Uncovering the parts of ourselves that we try to hide most often is the foundational element of shadow work. When doing this, we are drawing attention to old wounds, feelings rooted in the past, memories that are negatively triggering, and blockages that may be reflective of problematic belief systems. In thinking about all of that, it is completely understandable why so many people shy away from digging into the depths of their own darkness.
Typical feelings that arise when doing shadow work consist of: fear, pain, sadness, anger, confusion, frustration, loneliness, or even self-pity. All of which are not feelings that people look to partake in willingly. However, these emotions that we have historically deemed negative, are actually our indicators of deeper knowledge within ourselves that we need to discover.
Nearly all negative emotions are portrayals of an unmet need. Angry? Someone probably said something to you that set off an emotional trigger rooted in an issue that you may be having completely separate of the person you are presently encountering. Frustrated? You probably needed someone to perform a task, or do something for you, that they were unable to carry through in the way that you may have hoped. Afraid? You are likely to be experiencing the side effect of not being equipped with the knowledge necessary to handle your current situation.
As you can see, if we reframe our negative emotions into questions, we can begin to thoroughly explore their reasoning for erupting, therefore giving us an opportunity to deal with the root of the problem. Following the process of reframing, it's important to take the time to answer these questions with honesty and specificity, in order to truly examine the true root of the blooming emotions. By taking the time to be specific about the emotions and the reason(s) why they are showing up, we allow ourselves room to release the feelings that are not serving us. Finally, as we weed out what is and is not worth keeping along for the trajectory of our lives, we have the opportunity to address the real issues that are hindering our growth.
From childhood traumas, to family drama, to present circumstances, to feelings of inadequacy, there are thousands of reasons why we may be struggling with consistent negative emotions. If our goal is to get over our temporary negativity, then maybe smoking some pot, having a cocktail, emotional eating, or any of our other go-to routes of suppression are perfect (this isn't a judgment, just a truth that I too have dealt with personally). However, if our goal is to minimize these feelings as a whole, shadow work is the way through this process.
quick 5-step shadow work summary:
1. tune in to what emotions are arising
2. reframe the negative emotions as questions
3. answer the questions with the unmet need that has caused the emotion to show up
4. be specific (about the who/what/when/where/why tied to your emotions)
5. decide on a way to address the true root of the internal issue that is hiding behind the emotion
Take the time to consider this concept before deciding if this is work that you are willing to do, and be cognizant of the fact that exploring different traumas alone (depending on the severity) can be overwhelming for the inexperienced individual. With that in mind, reaching out to a mental health professional for help with this work is highly recommended. The key takeaway necessary in order to fully develop an understanding of shadow work as a concept is rather simple: there is no light without darkness. For us to access our highest potential, and our most valuable versions of ourselves, we must do the dirty work. Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, it will be worth it. And yes, you will experience exponential progress after doing so. This work isn't mandatory, but it is magical to say the least.
Be well <3