I have probably wrote about this before but felt it needed another visit after having a wake up call about it in the last few days. The idea of working on the shadow was first brought into Psychology by one of my heroes ‘Carl Jung’. The shadow is all the disowned parts of ourselves, the parts we wished weren’t there. The anger, frustration, resentment. Whatever it is lies outside our conscious awareness. It’s not that these things are bad things in themselves. No emotions are actually bad. They’re just things which are uncomfortable for us. People who come to therapy are often being quite troubled with their shadow. These disturbances are often popping up to the point where people don’t know what to do with them and the validation of therapy and exercises such as journaling help the release of these things and thereby an integration into the overall self.
Renowned Philosopher Ken Wilber speaks about shadow work and it’s importance as an ongoing part of our personal and spiritual growth. He splits our overall integral life practice as he calls it into components of mind, body, spirit, shadow. Mind is naturally things like reading, discussion, etc. Body can involve weights, running, etc. Spirit would be maybe meditation or mindfulness. His great book Integral Life Practice covers this all in detail and the importance of having modules in each area to keep moving forward towards a more enlightened integral life. There isn’t any right or wrong and it can all just be tailor made for us.
If you’re disowning your shadow it will likely be popping up at points but you are not acknowledging it for what it is. It is only by embracing it that we can keep moving forward towards greater authenticity. Ken Wilber discusses the common mistake in shadow disowning and how this is commonly a factor in spirituality of the east. He says how it is quite common for so called enlightened people to still have big shadows. He says that it is the wests main contribution to studies of enlightenment to acknowledge the shadow and shadow work.
In a recent post I saw a quote by Jung even equating shadow work to a metaphor of Jesus on the cross. He said that how the 2 thieves, one on each side of Jesus symbolise the shadow which is owned (the one which goes to heaven) and the other which is disowned goes to hell.
It’s really important to keep reflecting on our own innocence and know we are by nature fundamentally flawed and were never meant to be perfect. That is our beauty as humans.
I have recently been speaking with clients in my counselling work who are being supportive to people with severe mental health issues in their work and have been experiencing burnout mixed with a disowned shadow of ‘but its them with the problems, I shouldn’t feel burned out and frustrated.’ By allowing these uncomfortable feelings to come forward and be acknowldged more progress has been able to occur.
In the last few days I experienced a similar thing which I’m now feeling ‘somewhat’ better about. In my new business I have been hugely engaged in mind and spirit. I have been excelling in those areas. Then suddenly I had a huge bubble up of frustration from shadow. This frustration of people not responding exactly how I would like. I got really pissed off about it. I hated it at first but then expressed it. It’s still coming out now and it’s feeling so much better. To know that this is all okay and is just my shadow and there’s beauty and innocence in that. This release in then going hand in hand with my overall vision of authenticity and personal growth in people coming into my new work. Mixed in with this too so it isn’t just always so light and fluffy there is the important acknleledgement of my own and the shadows of others as the important component of growth. That gritty and messy part which is important to us all on our joureys.
Best wishes everyone….. and work on your shadow
PS Psychotherapy is particularly useful form of shadow work, as is journal writing and also an exercise called the 3 2 1 shadow practice you can find online.
Here is a small youtube video which explains shadow work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeK4AYG5Kqs