What Is Shadow Work?
We all have a darker half. A side of ourselves that we prefer to keep secret. We are unaware of what triggers our human shadow.
Known as our shadow, shadow archetypes, or a shadow aspect, we all fear that our Dr. Jekyll will announce itself. Yet, our dark sides can be anything inducing a shameful feeling, and it could simply be your shyness, self-consciousness, or a response to trauma.
Tapping into this dark side is called shadow work. Exploring your shadow involves paying attention to our unconscious mind.
Therapists and spiritualists practice shadow work to help people embody their full potential. Shadow work can help you become a more confident person.
Follow our guide to shadow work, exploring your shadow, and becoming a shadow work practitioner.
What is shadow work?
What is shadow work? It is a term shrouded in mystery and spirituality. Shadow work means understanding your unconscious mind, the unknown side of us, called a shadow.
A lot of people have a shadow. This unconscious aspect of yourself is something you do not associate with your mind and body or personality. Ever experienced a strong emotion or sometimes felt triggered without a plausible explanation?
Described by Carl Jung as “that hidden, repressed, for the most part, inferior and guilt-laden personality,” shadows are our dark side.
Your shadow is part of your personality that you reject or dissociate with yourself. Some people might recognize their shadows quickly; others might require careful probing. Trained therapists ask gentle questions to discover where your shadow lies.
Our shadows create behavioral patterns, negative emotions, and limiting beliefs. Our childhood experiences form shadows; children are very impressionable.
If a parent or guardian told you not to speak out of turn as a child, your adult self might be nervous about speaking up, and this causes an instinct to bury any traits we think are undesirable as shadows.
Shadows can trigger a feeling of shame that forces our behavior patterns to avoid these triggers. Shadows can be anything from a fear of speaking up to disguising a traumatic childhood memory. You might have more than one shadow.
Shadow work is a therapeutic method to integrate your shadow with your conscious mind. By understanding your shadow, you can move forward from any traumas or limiting behavior. Shadow work can create a personally developed self; more confident and happy with themselves.
Many people have practiced shadow work to become complete people, able to fulfill their potential. Ever feel like some part of you is holding you back? You can start practicing shadow work on yourself by signing up for an online course.
Who coined the term shadow work?
Shadow work is most commonly associated with psychologist Carl Jung in the twentieth century. Not dissimilar to Freud’s unconscious mind, Jung described shadows as the dark side of ourselves.
However, it differs from Freud’s definition as Jung specifies that the shadow self can also contain positive traits. Someone with low self-esteem, for example, might find positive ego characteristics in their shadow.
Jung considered the shadow to consist of thoughts, desires, behaviors, and memories. On the other hand, Freud’s unconscious mind refers to repressed emotions and thoughts, and Jung thought the unconscious mind was more versatile.
Jung said, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
Carl Jung’s understanding of shadow work is that it may link back to our animal instincts. By adapting to cultural norms and societal expectations, we are ridding ourselves of our base instincts that.
For example, anger is quite an animalistic trait, and we might think of these traits as weaknesses and shortcomings.
Our morals and values also form our shadow. Thus we take part in psychological projection, and we imagine our shadow qualities in other individuals but cannot see them in ourselves.
Alan Watts also contributed to our understanding of shadow work. He thought that social ethics held more influence over our spiritual identity than absolute morals (the instinct of right and wrong).
Unlike Jung, who believed in a mix of individual and societal ethics, Watts places our shadow entirely within the realm of society.
What is shadow work in spirituality?
Shadow work in spirituality does not differ too much from psychological shadows. Spiritualists term shadows as the “soul” or “higher self.”
However, spiritualists still recognize that each person has a shadow archetype. There are, for example, four archetypes of masculine behavior: king, warrior, magician, and lover.
King, warrior, magician, lover are multifaceted types. The king, for example, is a tyrant, but his shadow self is weak, desiring validation from others.
Spiritualists encourage you to explore your shadow to overcome the weaker, shadow self. Integrating your shadow with yourself might allow you to access enhanced energy.
If you have practiced shadow work or want to get started with shadow work, there are many online courses to teach you the basics.
What is shadow work therapy?
Therapeutic shadow work is the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst exploration of your shadow self. Using Jungian shadow work, therapists explore your shadows to help you get a clearer perception of your emotional reactions.
If someone has low self-esteem, life coaching will help them cultivate self-compassion for the cause of the wounded self. Psychologists examine childhood treatment and probe the inner child to bring the shadow self to the conscious ego.
Your shadow self can be extremely self-destructive. It is hard to self-develop without shadow work as you do not associate this part of yourself with your personality.
A therapist might explore your psychological projections to understand where your shadow lies. Many people imagine their own worst traits in others.
If a parent or guardian told you in childhood that you had to be active and productive, you might repress your urge to relax. For example, if you cannot stand someone lazy or laid back, your shadow might hold your lethargic traits.
On the surface, repressed emotions and behaviors might not seem to impact your daily life too much. Yet, those who have practiced shadow work claim to become an enhanced version of themselves.
Ridding yourself of limiting behaviors, guilt, and shame, can reduce stress and improve your emotional wellbeing.
Is shadow work dangerous?
Shadow work, on the whole, is not dangerous. Some people might have rather traumatic repressed memories and emotions in their shadow, and Uncovering these without proper psychological care might be risky.
However, for most people, shadow work can improve your self-awareness and confidence. The benefits of shadow work are infinite.
From improved relationships to better body image, understanding our shadow selves is therapeutic. Recognizing the aspects of your shadow and overcoming any guilt or shame associated with these behaviors can improve your self-esteem.
You can tackle poor body image or lack of confidence through the shadow process. Ridding yourself of these darker aspects will enhance your overall self-respect, and it might also improve your physical health.
Similarly, understanding your solid emotional reactions will help your friendships and relationships. From preventing psychological projections to overcoming an angry instinct, shadow work improves your ability to form strong relationships.
Some argue that shadow work cannot be inherently dangerous as it is the process of knowing yourself. Whatever emotion or behavior you are trying to access is already there, and you cannot do any harm to yourself.
Although recognizing your shadows might itself be intense and scary, the overall benefits and long-term health is worth it. If you wish to improve yourself or start a career in life coaching, learning shadow work properly will earn you better results.
How to do shadow work?
Shadow work isn’t something you can master within a day. The practice of listening to your inner dialogue and paying attention to your emotional reactions takes time.
You have to learn to be patient with your self-awareness. Your shadow won’t reveal itself in a day.
To begin shadow work on yourself, pay attention to every emotional and behavioral reaction. It might help to log your observations to identify patterns.
As the shadow is inherently part of us we are trying to hide, it can be challenging to allow yourself to identify your shadow. Some reactions will be so instinctual that you might not even notice them.
Once you have learned to engage in inner dialogue, start cultivating self-compassion for these behaviors. Facing the most shameful parts of you can trigger further discomfort with yourself. Rather than hiding from your shadows, ask yourself why they are there.
Question every behavior and action. Why do you react with shame at the thought? The more you practice paying attention to your shadow self, the more effortless recognizing these behaviors becomes.
To learn the basics of shadow work and where to begin, enroll in a training program. Online courses provide you with the exercises and support you need to start shadow work.
What are some shadow work exercises?
There are shadow work exercises you should practice to uncover your shadow. Using journal prompts and documenting your emotional reactions will help you track patterns.
Begin by identifying the strong emotional responses. Over time, you will learn to be so in tune with yourself that you will notice smaller and smaller reactions. A journal will remind you to pay attention to the darker aspects of yourself.
When you notice a strong emotional reaction, ask yourself what specifically triggered it:
Was it a word?
Ask yourself how you reacted. Was there a physical manifestation of your shadow? How did you feel?
The next step is to question why you reacted this way, and this can be harder as you have to delve quite deeply into your unconscious mind. It also might take some time for you to realize the answers.
Imagining your shadow as a kind of invisible bag might also help. Visualizing your shadow inflating when you are reacting or behaving will help identify your shadow self.
Practicing mindfulness meditation is another good way to start to understand yourself. During meditation, you can question your unconscious mind and access deeper parts of yourself.
Meditation is also an excellent place to begin integrating your shadow with your persona. Find value in these parts of yourself you find challenging to accept.
Online shadow work courses offer shadow work prompts that you can practice gaining deeper self-awareness. They also teach you how to use these exercises with others to become a shadow work practitioner.
What online shadow work courses are available?
An online shadow work course is an excellent way to begin shadow work. Whether you want to practice shadow work on yourself or work as a life coach, the proper training is necessary.
At Courses for Success, we offer a Shadow Work Practitioner Online Certificate Course. The course teaches everything you need to know about becoming a shadow work practitioner.
The course materials are available for you to access at any time, and the course takes 150 hours of study. It is the ideal training program covering modern shadow work theory and setting up your own shadow work business.
Why Courses for Success?
Courses for Success offers over 10,000 online courses, all of which aim to help you in your personal development and career progression. Not only that, but you can also study them anywhere and at any time, and take them at your own pace, too.
You don’t need career diplomas or specific experience to get started. From our coding courses and trading courses to design courses and developer courses, every course we offer will help boost your prospects, no matter who you are.
Beyond just the education itself, students will be issued a certificate online after completing each of the learning courses they do. Our online shadow work practitioner courses are no exception and are recognized by industry leaders. You could make a name for yourself by signing up for a Courses for Success short course today.