By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
If you’ve ever been involved in therapy or self-improvement you have unknowingly been involved with your shadows. Additionally, you might be surprised to know that if you have ever been angry with another person, you were likely interacting with your own shadow in that situation.
The shadow is that part of you that you’d prefer to not admit to or look at. Interestingly, after doing your shadow-work you may find it easier to accept your human-ness, and even accept your imperfections, and yourself, as being ‘just perfect’.
Shadow work may seem like the hardest work that you have ever done, but it is also the most profound for providing insightful life-changing transformations. Here are techniques to begin your shadow-work.
Since many people want to ease into making life-changes, you can begin with the more traditional self-improvement efforts that you’ve already considered. Are any of your actions now habits that are not serving a beneficial purpose? Do you want to take control of that now? Dealing with these issues will familiarize you with the process of making changes and allow you to realize that though there might be emotional discomfort, it is temporary. Confidence and security are paramount when you are addressing the tough issues that you wish you didn’t see – your shadows.
When you have adequately tackled one or more of those habits/behaviors and are ready to dig deeper, consider the following questions that were shared at a recent retreat by Karlta Zarley to identify a potential shadow issue for your exploration.
- What is no longer needed?
- What is no longer wanted?
- What is no longer in your best interest?
- What are you afraid to look at?
- What have you never even considered?
- What is not tangible, yet you still know it’s important (for instance, an intuitive knowing)?
- What have you not seen at all (obviously one of the hardest to find)?
Although shadow work can seem daunting, I urge you to consider the importance of this work, and engage. Acknowledging, addressing and healing these deep issues can positively affect your:
- And even the inter-generational patterns that have affected you.
But beware of the shadow-sleaze. The shadow sleaze will pipe up with a rationale that will tempt you to think that you are justified. Here’s an example of shadow work and the shadow-sleaze:
Let’s imagine that you realize you have a problem with anger, and have decided that your angry eruptions, especially at work, are not in your best interest (see bullet #3 above). When you dig deep into your shadow, you begin to recognize that this anger you experience at work is similar to how you frequently feel or felt in the presence of your father (or mother, or siblings, or teacher, or someone else). Good for you! You are now acknowledging your own connections to this anger. You are realizing that your historical self is getting triggered, and therefore your response is not just about the individual at work.
But just as you begin to take responsibility for that part of it, so you will have the potential to respond instead of react, your shadow-sleaze pipes up and says, “Are you kidding? You have every right to be angry! This is not about YOU.” If you listen to the message of your shadow-sleaze you will miss your opportunity to feel calmly in control, by responding instead of angrily reacting. Rather, talk back to your shadow-sleaze and assure it that you don’t need to respond with your old angry pattern to defend yourself; the truth is that you never were truly protecting yourself.
Continue your important work of identifying your shadows and getting to the roots of your issues. You will then be more able to access a wider range of emotional and behavioral responses, have calmer relationships, experience reduced anxiety and depression, and have a greater sense of self-worth.
If you are reading this, you may intuitively know that you are being called to begin your shadow work. You may also be recognizing the shadows in society coming to the surface. Since this is a time for deep healing – of societal patterns and individuals – all issues must be brought out of the shadows in order to be seen and subsequently addressed. Though it may seem uncomfortable in the short run, the benefits are substantial, and well worth it.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield, MI. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties, work or school related anxiety, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and those who wish to Remember and Become ‘Who You Really Are’. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to replace medical care.