We live in a complex reality. Amongst this complex reality is the amalgamation of human emotions. Emotions can feel like a gift and sometimes a curse. They certainly are absolutely important for us humans to navigate through the terrains of everyday existence.
Society has not taught us how to channel our intelligence into emotions; to understand and process them rather than demonizing them. This is where the issue lies. Human life within human societies is like a grand theater, and we are not properly taught to embrace ourselves behind the stage. When we take off our masks what is left is the rawness of who we are with all our tribulations, pain, and hardships.
So I write this to communicate to you that it is important to embrace our emotions and our authentic selves. First and foremost we must validate ourselves, not just the good in us but all the bad. We live in a world of duality, what that means is, there is yin and yang, light and dark, happiness and sorrow, we all have to surf the states of duality. This includes the duality within us. It is not just important to understand and embrace the lighter aspects of us, but also the darkness within.
How do we embrace the darkness within us all? Not to fuel it but to accept it, understand and process it rather than continue burying all of it. At times we ignore aspects of us that we despise and bury those less undesirable emotions rather than processing them. The process of assessing, accepting, and integrating the undesirable aspects of us is called “Shadow work”.
What is shadow work?
“The shadow is a psychological term for everything we can’t see in ourselves. It is all the unflattering things you hide from the external world. You should know that you are made up of both light and shadow and that a human being cannot exist in a pristine state, therefore everyone has a shadow.”
How could one achieve well-being through shadow work?
Well once you accept all the parts of yourself you despise and hide, from a place of understanding, and alleviate the guilt and shame, it is a form of ultimate liberation, a gift to give to your own soul once you explore, and accept. Doing so will enable you to see all human aspects of yourself.
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” – Carl Jung
You can commence shadow work by practicing any one or a combination of these tools:
Meditation and introspection:
Meditate to explore your subconscious, try to sit with the triggers, and the uncomfortable thoughts,
see what comes up, and become aware of self-compassion.
Journal your honest thoughts and challenge the good parts of yourself. Here is an example of how to do this, and why this process is important – “For example, if you define yourself as a disciplined person, you’re repressing your lazy part. The lazy part is hiding in the shadow. The disowned is influencing your behavior and constantly challenging your disciplined part. So identify with this lazy part. See it. Accept it. Make friends with it. It’s okay to be lazy too.”
Talk to it:
Here is another suggestion from a psychologist named Scott Jeffrey on how to talk to your shadow – this is something I practice myself, I personify my shadow and talk to her, to try to understand her so I can befriend her rather than neglect her. https://scottjeffrey.com/shadow-work/
“Talk directly to this person as if he or she was there. Tell them what bothers you about them.
Ask them questions such as:
● Why are you doing this to me?
● What do you want from me?
● What are you trying to show me?
● What do you have to teach me?
Imagine their response to these questions. Speak that imaginary response out loud. Record the conversation in your journal if you like.
So remember, embrace, explore and understand your shadow, there is wisdom to be gained as a result. This is an important aspect of self-discovery. Through this lens, you will understand others and approach the darkness you see in people around you with more compassion.
She writer Neelofer Hilal is a passionate freelance writer, avid traveler, podcaster, futurist, dreamer, and social science enthusiast.