Shadow Work

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     Now that you have the tools to set boundaries within yourself and for others, how and when to focus on your joy, and developing routines, you can get into the hard stuff like shadow work. Imagine that every time you felt repressed or actively repressed yourself, it created a shadow version of yourself. This shadow self gets tucked away and hidden. These minor traumas stay with us, and if we don't address them, they can hinder our growth. They can manifest through addiction, negative self-talk, stress, depression, and other health issues. So why would you want to address these sides of yourself in the first place? These pieces of you are ignored and abandoned traumatized parts of you that can bring you down. They are within you, so you have to be responsible for their peace because it's also your peace. So how do you address this "shadow self" you've created? It's not easy and can range from light to intense. 

     Intrusive thoughts were something that I struggled with badly after my last relationship. Negative self-talk and a paranoid victim mindset is something I lived with, and it was destroying me. This shadow part of me was created through all the years of abuse. I began to doubt myself and talk myself out of things that made me happy. I started believing everyone was out to get me before I could be convinced of it. Without my ex there to scream these things at me constantly, my shadow self was in my head screaming it at me. It stopped me from trusting people, from developing empowering relationships, and making healthy decisions. I became aware of shadow work and what I was doing to myself and started fixing it. 

     When it comes to intrusive thoughts, the way I faced it was with aggressive counteractive thinking. Whenever I noticed these negative thoughts, I would immediately counter the thought with an honest, positive thought. For example, anytime I noticed I thought I couldn't trust people and they were against me, I would immediately counter those thoughts with positive truth statements. I would tell myself that my feelings come from an old reaction to an old environment. I would say to myself that it is ok to feel safe around people and that I had no real reason to have these feelings. I reminded myself that I am a good person who is worth knowing and loving. And I would repeat these thoughts over and over again. Every time I noticed these thoughts creeping in, I would've to give myself that reality check. I wouldn't allow myself to feel bad for having those thoughts because, although inaccurate, they were indeed valid. The feelings needed to be addressed and worked through, however. 

     So now, let's discuss some other forms of shadow work. Imposter syndrome is something many people struggle with frequently. A feeling that you're faking it and will be found out. You may be a perfectionist, pick up on new things effortlessly, are highly independent, tend to be an expert on topics, and always feel like you can do more. So when you notice yourself feeling like this, remind yourself of what you have accomplished. Ask yourself to highlight what qualities you carry that make you worthy of your position and what can be done to improve yourself more. Remind yourself of all the work you have done up to this point. Tell yourself you have earned it and deserve more if you keep working at it. These back and forth conversations will give that shadow part of yourself the attention it never had before. 

     The last exercise I want to discuss here is an inner child exercise. Sometimes a shadow self is a childlike part of you that needs to be heard, validated, and loved. It can develop from not feeling heard and seen from family growing up. As an adult, this can cause you to become quiet or closed off in certain situations causing you to feel powerless. This powerless feeling can make you want to lash out or close yourself off. In reality, you need to sit down and talk to yourself. Think back to when you first felt these feelings of not being seen or heard by people you valued. Let the child version of yourself tell the adult what happened. Visualize your adult self reacting in the way you expected as a child. Allow that childlike side of you to feel heard and seen. Hug yourself tight and remind yourself that you have a voice. Self-validation can be very healing.

     Along with all the other steps, this step will be something you will repeat throughout your life. It may get more challenging at times, while other times, it will be effortless. After it is all said and done, you will feel empowered and know where self-love comes from. After this, you can easily transition into accountability and growth. 
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