Disclaimer: I am not a Jungian psychologist, neither am I a trained counselor. What I share here comes from my personal experience of doing shadow work. If this resonates, I encourage you to reach out to a trained psychologist who can support you in this work.
We are all made up of light and shadow. This is a statement I say often because I believe it to be 100% true. We tend to think people, including ourselves, are either good or bad. The truth is none of us are all good or all bad; we are a combination of both.
However, this binary thinking and our inherent need to believe we are good means we frequently try to hide the parts of ourselves we know are bad. Having decided these parts of us are unacceptable or not allowed, we drop them into the shadow and become unwilling to acknowledge that they are in us at all.
What is the shadow?
In Jungian psychology, the Shadow or Shadow Aspect is a part of the unconscious that holds the denied parts of self. They are the parts we want to hide away from others (and sometimes even ourselves). The parts we believe are bad and deserving of judgment and/or punishment.
I’ve done shadow work in the past and it has always been eye-opening. My most recent foray into this work came as a result of a thought that popped into my head unannounced (and uninvited I might add). I was journaling trying to unravel something niggling in my mind when the thought showed up.
It was that I was not a trustworthy person. I was surprised because I don’t believe this is true. However, at that moment, I KNEW some part of me believed it. At which point, the inquiry started. It took several weeks for me to peel back the layers hidden inside that judgment of myself.
The gift of self-acceptance
The shadow cannot stay hidden forever. It will eventually show up in some form or fashion. For me, I saw where this shadow part of me had been showing up as self-sabotage. I saw where I’d made choices inconsistent with who I knew myself to be and who I wanted to be.
As I did this shadow work, I lovingly connected with the parts of me I had labeled as bad and judged as untrustworthy. Bringing those parts of me into the light allowed me to drop into a deeper level of self-acceptance.
This is perhaps the greatest gift of the shadow. When you dare to look at these unlovable parts of yourself, you can accept all of who you are without judgment. This self-acceptance in turn yields even more gifts.
The gift of increased confidence
I always say that true confidence is birthed from owning all parts of yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can hold them for what they are without needing to boast about the good, apologize for the bad, or try to hide the ugly. You stop apologizing for who you are, in your words or your actions.
The gift of freedom
Shadow work leads to freedom from shame, guilt, and ultimately judgment. You release the need to make others feel less than so you can feel better about yourself. You let go of patterns of self-sabotage that have tripped you up in the past. And you gain the freedom to let your light shine unencumbered by the weight of judgment placed on yourself or others.
The gift of greater compassion
As you release judgment for self and others, you’ll find that you can hold greater compassion for those around you. You’ll begin to see that their “unsavory” behaviors may be coming from an unloved part of themselves. You see behaviors less as a testament to who someone is and more of an expression of need. Your self-acceptance allows you to acceptant others for who they are, knowing that they too are made of light and shadow.
The gift of deeper self-trust
A final, unexpected gift that I received as I did this shadow work was the gift of deeper self-trust. My shadow work was triggered by a thought that I was untrustworthy. In uncovering the parts of me that led to that belief, I was able to recognize the patterns of second-guessing myself that had gotten in my way over the years.
Accepting these parts of myself now means I can trust my choices. I can readily hear and follow my intuition more. Though trustworthiness was my starting point, I do believe, no matter your shadow part, deeper self-trust comes from doing this work.
Change and the shadow
Change can often be a trigger for the shadow to emerge. The uncertainty of change means we often revert to familiar patterns that are sometimes harmful. Shadow work is hard AND my experience has taught me it is work worth doing.
I’d love to hear from you. What resonated with you about the shadow? How might your shadow self be showing up for you? You can share in the comments below or email me at makeda(at)makedapennycooke(dot)com.
Here’s to you facing your shadow and rising into your greatness.
From my heart to yours,
P.S: If you are facing change and would like support as navigate those changes, let’s talk. Schedule a complimentary call with me today.