Getting Started with Shadow Work
Shadow work is an integral part of any spiritual practice. It’s about delving into your unconscious and subconscious mind to uncover parts of yourself that you keep repressed, hidden, or denied. This could be trauma from the past, or personality/character traits that you consider undesirable.
It was popularised by Carl Jung, a psychiatrist who believed that the ‘shadow’ represents the undeveloped parts of our personality, the parts that lie just beneath the surface and still influence our behaviour and decisions. The part of ourselves that we haven’t fully integrated into our conscious awareness.
Your shadow self may be presenting as jealousy, anxiety, depression, codependency, victimisation, guilt or shame, or general feelings of discontent.
So why is shadow work important? Well, everything we do is through our own lens of experience. Shadow work helps keep that lens clear. We’re all human beings with an ego – a human ‘sense of self.’
In a spiritual sense, our ego only becomes problematic when we let the ego drive us. When this happens, our ability to give and receive messages and energy is skewed. We need to be able to remove ‘us’ from the equation. We need to remove that jealousy, anxiety, or guilt, and keep our energy channels clean and objective.
In a psychological sense, doing shadow work aims to bring our hidden aspects to light through a therapeutic process – to acknowledge and accept them so we can gain a better understanding of ourselves, release emotional baggage and experience personal growth and transformation.
It can be a confronting thing. The goal of shadow work isn’t to bypass your negative emotions or finding them and wallowing – it’s about finding a way to help your ego process them. This helps turn them into valuable, positive tools of practice. Shadow work can be as simple as just identifying your negative emotions. All negative emotions are a part of being human. Acknowledging and seeing that they’re there, is a great place to start.
Its great to ask for guidance when delving into shadow work.
First and foremost, guidance from a counsellor or psychologist is key. This is challenging work, and your goal to heal should be backed up by steps taken on the physical plane to achieve that – remember that magic means trading energy for energy, and actually doing the work.
But secondly, there are some awesome goddesses you can call on to help you navigate your shadow work! Most Crone goddesses will have the energies you need to support your workings- but to get you started, here are some of our favourites:
- Ix Chel: want to leave behind what’s no longer serving you? Ix Chel is a wonderful companion and a protector of all women
- Kali: learning new things can be hard, but UNlearning things? That’s a big (and admirable) task to undertake. Kali is great for changing perspectives, destroying old habits and revitalising the faith within.
- Lilith: at some point in our lives, we realise why we’re so prone to repressing things. And with this realisation comes a fire in your belly, an anger that’s been lying in wait since long before you were physically born. Lilith can help you transform that energy and break free from the shackles you’ve been burdened with.
- Persephone: who better to guide you through the dark and emerge with you, hand in hand, through the other side of transformation? Persephone will help you become the woman you were always meant to be.
Some ways to dip your toe into the shadows are through daily self-reflection and journaling, meditation and mindfulness, and actively identifying your triggers. The thing with shadow work is that its not a one and done – it is a continuous and ongoing process.
Remember to be patient and compassionate with yourself, trust that the journey you’re embarking on is highly rewarding, and watch yourself transform.