Human beings are a complicated bunch. We all contain good and bad, light and dark.
This means that even as happy and spiritually-inclined as you might be, there’s also another side of you.
Your shadow side: that part that rules us subconsciously, that drives us to act in ways we’re not so proud of, those things about ourselves that we’d rather not see.
The Shadow Self represents those unconscious behaviors, desires, and motivations that we all have. Our shadow self controls a lot of what we do and how we operate in the world.
We all have a dark side. We all have thoughts and emotions that we’re not so proud of.
And they’re each an important part of us.
Shadow work is the path of the heart warrior
~ Carl Jung
Typically, when we act from our shadow side, we’re usually reacting. It seems like we’re not actually in charge for that split-second because it’s our subconscious mind taking over. So unless you do this shadow work, you’re doomed to let this part of you control you eventually.
However, these instinctual actions are not intentional and very often not representative of us! Acting out can lead to even more stress. Not only are we hiding away how we actually feel but now we’re also defending our actions. It’s not a good place to be.
Embracing our shadow side involves taking a brutally honest look within and accepting what we find. But doing shadow work will always lead us to a happier state of being. Learning how to integrate our shadow is challenging work but ultimately allows us to lead a more fulfilling life.
So if you’re ready to do some work and take a deeper look at yourself, here are some suggestions to get you started.
How To Integrate Your Shadow Self
How To Integrate Your Shadow Step #1:
Find The Shadow
Begin by simply trying to figure out where your shadows lie. Look for tell-tale signs of discomfort like guilt or embarrassment or things that you try to avoid. When you really don’t want to address something, you’re probably on the right track!
We all have things that we avoid or put off dealing with. Sometimes they’re things we’re fascinated with but would never tell anyone about. All of these things have a lot to say about us. Do you avoid confrontation with a loved one? Talking about money? Being honest about some area of your life? Lean in and see what you and learn. Look for patterns or similarities in various situations in your life. (Some might have existed for years or even decades!)
You might also find clues to your shadow in other people. Our world is a mirror of us and the things we notice about it are often present within ourselves. So when something about someone else really bothers you, you’re likely to just be focusing on an aspect of yourself. Our own harsh judgments are clues to understanding ourselves.
How To Integrate Your Shadow Step #2:
Aim For Understanding
Instead of hiding away our secret feelings, it’s time to find their root cause. The shadow self is typically formed from the things we repress. Whether consciously or subconsciously, somewhere along the way you’ve been taught that some aspects of yourself are bad or undesirable. So you learned how to get really good at hiding them away.
But those aspects of you are still there. They’re real and important. Hiding them away is just a band-aid solution. You deserve to express your true desires and emotions. It takes courage to confront those things in ourselves that we’d rather not see but it’s the only way to gain control over them.
If someone else has triggered you, take a step back and look inside yourself. We might be outwardly condemning the way someone else behaves but we might actually be jealous of that person’s verve or confidence. Sometimes other people acting in ways we only wish we could act makes us go a little crazy! So try to recognize if this dynamic is happening within you.
How To Integrate Your Shadow Step #3:
Release Your Guilt
Guilt has a powerful hold over us that is mostly unnecessary. All those “should” thoughts (“I should do/feel/think/be something else”) arise from guilt. Those “should” feelings were imposed on us by society. But guilt is not natural; it’s learned!
We carry around the heavy weight of guilt rather than express what we really want to express or do what we really want to do. And most of the time guilt is much more damaging than our actual feelings! So look at your guilt. Look at your shame. Try to find where it came from. And ask yourself is that guilt really helping you? Is it serving you at all? Is it helping you lead a better life or is it making your world smaller?
Aim to remove your feelings of guilt and shame and accept yourself and all of your uniqueness. We all have dark and light aspects. Integrating the two makes the dark less scary and less likely to have any power over you.
How To Integrate Your Shadow Step #4:
If there’s a safe way for you to let your shadow self out, then it’s time to explore it. Do the things you really want to do or at least try them on for size!
You may have to play with the expression to find something that is safe and healthy. If anger is part of your shadow side becoming angry or violent could be dangerous. But learning to channel that energy safely (by taking a kickboxing class, for example) can safely tame your urges.
Look to your existing creative outlets. Can you write/ draw/ dance out your emotions? Expression is the goal here (not aiming to create master works of art!). Doing something that makes you feel good is all that’s required. (You never have to show your work to anyone else. I promise!)
How To Integrate Your Shadow Step #5:
Working with our shadow is not a one-time-only event! It’s an ongoing process. So don’t berate yourself when these moments rise to the surface. The more loving attention you can shed on your shadow self, the less dark and scary that side of you will become.
Just know that the shadow won’t ever go away completely. We all have light and dark sides and both are meant to teach us something. You’ll be triggered over and over again during this life, and every time is an opportunity to get to know yourself more intimately.
Learning how to integrate your shadow is an important step to leading a more aligned and fulfilled life! I hope this article helps you on your journey to self-discovery. Please remember to share it if you found it useful!