face the mirror, people can’t mess with your “defects”. If they just want to make you feel bad, you have the power to avoid that.
2. It helps to be more objective with yourself and with others
Being self-critical is not an easy job. Usually, we are absurdly hurtful to oneself, but kinder to others. Or it could be the opposite case, we are too self-indulgent, while with others we’re too rude. Shadow work promotes balance, freeing from prejudices.
3. Spiritual maturity
As we are free from prejudices, we can see the things as they are. We can see the answers we were looking for, and develop our personal power and spiritual knowledge.
4. Project and channel your own energy and power
Once you have emotional stability, you are able to discover, manage and increase your power, sharpen your intuition and natural abilities.
5. You help others by helping yourself
The collective begins with the individual; the path of spirituality and witchcraft is intimately linked with the connection with other people, from whom we nourish ourselves while they are nourished by us. Furthermore, knowing ourselves can help us understand others, their motives and behavior, we can have the answers to other people's problems just by seeing them and identifying ourselves.
By last, I hope this have helped you. The ideal is to accompany the shadow work by the hand of a mental health professional. You will achieve best results going to a trained person, who can guide you to the best way to express and discover yourself.
Abrams, J. y Zweig, C. (1991). Encuentro con la sombra. El poder del lado oscuro de la naturaleza humana. Translation: David González y Fernando Mora. Eleventh edition. First edition: June 1993. Nueva Conciencia Library. Barcelona: Editorial Kairós.
Eileen, Sidney (2020) Shadow Work and the Magic of Critical Introspection. Patheos: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/thebalancingpath/2020/08/shadow-work-and-the-magic-of-critical-introspection/
Othon, Jack E. (2017). Carl Jung and the Shadow: The Ultimate Guide to the Human Dark Side. High Existence: https://highexistence.com/carl-jung-shadow-guide-unconscious/