I’ve spoken a lot about my journey of self healing and self love. My growth, change or transformation, whatever term is given, it all started with shadow work. Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who believed we all carry a shadow, that part of ourselves we don’t often identify with, that part of ourselves that if we repress, can result in addictions, low self-esteem, mental health issues, chronic illness and a host of other unfavourable things.
Shadow work is not for the faint hearted as it requires you to look deep within yourself. It requires complete transparency and honesty with yourself and those close to you. It requires you to identify your shadow, the darker side of yourself. Our shadows are located in our subconscious, we buried them in there, that’s why it’s tricky to identify. In order to identify our shadow, we must first become aware of the recurrent feelings that we always feel. Some common beliefs are “I’m not good enough”, “I am flawed”, “I am unloveable”. Remember no emotions are bad! Our negative emotions are portals into the shadow. They help us determine our wounds and fears.
Shadow work is considered soul work and it happens on its own timeline, just be patient and know that in time the answers will come. Never force answers or jump to conclusions because they might be the wrong ones. You need to get to a place where you can investigate your feelings objectively and with compassion which can sometimes be difficult, as it’s easier to blame other people as to why you have these feelings and beliefs. Also understanding why people who hurt you acted in a particular way, can be hard to accept, but in order to heal ourselves, we must forgive those who hurt us so we can move on.
How do you explore your shadow? Things like journaling, writing, meditation and just allowing yourself to feel are all helpful. The biggest mistake we make is trying to bury or hide those feelings, getting busy and distracting ourselves so we don’t have to deal with the feelings. Here’s the thing though YOU will NEVER heal or grow unless you allow yourself to face the emotions and feelings. To experience yourself as a whole, you need to own your emotions, you need to feel your feelings, you need to be brutally honest. Many times we cannot do it alone and things like hypnotherapy and other forms of therapy are required to help us with our shadow work.
I think many of us get caught up in the “just be positive” and think with “love and light”, which of course are all beneficial, however, this is purely a form of escapism. Focusing only on these things will never heal your wounds on a deeper level and if you think you do not have any wounds or any shadows, you would be mistaken and perhaps for some it is easier to just put on a mask everyday and avoid what is really going on inside of them rather then facing themselves, their truth, their secrets, repressed feelings, primitive impulses and those parts we all have that maybe deemed “unacceptable”. It’s so easy to focus on the light and positive side of life and whilst this will provide temporary emotional support, it doesn’t reach the depths of your being and therefore doesn’t transform you at a core level. Instead it leaves you superficially hanging onto warm and fuzzy platitudes which trick you into thinking you have changed but this never enacts real and permanent change.
In essence shadow work is the attempt to uncover everything that we have hidden and every part of us that has been disowned and rejected within our shadow selves. Why would we put ourselves through this you may ask? Because without revealing to ourselves what we have hidden, we remain forever burdened with problems such as fear, anger, guilt, shame, grief etc. As uncomfortable as it may sound, there is a dark side, a shadow side within EVERY human being, regardless of how good a person you think you maybe. The nature of being human is to possess both a light and dark side and we need to embrace that. We also need to do the hard inner work and come face to face with our shadow. When we can look at our shadow in the eye with self love, we can then begin our growth, our transformation.
My shadow work started with writing. I have written about my feelings, the good and the bad. I have written with honesty and identified some limiting beliefs. I have written letters of forgiveness to those who have hurt me and to myself as I too have hurt others. I journal regularly and I meditate daily. I read and continue to learn, however, I could not have achieved the growth I have without hypnotherapy because that really tapped into the sub-conscious. My shadow was a lack of self belief. Fear of failure. Not establishing boundaries in case I upset people. Wanting to please those in my life at the expense of my own wellbeing. Needing validation. Of course these things then have their own run offs of other emotions and behaviours, like some guilt and shame which could not have been worked through on my own, so I am very grateful to have had my wonderful hypnotherapist to support me. Being able to speak your truth in all its rawness and messiness is truly a blessing because burying things I have learnt will always come back and bite you at some point. It’s being specific and understanding yourself, which inturn, helps you to understand others.
“Beneath the social mask we wear everyday, we have a hidden shadow side. An impulsive, wounded, sad or isolated part that we generally try to ignore. The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality and acknowledging it can be a pathway to healing and living our most authentic life”. Don’t distract yourself from thoughts and feelings, feel them and deal with them, in all their difficulty, their sadness and their pain. Don’t live a life to make someone else happy or to suit what society says you should be doing, live a life that makes you happy. Be honest with those in your life so your conscience is clear. Most importantly don’t lie to yourself. Don’t convince yourself you are happy because it’s pleasing everyone else. Living your authentic life can only be done when you face your demons and speak your truth and when you allow yourself to listen to your soul. Three things in life cannot be long hidden. The sun. The moon. And the truth.
Our ability to love ourselves is directly related to our willingness to love our own darkness. Knowing that your journey through life will continue to evolve and you should always be willing to grow. Taking your mask off, feeling your feelings, being honest about your feelings and honest with yourself, facing your shadow and following your soul will allow you to be your most authentic self.