As a shadow coach, I often hear from clients that they have heard about the mysterious, vaguely dark-sounding process of shadow work, but actually have no idea what to suggest and if and how to use it.
Close your eyes and imagine: You feel whole and complete, the world around you no longer triggers or irritates you, the opinion of others has no effect on you. You live your unique, authentic and powerful self in complete freedom.
This is the magic of shadow work. Doesn't sound so dark now, does it? 😉
In this article I try to shed some light on the term "shadow work" and give you the three basic steps to get started with shadow work yourself.
Let's start with the question, what are the shadows anyway?
The word shadows means all aspects of your life that you have suppressed, not processed and are often no longer aware of.
Shadows can appear very early. Consider, for example, the aspects within yourself that were rejected by the environment during your childhood. All those moments you were told: “just act normal for a moment” or that disapproving look from your parents that was enough to make you feel small and ashamed.
Shadows can also be caused by a bad event, a trauma. The emotional blow was so hard that you don't want to think about it anymore. You have also found ways to work around it.
Your fears can also act as shadows. Fear can keep you safe from something and keep you from putting yourself in danger, but on the other hand, fear can act just as well as an obstacle and hinder you, so that you no longer dare to try new things.
Against all the shadows I mentioned above is the ego - who we think we should be, and how we want to be seen by others. The ego is our "white wolf" - the good girl while the shadow may be seen as our "gray wolf" - the rebellious girl. Because we humans are social beings, we all live in the (wrong) belief that we need the ego to survive.
The ego helps us to adapt to the guidelines set by society that make us feel that we belong.
The main problem with the inevitable process of creating shadows is that aspects of ourselves such as our wild talents, free spirit, intuitive gifts and the ability to love and accept ourselves are also lost during this process.
You see, the shadows are actually your magical powers. It is all aspects of yourself that make you unique, powerful and authentic. Your shadows are the most precious thing you can have.
My view of the world and especially about shadow work is that everything you encounter is a lesson you have to learn. This means that in addition to all the good things you can welcome in your life, there are also the down times to help you develop and grow.
During my own Nomadic Journey of the Soul I have developed several methods that have helped me process my shadows.
Below I share with you the three steps that form the basis of all my methods.
"Exploring, mirroring, making friends - That's what true shadow work is all about"
~ Limor Smits
A good way to work with these steps is to read them carefully first. If you actually start with these steps, you need a lot of patience and you should also build in lots of pauses in the process so that you can relax, follow your own rhythm and let your inner voice guide you.
Stap 1 - Exploring
In order to work with your shadows, you must first get to know them. Usually it starts with a question that comes to mind.
You feel hindered by something but you cannot impose on it.
You know there is a deeper reason for what is going on right now but just can't get to it.
There are several ways to explore your shadows.
In my practice I use different techniques, such as:
Create a Zen garden
Writing and drawing
What you could also do is ask yourself the following questions:
What feelings and emotions are present at the moment?
Do they have a shape, color, texture?
Are these feelings in your body? If so, where? If not, where are they located?
Stap 2 - Mirroring
Now that you've recognized at least one shade, you can get started processing it.
Write for yourself on everything that comes to mind when you think of this shade:
WWhere does this shadow lead you? Is it an event from the past? What was it?
How did you feel then?
What would you do differently if you could relive it?
What was the effect of this event on your life?
What lesson can you learn from this?
Stap 3 - Making friends
Talk to your shadow and be grateful for the wise lesson you were allowed to learn.
Reach out for this shadow and let it walk next to you as an equal aspect of yourself. Don't be afraid of it, just accept this shade. It is part of you.
Grab a color pencil and color this shade in the prettiest colors you can imagine.
You can no longer control the shadow, it can no longer have an obstructive effect on you. It has become your friend, who is there to help you with your growth process.
Be grateful for this shade, it has helped you discover a deeper layer of yourself.
If you're new to shading, all of the above can feel unnatural and uncomfortable for you. But if you don't give up and keep trying it will eventually become second nature to you and it will fully integrate into your being and you will find more and more inner peace in yourself and in your life.
With shadow work, as with many things, the more you practice it, the more your own it becomes. However, it takes a lot of patience because some shadows are so deeply rooted in your subconscious mind and can even be buried under a dozen other shadows.
More than anything else, our world today needs people who are willing to acknowledge and embrace their shadows, because those are the people who are the most safe and authentic. Those are the people who can change the world.
I wish you shadows and colors,
About the author
Limor Smits is an alternative life coach, shadow coach, spiritual mentor, inspirator and motivator.
In her practice she offers private sessions as well as workshops in groups.
She also organizes monthly fire women's circles and gives various inspiring and motivating lectures in which she shares stories from her personal life and experiences.