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Working with your Shadow Self

The shadow is that which we don’t want to be or often admit to. It is the negative aspect of our ego, our alter ego or inner demon. Your shadow feeds on fear, emotions and unexpressed anger and resentment. This blocks your potential. Much of our negative behaviour is unconscious.

However, rather than face what is our “whole self” (shadow and light) we would often rather stick with the illusionary self or persona we show to the world. Our persona has been made up over many years from our experiences in life and how we coped with them.

As we reject and squash the shadow it finds other ways to express itself. For example, we project the denied shadow aspects of ourselves on to other people, be they parents, partners, friends or colleagues. We blame others for our situations and fail to notice the part we played in it all. In other words, our denied negative aspects become in our illusionary state, the aspects of others.

The more you live in the illusion of your persona (your “white” side), the less you integrate and the more you feed your shadow. This at the least causes stress as the two halves of you are not working in unison.

When dealing with personal work such as this, small changes are better than huge transformations overnight. “Quick fixes” don’t work long-term with this type of deep work and you can find yourself back where you started. Ask anyone who hasn’t exercised for years who then starts a five times a week jogging campaign!

Exercises (over 3months)

  1. Clearing clutter- clear out your cupboards and your wardrobes and give the items to charity or a jumble sale.

  2. Draw your shadow self as you see it. Use colour and a large piece of paper. Ask yourself what you see in this shadow and what you are afraid of.

  3. Childhood- using visualization take yourself back 5 years. See yourself as you were then- your clothes, hair, environment, work leisure, relationships, outlook and behaviour. Write down what you feel and find from this exercise. Continue taking yourself back another 5 years in another session. Continue with this in separate sessions until you are a baby. Spread the sessions out over 3- 6 months.

  4. Who am I? – Take a sheet of paper and divide in to 3. Head the columns up: - 1. My dark side – the negative aspects I know. 2. My dark side- what others say about me. 3. My dark side- what I dislike in other people. Ask yourself do they share common characteristics? Work on these areas.

  5. Relationships- Write down the 3 most significant lovers in your life (can be good or bad) on 3 separate sheets of paper. Ask yourself what was good about each one and the relationship? How did your behave? What were the bad things about each relationship? What did your learn from each relationship about yourself, others and relationships in general? Take a 4th sheet of paper and write down the names of three people you would have liked a relationship with and did not. For each one why did you pursue each one? Were they available or unavailable (i.e. married or emotionally unavailable)? Did you tell them you were interested or not? If not why? Did you think you would fail?

Think about your last significant relationship Are there any patterns there from earlier ones? Are there negative feelings holding you back from having the relationship you want? Can you recognise these feelings in former relationships or those you would have liked to have?

  1. Self –image-Write down your positive qualities. Write down what you want to change about yourself. What do you offer in relationships? What gifts do you offer to the world?

With all this work, take your time and get the support you need to talk things through when you need it. This can be from a trusted friend or counsellor.

Each time we work on ourselves, we also heal those around us and our situations. Above all be patient with yourself.

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