Shadow Work: Accepting The Darkness and Letting the Healing Begin

This has been a time if there ever was one to write about the shadow, aka our dark side.

Anybody else feeling that heaviness in the ether right now? Nope, I know - it’s not just me.

I shared a story in the previous post in this series about my personal exploration of shadow acknowledgement. Acknowledgement is considered to be the first step in shadow work.

shadow behavior, carl jung, psychology, female empowerment, shadow picture

As I shared that story I’ve watched examples of shadow acknowledgement play out on several stages these last few weeks - on an actual stage as Brené Brown released her Netflix special making vulnerability a household word (go watch if you haven’t) and then on a virtual stage as #youknowme became a trending topic across our social media feeds.

This world is turning fast - and in the meantime vulnerability, shame and our shadows are getting blown wide open.

In the first post I spoke about what exactly the shadow is. I mentioned that it’s our dark side. It’s the emotions and behaviors that we often wish we didn’t have. It’s things like:

jealousy,

selfishness,

greed and

rage -

it’s ‘bad’ behaviors like binging, cheating, stealing and lying.

Something else that’s been occurring to me in a big way: it’s also the toxic stuff we’ve been through: abuse, neglect or any traumatic experience that hold us in the darkness.

Looking at what’s going on in the news today, to use a very real world example: abortion, specifically is an incredibly hot topic. Abortion is on the list of something causing pain and unworthiness for so many.

It’s a shadow most American women are being forced to confront in one way or another right now, whether you’re in the statistic of the 1 in 4 that had an abortion by the age of 30 or are someone whose sister, best friend, niece, cousin or roommate is in that count, it’s unlikely that you don’t have some shadow around it (myself included).

I’ve learned that once you’ve acknowledge your shadow (and as we do so as a collective whole for everything going on across the planet, honestly) you can start to move into step two.

The Second Phase of Shadow Work is Acceptance.

As you carry your shadow forward into phase two, remember to give yourself some serious space - grace - love - and extra care.

Here’s what I see going down right now: women are acknowledging, accepting and straight up OWNING their shadows like never before. The more we do it - the more the power in us will rise.

It’s hard to be held down when you can’t be shamed, belittled or humiliated.

Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted that you have a dark side - in my example from the first post: wanting to fit in so badly that I resorted to the point of thievery - something powerful happens.

Your awareness begins to catch your shadow in the act.

For me when an insecurity arises, I can look at it dead on and consider what might show up that could convince me to step into a grown up version of that 15 year-old shadow-y behavior. A part of acceptance is catching the subconscious mind before it goes somewhere dark.

Before you say “well yes, but you’re a logical, rational human being and wouldn’t consider stealing now” think of it this way: if stealing was how I acted out as a teenager, what might be a way I act out as an adult?

Think about all of the ways lines of integrity, big and small, might be crossed.

For example: ever take something from the office supply closet home with you?

Ever notice you weren’t charged for something and kept going versus turning back and making it right?

In the world I work in presently I see an integrity boundary being crossed all the time: buying followers and likes to ‘fit in’ or to look better on social media.

Here’s a few other examples of how a grown person with a rational, logical mind might exhibit shadow-y behaviors: Cheating on a partner. Gossiping about a friend. Ignoring a loved one in need - you get the idea.

This step of acceptance can take some serious time. Start to examine every place in your life in which even small fallacies show up. If you’re not honest with yourself you surely won’t be honest with others - and getting honest is how the freedom starts to arise within us.

How To Accept Your Shadow

A good way to begin accepting your shadow: notice when you’re triggered. A triggering moment is a telltale sign that there’s some shadow hanging around.

Notice when you gossip, or say less than kind things about someone. Notice your projections. Make your gossiping moment one of self-reflection, make it your mirror. What are you saying about that person that’s a reflection of something you dislike within yourself?

mirror, mirror in nature, shadow work, psychology

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. - Carl Jung

If you notice a triggering moment or a projection going on - call yourself on it - that’s a sure fire way to speed forward into acceptance.

As you work through this here’s some homework for you:

When you feel a trigger rising connect to your heart.

Place every ounce of your attention on your heart, take a deep breath in, a deep breath out and say as many times as you need to: THANK YOU. Thank that trigger for showing up and allow it to leave you. This process is a simple Buddhist practice taught by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Watch how quickly the trigger will leave you as you thank it and send it on it’s way. Watch how quickly your mind will release the urge to say something unkind when you simply thank that urge and allow it to float away.

Keep in mind - the shadow is an elusive beast.

Spend time documenting your shadow behaviors.

The more you pay attention to the things causing emotion to come up for you, the more likely you are to catch your shadow in the act. Write it all down. That’s what truly cracked me wide open. Pay attention to the clues - if something or someone evokes a charge in you - keep note of it.

journaling, expressive journaling, creativity, shadow work

Those notes are a major step into shadow acceptance.

After a few days read those notes. An example of what your note might say: “I went to lunch with Sara - all she talked about was her upcoming wedding. I noticed a feeling of jealousy and wish I could have a wedding, or even a relationship like hers.”

When re-reading this statement extract the shadow words: jealousy and/or envy in this example.

In the next post in this series we’ll talk about what I do with those words that helps me, and how it could help you too.

Want to talk more about how this work is going for you? There’s a thread in my facebook group in which a discussion is beginning. Come join us over there.

We’re all in this together my friends. In the meantime - thanks for being here.

Wanderfully yours,

Andi

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Andi Eaton

Andi Eaton is a creative director, author, entrepreneur, and cultural influencer in a variety of media. She produces Oui We (ouiwegirl.com) the modern bohemian's guide to everything from travel and style to beauty and holistic wellness. Andi and her projects have been featured on Domino, Glitter Guide, A Beautiful Mess, Southern Living, SELF, Hello Giggles, Refinery 29, WWD, Elle Canada and more; in 2017 she wrapped a year of road tripping throughout the U.S. photographing and documenting travel, style and culture stories available in her new book: "Wanderful: The Modern Bohemian's Guide to Traveling in Style".