Shadow WorkJan 31, 2022 09:00AM ● By Nancy Seigle
by Danielle Massi
Those that have spent any time on social media during the pandemic have most likely come across posts where people recommend doing shadow work. But what we might not know what doing shadow work means. Let’s break down everything that’s needed to know about the topic.
Within the mind are three levels of consciousness. The first is the conscious mind which is our full awareness. The next is the subconscious mind, the portion of our awareness that exists just below the surface. (It’s there if we need to access it, but it’s a bit harder to grasp than conscious material.) And last is the unconscious, the portion of our mental capacity that’s completely repressed and hidden from our awareness.
Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung coined the term “shadow”, which he described as the repressed and rejected parts of one’s psyche. Essentially, he claimed that the shadow was analogous to the unconscious mind. Within the shadow lies every memory our mind has ever hidden from ourselves, which typically happens when we experience something that is potentially damaging to our fragile psyche. When the memory is repressed, it’s not gone; simply hidden away out of sight for the time being.
The problem with shadows is that they don’t remain in the shadows. Those traumatic experiences alter our brains neural pathways, shaping our personalities and behaviors based on moments that we cannot get to the root of. So, when we are feeling triggered, the likely cause is our shadow, but the pathway to get to the root of the problem feels out of reach.
Shadow work is the process of making the unconscious conscious. Through shadow work, these repressed memories can be accessed in an effort to heal them. Doing so has the domino effect of altering our neural pathways, which impacts our personality, and in turn that changes our behaviors. Shadow work is powerfully transformative, and works through major issues in short periods of time.
Shadow work is often performed with the help of a trauma-informed practitioner, very often a licensed psychotherapist, who can help us safely navigate to the pivotal moments within our unconscious mind. But we can begin to do this work ourselves with the help of shadow work prompts. Shadow work prompts can get us to reflect inwards and begin to blur the lines between the various levels of consciousness, allowing us to begin to witness problematic behaviors or cycles that may exist in our world that we may choose to alter. Many resources exist for this, but I would recommend picking up The Shadow Seekers Journal available from Amazon, which is my book of shadow work prompts to help us begin this beautiful journey.
Danielle Massi is a Shadow Work expert, CEO of the Wellness Collective, a licensed psychotherapist, a bestselling author and the founder of the Self(ish) Philly Conference. She can be reached at IAmDanielleMassi.com.