…….. …………..i’d rather be whole than good’ (carl jung)
shadow work essentially is finding parts of ourselves that we may have hidden in ‘shadow’, in an attempt to hide these parts from the world, and from ourselves.
in looking into these ‘shadows’, and bringing them to light, we may find these pieces of ourselves in our projections onto others, and in the reflections of these parts in the behaviours of others.
through ‘shadow work’, we can begin to recognise these pieces as part of our potential, and discover the qualities of these parts of ourselves. in doing so, we can reintegrate this part back more fully into ourselves.
there are many reasons why we may have hidden or disowned these parts of ourselves…to take just one example, if we have been told that being that way is bad as a child, and learnt that certain qualities/traits are met with approval, attention, love, while others are met with anger, hate and punishment. this can encourage us to reject and hide the parts of ourselves that met with anger/punishment/disapproval.
and they call these parts that we have hid from the outside world (and ourselves) ‘shadow’ parts of us, until we bring them to light.
.these rejected and hidden parts of ourselves, we can well, we might not even know they were there… except….
…except,well, it’s almost as if these parts of us are asking to be accepted and integrated into ourselves, as these particular qualities/traits, we often ‘project’ onto other people, so that we can see these parts in the actions of other people. it is like the other person a projection screen or mirror that we can see these parts of ourselves on.
sometimes they can come out in our own behaviours too unexpectedly.
debbie ford calls this the ‘beachball effect’, try holding a beachball underwater for any length of time, after so long it can just pop up to the surface…. and so too can these parts of ourselves held down deep in our subconscious suddenly pop up to the surface…as a projection and/or as our own behaviour when we ‘lose control’.
…in seeing these parts of ourselves, we can then recognise and accept, and integrate them back into our sense of self.
once these part of us is accepted, respected and integrated, it seems we no longer need to project it out…often the other person we were projecting onto my no longer acts that way. it’s almost like they need not have to play that particular part anymore that is so beneficial to see, find the quality in and integrate……
And in cases where perhaps they do do that particular behaviour again, it tends to not longer trigger the same strong emotional response it did. instead it may be looking at that behaviour with more compassion and understanding… and/or as we’re not being triggered by itm increase our ability to deal effectively with that situation…
the ‘story of the two wolves’ has relevance to shadow work, as once we feed each part of ourselves, once we accept and recognise the gifts of these parts of us, we can have more control of if or when we utilise these gifts, which can be used as useful tools in some situations. while we can try work out what these gifts are in our head, doing shadow work exercises to find and integrate these gifts can find gifts we would not even have thought of in that way. for me it is doing these exercises, rather than trying to guess using my head that has brought about the changes and freeing within myself.
.there are some easy indicators of whether someone’s behaviour is a projection. one main one is noticing emotional response to a behaviour. basically, if someone/their behaviour, really annoys you, ‘winds’ you up, makes you angry, frustrated, or even has a more positive emotional response where you greatly admire a quality in someone else but do not accept it as your own….these are often strong indicators that what you are seeing in others could be a projection of part of yourself. more information on this and other ways is in the sub-menu ‘finding the shadow pieces’.
which parts of us we hide can depend on our environment, for example in a family where disapproval is given for being ‘stupid’, then the ‘stupid’ part of them may be hid, where disapproval is given for being ‘clever’ or a ‘swot’, then that part may be hidden.
.some qualities that many would deem ‘good’ to have but we have, for various reasons, believed that they are in others rather than ourselves, denying this quality in ourselves, some call ‘light shadows’. and we may, like so many people seem to do, project them onto ‘guru’s’, ‘superstars ‘celebrities’ thinking they are better than us, instead of realising the wonderful potential in ourselves…
…shadow work processes can be great for assisting us bring these parts of ourselves into us too. while it is lovely being a projection screen/mirror for these ‘light’ shadows, it is even more lovely when individuals own those projections as themselves. the tradition calls this finding these ‘light’ and ‘dark shadows’ as finding our gold.
‘i’ll be your mirror,
reflect what you are,
in case you don’t know’ (velvet underground)
.and with this work we can realise that others are projecting onto us too, which can assist us free ourselves from being affected by the opinions others have of us, their judgement, anger, frustration and so on…. as if they are feeling this, most likely it is because they are projecting onto us…. so we can be freer to not take things so personally….hence the saying
“what other people think about you is none of your business”
if the ‘shadows’ of what they are projecting onto us have been integrated by us, then, someone even using a characteristic as an insult, even easier to not take it personally. can be more likely to feel:
‘yes i can be like that sometimes’, or ‘i do have the potential to be like that, yes’, or ‘yes i can be like that, but i wasn’t then’…
more likely too, to have compassion for them that they are just projecting out, and not be insulted by it.
and with all of this shadow work can enable us to be even more authentic, as with access to these parts of us, we have more access to a potentiality, our tools and resources in our lives, allowing us to be more fully ourselves.
this is just a glimpse of shadow work…more information on this work can be found places like:
some ways of finding shadow pieces: shadow finding
exercises to integrate shadow pieces are also in the submenu shadow freeing
debbie fords books ‘dark side of the light chasers’, and ‘why good people do bad things’,
robert bly’s book ‘ a little book on the human shadow’
bill plotkin’s book ‘soulcraft’
other authors include carl jung, gay and katie hendricks.