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On Shadow Work

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Shadow Work

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This was originally posted on The Radical Joy Collective. It has been edited slightly for this blog.

Today, I want to discuss Shadow work, as it's something some of you might find helpful. It's a practice – mostly through journaling – that has its roots in psychology, but I came across it through my spirituality. It's the idea that we have a shadow, an aspect of ourselves where we keep our trauma, pain, and grief, but also aspects of ourselves that we don't like, and how we negatively talk to, and about, ourselves. Shadow work is the psychological work of healing and releasing those things. It's the idea that you can't be joyful or really authentic with it all hanging around, because you've repressed it.

In her book, The Magical Writing Grimoire, author Lisa Marie Basile says, "Shadow work, or the process of exploring your 'disowned self,' allows you to make magic from the parts of yourself that you repress or refuse to nourish because, sometimes, it hurts too much." (p18) She also says, "When we know the names of our many selves—pain, jealousy, fear—it gives us power over them. Rather than keeping them in the dark, where they fester from within like a poison, we let the light illuminate them. When you can truly see what has been wounding you, it loses some of its ability to haunt you in the dark. You can then take action against it." (p73)

It's about facing these parts of ourselves, and being gentle and compassionate with ourselves around what we feel, and the scars of past experiences, and working through them – and through doing so, starting to heal and live a more authentic life. It's not easy, and can be quite painful to face things we've hidden and repressed for so long, but the process helps you to let go of those things and move forward. This article on the Centre for Excellence does a great job of really explaining more about the shadow, why we need to do shadow work, and what it actually is.

There are various shadow work writing exercises one can do. Here are just a few I've come across:

  • Writing a letter to your younger self, around a traumatic event.
  • Writing specifically to your shadows, acknowledging them, accepting them, sending them love.
  • Writing out all your negativity - what you're thinking and feeling – getting it outside of yourself and onto the page, as a form of release.
  • Writing a letter of forgiveness to yourself.
  • Writing letters you won't send, to those who have hurt you.

I'm not someone who can do shadow work regularly; if I spend too much time swimming in the depths, I'll struggle to find the surface again. But I have done shadow work and it's really helpful! I've worked through feeling like a fool and being angry at myself after being betrayed by someone I trusted. I've worked through a traumatic experience by writing to my younger self, giving her the support and love she needed, and telling her she's going to be ok, and exactly how she'll be ok, because of where I am now. I've worked through the limiting belief that people generally won't like me, because of past experiences of being made to feel too much, too weird, too immature, and how that actually isn't true, and that it's held me back from reaching out to people I admire. It's definitely not fun, and it can be really difficult to sit with those feelings, but I do feel more positively about myself afterwards, and feel like a weight has been lifted. So it's definitely a useful tool to have in the arsenal. (I just want to add, though, that shadow work is not a replacement for medical help and assistance - do ask for help if you need it.)

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So what are your thoughts? Have any of you tried shadow work? How did you find it? Are you just hearing about it now? Do you think you'll maybe give it a go, or is it not for you? I'm really interested in hearing what you think! Let me know in the comments!

And if you're spiritually inclined and interested in shadow work, I'd really recommend both of Lisa Marie Basile's books, Light Magic for Dark Times* and The Magical Writing Grimoire*.

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This post first appeared on Once Upon A Bookcase, please read the originial post: here

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On Shadow Work


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