Every person has a shadow. The shadow can best be described as the part of the self that we usually keep hidden away from the view of others. It’s our dark side that we would rather not admit we have.
- Have you ever secretly wanted to harm someone?
- Have you ever wished bad things would happen to someone?
- Did you ever have a dark or taboo fantasy that you would dare not share with the rest of the world?
- Have you ever done something you were ashamed of or regretted and don’t want to think about it or tell another person?
- Is there something you fear, and you can’t quite shake that fear?
- Do you dislike who you become when you are angry?
All of these and more can be considered part of the shadow self.
Today, we will explore this idea of the shadow and talk about why learning about and working with your shadow is the key to success and great happiness.
Carl Jung’s Shadow Work
Carl Jung, the great psychologist, identified the shadow as a moral problem. He suggested that nobody can do shadow work without undertaking a sizable amount of honest effort.
He pointed out that to work with one’s shadow, that person must be willing to explore the dark aspects of their personality. This includes the present character and the past personality.
This exploration can be challenging because it forces people to deal with their own negative traits and thoughts. In doing this, moral judgment is usually passed by the explorer on themselves.
He further theorized that because most people want to be seen as morally good, natural resistance occurs when people try to do shadow work. I.E., people don’t want to accept what is bad or wrong with themself or their lives.
If one can find the courage to do this work, it creates a profound healing process. Also, it helps people to completely redesign their personality and become a different, yet better, person.
Christopher Penczak’s Shadow Work
Modern-day High Priest Christopher Penczak also talks about Shadow Work. He even holds an entire one-year course that helps people engage safely with their shadow selves.
Penczak indicates that facing the shadow and dealing with it is akin to a shamanic initiation. The ability to deal with the dark is essential. It must be done before one can truly claim their personal power. When one faces their fears and dark side, it enables a person to better understand and heal themselves. Only after is one capable of acting as a healing presence in the lives of others.
For Christopher, the shadow is a summation of all parts of the self that one wishes to avoid or not face. He clarifies that this part of the self is not evil, but instead, all that one has chosen to repress and not deal with. In other words, he says that “it’s the closet we all hate to clean. Perhaps it’s more like the monster we fear in the closet, but the closet is where it starts, acting like its incubator or womb. Into the closet go all the things we don’t want to take responsibility for right now.” (Shamanic Temple of Witchcraft, p. 67)
He also mentions how by not cleaning out this psyche closet, we risk allowing our subconscious mind to manifest and create reality for us. In other words, if we never face those things we hate or fear, we will continue to draw situations into our life that mirror those things we attempt to avoid.
Finally, he indicates that shadow work can be quite emotionally charged. We often harshly judge ourselves for our past thoughts, feelings, fears, and mistakes. We naturally bring up emotions that can be powerful and even overpowering when we work to clear the shadow. Thus, one must know their limits and be gentle and kind to themselves as they attempt to work through the shadow.
By clearing that shadow, what he really means is creating a partnership with it. An awareness and understanding of it. This awareness and understanding results in personal healing.
Every Spiritual Seeker Will Face Their Shadow
Sooner or later, every person that follows a spiritual path will have to come face to face with their shadow. It doesn’t matter if you are a mystic hibernating in the desert or a devote evangelical Christian preaching the gospel. The dark side of the self will need to be addressed and dealt with to find peace of mind and internal enlightenment.
It is not possible to ignore or deny the shadow. You can try, but in doing so, you are only planting subconscious seeds that will result in more stuff occurring in your life that you don’t want to deal with. Additionally, the shadow has a tendency to rear its ugly head at the worst possible time in the worst possible way.
The shadow can come out in many forms. It may appear as a temptation or obsession. It could make itself known as some form of co-dependency or an addiction. It can represent a fear or something we feel guilty or shameful about. It impacts us profoundly and often unconsciously until it is faced and dealt with.
Additionally, many times the shadow will show up as a projection. For example, if you dislike someone – it’s probably your shadow that’s helping to create that dislike. Most often, we are angry or upset about something within ourselves, which ends up reflected in the actions or traits of people we know.
If you judge others harshly – chances are it is because of the shadow. If you discover you hang out with people all the time that you secretly dislike or even hate – again, the shadow is at work. Do you compromise all the time because you hate or fear conflict? That’s also the shadow at work. Ever get angry at something someone says, and later you’re not sure why it upset you so much? The shadow is the usual suspect here too.
Every Person Has Demons
Just as every spiritual person will have to face their shadow to become more enlightened, it’s essential to understand that ALL people, every one of us, has personal demons that we are fighting or struggling with. These all represent lessons from the shadow that we have yet to learn. To learn those lessons is to face the shadow and partner with it.
No person, however, is perfect. No guru has no faults or has not made a mistake. No guru does not, at least from time to time, “fall” into what I term the human mind. Others may call it the ego. It can happen to any of us at any point and time and will eventually happen to all of us from time to time.
One of the fundamental things every new spiritual seeker should learn is not to “hero worship” any individual or teacher. Respect your teachers, but always be aware that they too can fall into the ego-mind/human mind. They, too, will have their own demons and shadow that they must contend with.
We follow a spiritual path because we want to be more balanced. We want to be healthier and happier. It doesn’t matter what that spiritual path entails… Wicca, Shamanism, Mysticism, Gnosticism, New Thought/Metaphysics, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other…we still seek love, respect, happiness, good health, and balance. The one sure-fire way to speed that process up is through engaging in some form of shadow work.
So do not fear your shadow. Instead, try to be friends with it. It can ultimately be your biggest ally in becoming a better person and creating a better life.
We often do at least some shadow work in my Law of Attraction coaching. This is especially true when 3 or 6-month packages are booked. Likewise, the entire time can be spent on shadow work at someone’s request.