• 29/05/2024 13:40

What is shadow work in psychology and is it worth doing?

Here's a term that's been gaining a lot of buzz lately: shadow work. Perhaps you've heard a friend say they've taken a deep dive into the era of shadow work, or maybe you've seen one of the countless TikTok videos about the concept. But you're not alone if you still don't know what shadow work is. It's all confusing and complicated. At first sight! We're here to help you figure it out.

ContentSo, what is shadow work? What is shadow work in psychology: is it a type of therapy? Who should try shadow work? How to do shadow work alone

Shadow work may be trending now, but the concept is actually on the rise to the influential psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Jung famously described our shadow as “the hidden, repressed, largely inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications extend back into the realm of our animal ancestors and thus include the entire historical aspect of the unconscious.” WomanEL will explain in simple words what he meant.

So, what is shadow work?

Essentially, Jung believed that we should explore those parts of ourselves that may be less acceptable to other people (and ourselves), rather than trying to emphasize only those parts that other people find worthy (such as our calm demeanor or our tendencies to please people). Emotions that cause a lot of criticism, such as jealousy and anger, or even traits such as loudness or stupidity, can all be part of your shadow self.

Often people reject these dark feelings or personality traits so that they are loved and accepted,” explains psychiatrist Nina Polina Wondermind.

If your shadow contains all the less-than-stellar parts of yourself that you may be trying to downplay in relation to others, shadow work gives a person the opportunity to reclaim certain aspects of themselves. This work gives us the opportunity to completely rebuild.

For example, suppose you learned from an early age that it is safest to keep your opinions to yourself in front of your parents. And because of this, being yourself around your family will make you very uncomfortable. You understand that this is impossible. Embracing your outspoken side can help you feel more comfortable in friendships or make choices that better align with who you want to be in the world.

“It's also an opportunity to become curious about the parts of ourselves that we're not. proud,” says Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D. You may have a tendency to lash out at your loved one. Dr. Bobby explains that shadow work can encourage you to look at this behavior and examine it by asking yourself questions such as: “What was my motivation when I snapped at him? What need was I trying to satisfy?”

To be clear, accepting your shadow does not mean encouraging bad behavior. This is not a reason to yell at someone. But becoming aware of these parts of ourselves helps us better understand our values, which we can use to make decisions that align with our true selves, not just the person we want people to see us as.

What is shadow work in psychology: is it a type of therapy?

Although it is not technically a therapeutic modality, many mental health professionals use some form of therapy, according to Dr. Bobby this method.

If you're really interested in it, you might want to look for a Jungian therapist (that is, someone who approaches therapy through the lens of Carl Jung's theories). He might focus on things like dreams and archetypes as a way to delve into your unconscious self. But therapists of all backgrounds also do shadow work. For example, if you snap at a loved one, a cognitive behavioral therapist can help you identify the thoughts and beliefs that typically arise when you snap (for example, your loved one is judging you) and help you explore them.

Who should try shadow work?

Dr. Pauline says shadow work can help you behave more authentically, show more compassion for yourself and others, and learn to trust yourself deeply. Every person can benefit from shadow work. You can do this yourself. But working with a therapist can provide greater emotional safety and keep you from slipping into a shame spiral. The goal is not to highlight your worst qualities and get rid of them, but to make room for full exploration of yourself.

There are several circumstances in which job shadowing may be inappropriate. If you are already experiencing thoughts or emotions that are difficult to cope with, shadowing may not be the best solution, especially when going it alone. And if you start shadow work and end up hating and beating yourself up, take a break and get some extra support from a therapist before you continue.

How to do shadow work alone

Shadow work will help you get to know yourself better and stop judging certain traits, Source: freepik.com

If you want to communicate with your shadow for a while, journaling can be a good way to start. The easiest way to do shadow work is to identify events or interactions in which you felt inferior to others, tension in your body, or feelings of jealousy, envy or anger. And then write them down. This kind of self-reflection work will help you identify parts of yourself that you may be keeping private and begin to question why that might be the case.

Here are some journaling prompts that Dr. Pauline suggests adding a little light into your shadow:

  • Are there qualities about you that you are too embarrassed to share with others?
  • Have you ever lied about yourself, your likes and dislikes, or your personality?
  • When was the last time you felt awkward and why?
  • Are there times when you don't want to share something you have with others (such as your time or things), but you don't talk about it because you're afraid of being judged?
  • What assumptions do you tend to make about others?

Another shadow work exercise is to think about something you were teased about and then find ways to work with it. For example, as a child you loved to express yourself by singing or dancing. But you were told that this was not an acceptable way to behave. Try your shadow expression by finding a safe place to sing and dance, whether with a trusted friend or buddy. If this seems impossible, you can even start alone. This may seem strange at first. But keep interacting with this hidden part of yourself.

Over time, by being patient with yourself, you may find that you really don't care what others think as long as you are happy and energized. And this is one of the goals of shadow work: to embrace all parts of yourself.

As with any self-work, don’t expect big changes overnight. And you also don't have to dig into every bit of your shadow self in one session. Revealing our shadow is part of our life's journey. Allow yourself to explore your shadow self as it emerges and remember to show yourself lots of compassion.

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