What Is Shadow Work?
Shadow work has been around for eons and has been used by indigenous cultures around the world. It was made more popular in the west by Carl Jung. According to Jung, our shadows can be said to consist of energy patterns, known as selves or sub-personalities, that were disowned — pushed down into our unconscious in childhood — as part of our coping strategies.
Shadow work attempts to get a client in touch with aspects of him/herself that are responsible for creating chaos, dysfunction, pain, etc., in the life of the client. There are a myriad of ways to go about doing this; the particular method I use is a visual and feeling method. It is loosely based on the process of Internal Family Systems (IFS).
The process itself is very gentle and comforting. I start out by creating a safe and sacred space for you to explore yourself. If you desire, I call in your guides and mine, as well as any other spirit helpers you would like to assist in the process or have a resonance with. Afterward, and again if you desire, I start the session by playing my crystal bowl for a few moments in order to get you in more of a relaxed and receptive state for healing. I then take you on a visual and feeling journey to assist you in getting in touch with different aspects of your mind.
During this journey, I use a similar style as the Socratic method in my coaching in the sense that I ask probing questions to help you unlock your mind to your own inner wisdom. My belief is that everyone has their own best answers to their questions, obstacles, and direction of their lives, and I merely assist in drawing that out by guiding you through your own unique processes. I may give examples or options in certain situations, but it is ultimately up to each individual client to come to their own answers with the guidance I give and style of coaching I use.
The Various Selves/Subpersonalities
Typically during these sessions, certain feelings/emotions/aspects of self that have been hidden or repressed become more apparent in an attempt to bring healing and integration to yourself. Together, we attempt to pinpoint what these aspects need in order to be healed and integrated.
This process is catered to each individual, but typically we give names to each of these aspects as they come into your awareness such as “the protector”, “the inner critic”, “the warrior”, “the inner child”, etc. The particular names given to these aspects aren’t as important as actually identifying these various aspects and looking more clearly at them. However, giving them names you resonate with is helpful because it gives more life to these aspects of self in order to see them more clearly and give them what they need for healing/integration. You may not be aware of the impact these different “selves” have on you, and by clearly seeing them and identifying them, you bring them into the light of awareness so they may be transformed into parts which serve you rather than work against you.
Let us now discuss a few of the major sub-personalities which many emotions are related to.
The Protector is that aspect of you which keeps you safe. It is perhaps one of the earliest aspects that was developed as it was developed at a young age and modified over time to be what it is today. It attempts to keep you from perceived harm, threats or danger. This is a sort of built in caution system which teaches you to keep yourself safe and is actually healthy when one is in proper balance. It is out of balance if you feel persistently anxious, overly mistrusting of others and the world, overly suspicious, shut down from others, and other such things in an attempt to protect yourself from what you perceive to be some sort of alert. Many of these imbalances happened at a young age from some degree of trauma or pain. This programmed the protector to be what it is today which you have created unconsciously. This work helps you to get past these stuck patterns and consciously create the Protector aspect in a way which serves your highest good.
When in balance, the Protector acts as a built in caution to alert you to possible danger that is more rational and grounded in reality. It simply keeps you safe in physical reality and keeps you safe from things that may pose potential harm to you.
The Inner Critic
The Inner Critic is that aspect of yourself which judges you in a negative tone. When out of balance, you feel degrees of guilt, shame, or otherwise belittling of yourself.
The Inner Critic is balanced when, for example, you start giving yourself constructive feedback instead of judgment. If there is something you could truly improve upon that you’ve been slacking on, this aspect of yourself can be trained to give you this feedback on what you could do better and how you can go about making it happen. You are reprogramming it in a conscious way which will eventually turn it into more of an automatic pattern the more it is used and integrated. It may be judgmental from time to time, but you’ll realize it’s just an old pattern which you are no longer listening to. So the Inner Critic would then be an ally, and could perhaps be called the Inner Evaluator. You would honestly be evaluating your life including your current strengths and weaknesses in a way that is serving to yourself. Rather than beating yourself up or otherwise putting yourself down, the Inner Evaluator simply nudges you in a positive direction to take action on things you would like to change or improve. You take as honest and as objective of a look as you can in order to see how to go about correcting something that no longer serves you.
The Warrior is that aspect of ourselves which makes us feel confident and able to achieve what we wish to achieve. It is a source of true power and true confidence within us. It helps us to keep going and keep reaching for whatever it is we desire.
The Warrior is out of balance when you become too aggressive or otherwise too self righteous in your ways. It will attack, either verbally or physically when it feels threatened if too out of balance.
The Inner Child
The Inner Child is our innocent, childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children.
There are parts of your inner child known as “exiles”. These are parts of the Inner child that have become wounded or otherwise gone through various trauma. They have gone in exile, or have become hidden from your every day awareness in order to avoid/defend against the pain and trauma carried in those memories. The Inner Child also holds what has been called “Golden selves” which can also be repressed. The Golden Selves are those aspects of you which are loving, joyful, artistic, creative, etc. You may have gotten shamed by expressing some of this as a child, so they became hidden in order to get approval.
The Self is a transcendent, unchanging part of yourself beyond the ego and shadow. Its viewpoint contains an objectivity, acceptance, reconciliation, and balance of the “opposites” of ego and shadow and our many contradictory feelings and impulses. It is the part of you free of any biases or limiting thoughts about yourself. It is the “perfection” of yourself, the totality of you. No matter what has happened to you, the Self remains unchanged and unaffected. The goals of the Self have to do with your heart and soul’s true desires which are aligned toward the actualization of its life-purpose. This is what brings true joy and gives you a sense of purpose. The ego, without the wise, balancing influence of the Self, tends to select goals that are no more than ego-symbols, such as an fancy home. When you have an intuitive feeling or a clear understanding of a direction to take, most likely it is coming from the Self. When you feel “in the zone” in your creativity or any other actions you are taking, most likely you are in touch with the Self.
The goal is to get all aspects of yourself aligned with the Self as much as possible. When they have different agendas, you tend to feel torn and confused, or otherwise dysfunctional. They can pull you in unnecessary directions and cause unnecessary turmoil and make you feel out of balance. When your parts are aligned with the Self, you are at the height of your humanness. These parts are used to serve your highest good and to build the grandest version of the greatest vision you have about who you are. They are thus then used and focused on creating the life of your true desires. Nothing is impossible to achieve, and nothing can perturb you for very long. You have a clear sense of direction in your life and live a life with passion and joy. Confusion lifts, and you are no longer being pulled in different directions because you know exactly what it is you desire. You are happy to just simply be, and everything else is a gift to express your beingness.