Stepping into the darkness: Shadow work explained

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Art by Katie Huggins

An art piece representing the negative emotions within the shadow self.

Everything has a shadow, whether it be a shadow cast by the sun or another light source, every object will create this reflection, but there’s one thing every shadow has in common: darkness.

Physically, when an object blocks the sun’s light being cast upon it, it will create a shadow of darkness where the light isn’t shining, but what most people don’t realize is that every person has that shadow within themselves as well.

Your “shadow” is the darker part of you, the part that holds traumatic events, emotional problems, anything that has been left unprocessed, past versions of yourself and so much more.

Shadow work has to do with quite literally working on the shadow selfthe internal side of you that isn’t seen through the way you present yourself.

So why take the time to get to know your shadow and put the work on it?

Every time a traumatic event or an emotional problem occurs, this built up, traumatic energy and emotions don’t go anywhere but within your own being. Think of it as everytime you cry, it releases that energy and lets you process and understand, but when we hold back those emotions and thoughts they just cultivate within.

This then causes subconscious negative thoughts and behavioral patterns, and they are made with the purpose of “protecting you,” but the hardest part is that our shadow is released subconsciously, meaning these traits come out when we aren’t necessarily paying attention.

It may be hard to understand how these harmful, low vibrational qualities are created in order to protect yourself, but think of it this way: animals in the wild fight for survival instinctively and fight back due to environmental factors, which is exactly what the human species does.

We were born perfectly whole and complete, but growing up in this society causes nothing but damagedamage that forces our own survival instincts to come out. 

An example of this may be if a person has betrayed your trust and hurt you. If the situation is left unprocessed, it will stay within your being. You may then find yourself struggling with trust issues, not expressing your feelings and maybe even thinking everyone is against you.

A lot of things people do can stem back to the shadow self, whether it be bullying, homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, violence, ignorance and more. When beings hate other people, make fun of others or act in a negative or defensive manner, it’s often indicative that something happened which made them hate themselves, or it may have even been an environmental factor pushing these thoughts and feelings onto one another. 

When these traits do come out, we may not think anything of it. We may not even realize we’re doing it or why we are, which makes it harder to recognize the issue and work on yourself. Shadow work is what helps you understand these problems and why they happen—ultimately leading you a step forward towards healing.

Regardless what the trait may be, the first step into shadow work is becoming aware of your lower traits and becoming conscious of the causes and effects. Not only will this help you heal, but it will also help benefit the others around you. 

By becoming aware of this, you can start to work on that specific quality, which is essentially helping you re-write your individual story and changing your perception of yourself and the world around you. This is also known as the Paradigm Shift.

So change your reality, your life and your perception of the vast world around you by taking these steps of working on and understanding the subconscious mind. Not only will this change your well-being, but it will help shift your attention to change aspects of your life you ever could’ve imagined.

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