Embracing Your Shadow Side
Life can be very challenging at times and we do whatever we can to keep going. This means we may need to repress certain aspects of ourselves so we can cope, and this starts early on in childhood. All of these repressed wounds, traumas, behaviours and emotions can be called our shadow side. Shadow work is the process of bringing attention to these unconscious parts, so they can be integrated. These hidden parts have a massive impact on our life, keeping us from living fully.
People inadvertently say things to us that hit up against our shadow side. A comment makes us feel abandoned, alone, rejected or unloved. We may get defensive, arguing back or withdrawing into ourselves - all as a means to cope with the pain of the wounds lying beneath the surface. We may not know why we're behaving like that, perhaps feeling like we're being overly sensitive. You can try asking yourself, why was it painful when that person said that to me? What is this really about? When was there a time where I felt like this in the past?
We may say things like "Why are they so angry all the time?" or "They are so needy." When we say this, we are often revealing what is going on in our shadow. Maybe we have repressed anger or need a lot of attention. It is much easier for us to see faults and issues in others than in ourselves.
Here are some common aspects that many of us hide from ourselves:
- Victim pattern - we may unknowingly want sympathy, love, and/or attention, by holding onto and sharing our victim stories with others. We may feel a sense of ease in believing we're a victim, because then we have no reason to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
- Rage, disgust and hatred towards people in your life – many of us are unaware of these strong emotions sitting below the surface. This can leak out into passive aggressive behaviours such as being cold and harsh with communication.
- Controlling behaviours – such as trying to manipulate others so we can get what we want. This can be done in a very subtle way and we may believe that we're just trying to help a loved one, when we're actually trying to control them.
- Perfectionism - we may have unrealistic expectations for ourselves and then project those standards onto those around us, becoming disappointed when people don't act the way we want them to.
- Conditional giving - we give to those around us but we unconsciously want something in return such as love, having someone that needs us, or receiving attention. It's not giving cleanly - there are unconscious conditions attached.
If you truly want to break free of the separate self and are committed to the awakening path, shadow work is the unpopular and unavoidable way to liberation. It can be beneficial to have support from someone who can keep you accountable, as this work can be difficult to do on your own, due to the unconscious nature of it.