Working With Your Dark Side: 4 Ways to Shine Light on Your Shadow
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”―C.G. Jung from The Philosophical Tree
So, now that you’ve realized it’s time to face the shadow and recognized its power over your behavior, how do you begin the process of confronting it? Understanding and assimilating your dark side involves a journey into your innermost motives. You must explore your fears, blind spots, and self-sabotaging behaviors. It requires openness, acceptance, and truthfulness to face certain aspects of your character and experience, but with it comes awareness. Knowing your dark side can help bring a new kind of freedom into your life, relationships, and goals by opening the door to healing and integration.
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It’s often difficult to access the shadow. This is, after all, its discerning feature: It lurks behind you, in your blind spots, or maybe in an intimate part of your character that happens to be shunned by society. The act of naming the shadow is an important part of the process, and journaling can be an excellent tool for exploration and discovery.
Writing can be a deeply therapeutic and personal practice. The safe space and privacy created through journaling allow our inner walls to fall away, and the process improves communication skills by helping ideas become more concrete. You may be surprised at the power of reading your innermost thoughts out loud. What words are you repeating to yourself? Are you acting from a place of fear or expansion?
Explore what is making you angry, sad, or frustrated by searching for the underlying emotion. It may be, for example, that anger is actually hiding a fear of abandonment. Only you can truthfully write down what is in your heart, and the act of acknowledging your shadow often begins the process of bringing greater understanding into your life, relationships, and goals.
Nightmares are often harbingers of shadow work. These are the dreams that stick with you, emotionally visceral and intensely engaging. To better understand what your shadow is trying to share during your these nighttime adventures, try to identify and understand the symbolic meaning of these characters in order to interpret their message.
First, write down the person, thing, or situation that your dreaming mind is focusing on. Next, write down whatever associations arise when you read and experience that particular material. How does it make you feel? What memories does it spontaneously trigger? We all carry our own unique symbolism, influenced by personal experience and cultural context. For example, someone who has survived a near-death experience with water will interpret a dream about swimming in the ocean very differently than an expert surfer.
The subconscious, dreaming mind often veils its subject matter in symbolic content, but a little sleuthing can help shed light on its mysterious language. You may be surprised at the associations, but by tracking and understanding your own personal symbolism, you can truly begin to understand what your subconscious is trying to tell you.
The shadow is elusive by nature; it can cause us to act out, subconsciously triggered by motives rooted deeply within our past experiences. Hypnotherapy can be an excellent tool for understanding how these long-buried memories continue to affect us and our current perception of events.
A trained hypnotherapist can help you access the root cause of a seemingly subconscious reaction. Issues with self-worth, anger, or difficulties with finances can stem from past experiences that may be hidden from memory. Hypnotherapy brings these memories to the surface, allowing them to be faced and ultimately understood.
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Talking through the issues that surround your shadow with a trusted therapist is another excellent way to bring awareness to your inner world. A grounded and impartial perspective can help process old pain so you can better understand how to heal and face your own deficits.
An outside perspective is crucial within shadow work, as some intimate details of our inner demons can be difficult to disclose to loved ones and family members. A therapist is confidential: What is said in the room stays there, unless it involves injuring yourself or others. A trusted therapist can provide a safe space for you to explore how your wounds are fueling your shadow, helping you down a path of self-healing and understanding.
Knowing your shadow is understanding and loving yourself along with all your shortcomings and wounds. It is having compassion for past actions. and forgiving yourself for not meeting others’ expectations. Learning to live with your shadow is also about understanding survival. We act unconsciously when we are threatened or hurt, but true growth comes from moving past wounded behavior towards healthy boundaries and actions.