Shadow Work: What Is It & Why Practice It?
What is shadow work and how do I do it?
Shadow work is creating awareness around the parts of your life you’ve abandoned and kept hidden. It’s the work of intentionally acknowledging them bringing them into the light and releasing them.
Many of the emotions we hold inside are interpretations of long ago events. Memories, scenes or just vague feelings that have negative energetic charges attached to them. Kept hidden, they can fester and create feelings of overwhelm, fear and disempowerment. They feel secretive, dark, primitive, irrational, and dangerous. Often our psyches think giving them any attention at all is unwise and unsafe. So we do our best to leave them alone.
Yet, left alone they fester and raise their head in ways such as:
Feelings out of control
Feeling flashes of panic or dread
Not being able to talk about your feelings
A reasonable argument turns into warfare
Crying for no reason
Try this useful automatic writing exercise as an effective tool to express negative feelings in a way that can feel safe.
Take a piece of paper, and start writing the sentence “I am really feeling _____ right now.” Fill in the blank with any feeling that comes up – preferably a negative feeling that you had to keep to yourself that day – and keep writing. Don’t stop – write as fast as you can, putting down any words that want to stream out of you.
Other sentences that you can use to begin this exercise might be:
“Nobody wants to hear me say this, but”
“I can’t wait to tell someone that I”
“Nobody can stop me from saying the truth about”
“What I should have said was”
It’s best to write quickly without thinking about the words or sentences. The words you write don’t matter. What you’re getting at is the forbidden feeling, offering it a voice and an outlet. When you access the feeling the work of release can begin. It’s important to give yourself permission to feel completely, not holding back any stream of words that come up. As your writing comes to an end, ask for release and continue on until you get a new bit of self understanding.
This may take some practice. Most of us are not used to giving ourselves the freedom to express these types of emotions. We have, in fact been taught and encouraged to suppress them. Don’t be surprised if you are met with some resistance at first. Persist and let them come up and out.
Our shadow is subtly involved in many aspects of everyday life. Learning how to access it and give it space for expression can create powerful shifts towards our peace and well being.
Contributed by Meg Williams