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 aspects of ourselves so we can cope. 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 issues have a massive impact on our life, creating difficulty in relationships, not allowing us to manifest the things we want, and 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 won't know why we're behaving like that, perhaps feeling like we're being overly sensitive. Getting triggered like this, reveals that there is something within us that needs to be seen. If you’re brave enough to ask, why is this triggering me? Why was it painful when that person said that to me? Then you can start to access what is hiding in your shadow.
We often project parts of our shadow side onto other people. We say things like "why are they so angry all the time, that person is fake, that person is needy." When we say this, we are often holding up a mirror to what is going on in our unconscious. Maybe we have repressed anger, are not acting authentically, or need a lot of attention. It’s easy for us to see fault and issues in others, but not in ourselves.
Here are some common aspects that we may 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.
- Shame - we feel like there is something wrong with us, like we are defective. When left unhealed, shame can lead to feelings of unworthiness, depression and addictive tendencies. Shame projected outwards can look like humiliation and bullying - which is how the shame cycle continues.
- Rage, disgust and hatred towards people in your life – many of us are unaware of these strong emotions sitting below the surface. This can evolve into passive aggressiveness 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.
- Being avoidant, needy or both in relationships - no-one wants to think of themselves as needing a lot of attention, being clingy, aloof or standoffish. However flaws in how we were parented, manifest as issues in how we relate to those we love.
This is difficult work to do on your own. It's beneficial to have someone that can help keep you accountable, as it's very easy to go back to unknowingly repressing those parts again.