How Can Shadow Work Help You Develop Emotional Mastery

People have no power over you.

It is said that, when we are children, we know exactly who and what we are. And that we are not afraid to express that. 

However, according to experts and researchers, as we grow older we learn that in order to live and be accepted in the society we were born in we need to adapt to the way that society does things. 

Research shows that humans are social creatures and that in order to be accepted and included in a certain group we tend to mold ourselves to fit into that group's ideals. 

Wanting to fit in, we hide our true selves or aspects of ourselves, so that we are considered apt to be part of that group. But, more often than not, doing that prevents us from being completely us and at home with ourselves. 

Psychological studies have concluded that suppressing parts of ourselves can lead to unconscious external negative ways of relating to the external world or even our own internal world.

If you are one of many people to realize that maybe something is not right and that your life needs a change then, soon you might start the journey of re-discovering yourself, your true self. Not the self that other people say you are or should be. 

It is not an easy journey but many who have undergone it say it is worth it. They say that you will lose a lot of things but will be able to gain yourself in the end.

When it comes to discovering one's self many people are forced to truly look into themselves, their surroundings, and find ways to express their emotions in healthy ways. These processes, in the spiritual community, are called Shadow Work and the Dark Night of the Soul.

discovering yourself through shadow work
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What is Shadow Work?

The term shadow work was introduced by the psychoanalyst Carl Jung and has been used in therapy and in the spiritual community alike.

Shadow work is essentially a discovery of the aspects of yourself that you have hidden from yourself and the outside world, whether they be negative or positive. Once the light has been shone upon these aspects, then the integration work begins where you come to accept, nurture and heal those aspects of yourself in order to live a better life. 

The shadow is often thought of being the negative aspects of yourself that you hid in order to be able to fit in with your family or society. But, the shadow can also have positive aspects of yourself that were criticized or belittled and need your perception of their needs to be healed before letting them emerge again.

Why do we need to do shadow work?

Many times, things that we have repressed come knocking when there is a trigger. And often, it creates havoc in our lives firstly because we weren't expecting to react that way, it was out of our "norm" and secondly because we have no idea where it came from and how to stop it. 

Our bodies and our minds will continue to make us react in certain ways that we are not used to reacting to until we figure out the root and the cause. 

Doing shadow work helps with getting to know ourselves better, helps heal old wounds, helps us be at peace and accept ourselves, and also helps us have healthier relationships with others. 

Shadow work can be done by yourself or with a certified professional. It is recommended that people who have had heavy traumatic experiences do this type of work with a professional. 

Stand back and Observe

Shadow work involves many things. For one, it asks you that instead of acting and reacting to certain aspects of your life, you stand back and observe. 

This observation is a key aspect of shadow work as it enables you to see things that you weren't able to before due to being too involved in the action or drama. 

What shadow work asks you, more than observing others, is to observe yourself and what you repeatedly do in certain situations. For example: Are you easily driven to anger by other people, even the TV? Do you check that you have locked your door after you left, more than three times? Do you get heart palpitations after or during certain situations?

Ask this: Why do you do this? Why does this happen? Observe yourself, really look at yourself, and ask why. Write it down if you feel you want to do this, it will help you look back and assess different aspects of yourself.

Standing back and Observing is a core component of shadow work
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Healthy Detachment is a must

Another thing that we learn as we go through our shadow work is healthy detachment. 

Healthy detachment is letting go emotionally in order to look at the situation or person with a more critical eye.

For example, no longer getting caught up in the feeling of pity or admiration you have for a person and finally seeing that they were never on your side but only using you to get what they wanted. 

Being able to see the truth about a certain situation or person is what healthy detachment helps with. 

You see when you attach yourself to anything you start trying to control the outcome. And you start trying to control the outcome because, unconsciously, you don't want to lose all of the effort and energy you have put into it.

Not only that, but attachment can lead to a skewed version of reality even when the red flags are waving vigorously in front of our faces.

For more about observation and detachment, you can look into our previous article about it. 

What is True Emotional Control?

One of the reasons people get attached is because of their emotions. Emotions are the ones that make that connection to a certain situation or person an attachment.

This is the reason that you can hear many people saying "control your emotions" or "detach emotionally". 

But, what does controlling our emotions really mean?

Despite popular belief, controlling or detaching from our emotions does not involve suppressing them. 

Controlling our emotions is actually learning how to feel and, then, letting go of what we are feeling, not blocking these emotions or becoming numb. It is these blocked or suppressed emotions that are the ones that jump out of our own shadows unexpectedly rattling our egos and our "perfect image" of ourselves. 

This happens because emotions are energy, which experts are now describing as energy in motion. 

There comes a time when too much bottled-up energy manifests in tension and constriction in the body (rage, sadness, fear, depression, etc), which later turns into dis-ease. If we learn how to perceive and feel the signs before a disease manifests we are able to prevent that illness from forming, as well as get more familiar with our bodies, thus knowing ourselves better.

But, scientists have recently found that people are able to transform these negative energies in motion (emotion) by practicing developing positive energies within the body. The by creating fast upward spirals of positive energies within ourselves, we are able to combat the slow downward spirals of negative energies. 

By mastering these emotional and energetical managing techniques, we are able to help the body energetically flow and not be trapped by the slow energy of negative emotions, instead, we can transition to positive feelings and become emotionally intelligent. 

healthy detachment for true emotional control
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The Heart has a mind of its own

You may be wondering why I am emphasizing emotions and feelings so much. Isn't there a more logical, practical, and easier way of doing this? The answer is no.

The reason for there not being a logical way of dealing with emotions is because recent studies have shown that the heart is able to think. Not only that, it is able to think separately from the mind and the heart has been found to send more messages to the brain than, the brain does to the heart.

Other studies have discovered that the emotional side of the brain (the right side) has more connections to the logical side of the brain than the logical side has to the emotional side. 

Trust yourself

There has been a rise, in recent years, of experts in different fields talking about how we have been taught to outsource almost if not all of the aspects of our life. From our health to our finances, we as a society, have been told to entrust many important things to other people. 

While it is the way we have been living for quite a while, entrusting important things to strangers, comes with its own risks not only physically but emotionally and mentally as well. 

In learning to trust almost every aspect of ourselves to others we, in turn, learn not to trust ourselves. 

But, despite what you might hear or what others tell you, you can trust yourself. It is safe to do so. 

Trust yourself to make the right choices because only you know what is good for you. You live with yourself and will live with yourself for the rest of your life, while others come and go. 

Trust yourself and know that you will overcome whatever life throws at you, in your own way. Listening to advice is great but searching for other people's opinions constantly is a sure way to get yourself in trouble. Especially if those people don't know anything about the subject.

It is true when they say that everything you need is inside of you. It truly is, it is just buried deep under many layers of conditioning, trauma, and maybe even lies about you that others and even you have told yourself. 

Of course, learning to trust yourself after years of being told not to is a difficult task. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it), your unconscious self strives to heal and help you better yourself, in which case it may lead you to experience a dark night of the soul and eventually to shadow work. 

Dark Night of the Soul

Usually, when people resort to start doing shadow work they are either going through a Dark Night of the Soul, a mid-life crisis, or some type of trauma. 

A dark night of the soul is the point in a person's life where one's perception and beliefs of their own life and/or their spiritual or religious beliefs are questioned and collapse to create a new vision, opinion, and understanding of things.

Dark nights of the soul can be triggered by an external event as well as an internal one.  Most often it is an event that shatters a person's view of a certain person, subject, or situation that leads the person to start questioning everything about their life and its meaning. 

Questioning one's life, purpose and meaning are what usually leads to a sad and/or depressive type of state that could take anywhere from months to years. One may experience wanting to be alone, being drained of energy, anxiety, heart palpitations, not being inspired anymore.

Although it does sound awful to be in that state, it is here where you start to find out about yourself.

dark night of the soul
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What do you want out of practicing shadow work?

In the midst of practicing shadow work while in the dark night of the soul there will come a moment in which you truly start asking yourself what you want.

Is your current job what you really want? Is this relationship (romantic, friendship, family, working relationship, etc.) really beneficial for you or are you just there because it is comfortable or you have been manipulated into it?

Is the way you are living right now give you joy? Is the place you are living in what you really want or is it somewhere you settled into because you were told to by other people?

How much of what you want or think you want is yours and how much of it is what other people have told you to want and do?

Sit for a while and contemplate. Figure out what you truly want and follow that. Your mind, soul, heart, and body are screaming for a change, they want you to be the best version of yourself. And, usually for that to happen, you are asked to look into what your wants and desires are. 

Those wants and desires may translate into hobbies or side work that eventually blossoms into a full career. 

In our society, hobbies and interests, are second to supposed duty and livelihood. But, most often than not, if you let yourself be guided by your intuition you will find that those wants, desires, hobbies, and interests may lead to you better sources of income and a better lifestyle overall.

This career is more likely to stick because it is actually something you want to do, as opposed to something you are being obligated to do just to pay the bills and stay afloat. 

It all sounds great, but the truth is that before you find what your true passion and calling in life is you have to unlearn many things that have unwittingly kept you from reaching your highest peak. 

Those negative thoughts about yourself, that voice that says you're not good enough, those familial and societal beliefs that tell you to stick to the known path instead of experimenting. All of that has to go before you get to do what you really want to do. 

If those limiting beliefs are left unchecked as you started working on your calling, then all of your efforts would be in vain as the limiting beliefs would hold you back in every way. 

One of the most important beliefs that should be worked on is worthiness. You are worthy of everything good in this life and you are worthy of getting it. This feeling of worthiness is one of the main drivers in achieving success. 

Unfortunately, the majority of us are taught that we are unworthy. Even if we have supportive and loving parents, the outside world has no lack of telling people they are unworthy through advertising and campaigns. The society also has plenty of ways to make people feel unworthy.

No one can take away your worth because it comes with your natural rights. The rights you are born with and which are protected by law. These rights, which in essence state that you are worthy just for being born, are called Inalienable Rights or the Natural Law. 

Inalienable Rights or Natural Law

Inalienable rights are rights that the law cannot take away or deprive you of. These rights are also known as natural rights because they are rights that we have as naturally born beings of this world. 

The law is supposed to protect your natural rights. According to the United Nations, our inalienable rights or human rights include the right to life, the right to food, education, work, health, and liberty.

Other rights that stem from these include the right to live your life however you see fit, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to a place to live, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, among others.

These rights, however, can be restrained for a while for example, if a person commits a crime. For which, the freedoms of movement and others are restricted.

However, whether people can put those rights into practice or not, they still have them, according to the Bill of Rights Institute. Every human has the same rights regardless of how they look or where they are from.

The Bill of Rights Institute states that no one is born with a natural right to rule over others without their consent, and governments are obligated to apply the law equally to everybody. 

When governments or other individual or group entities don't protect our rights, it is our job as natural-born humans to claim those rights back. Always remembering though that "your rights end when mine start", meaning that while in pursuit of your rights you should not infringe on other people's rights. 

Despite what others may tell you, you are worthy and you've been worthy since birth with natural laws supporting and solidifying your rights and freedom. Thanks to these natural laws, it is implied that you were born and are a sovereign being. 

Despite what others may tell you, you are worthy
Image Credit: Ryan Lee

Your Sovereignty

Being sovereign or having sovereignty means having supreme power, authority, and independence over yourself. To quote the movie The Labyrinth: People have no power over you or control unless you give it to them.

Sometimes you are manipulated, abused, and lied to in order for you to give up that power. But, you can take it back and refuse to give it away anymore. It is a very challenging road to break free but it is truly worth it.

Being a natural-born human on this Earth means that you are a sovereign being, you have every right to look for your own freedom and act as a sovereign being. You first have to feel it and know in your heart that you are sovereign, the rest will follow.

So don't fret, what you need to overcome your difficulties is already inside of you. Just give yourself a little time and compassion, as you heal and navigate through the journey that is you. 

To further drive the point of sovereignty, in the next section I will give you the information on sovereignty contracts. 

Sovereignty Contract

Sometimes people make sovereignty contracts or declarations of sovereignty to their governments or even spiritual entities in order to cut the power held over the people by these outside entities. 

I won't go into detail here but doing this contract or declaration has its pros and cons. If you are interested in this please look up information and contact a lawyer on the subject before drafting up any legal and binding papers.

In these documents, one basically states that one is responsible for themselves and refuses all outside interference (especially interference considered negative to one's self). If it is done with the purpose of presenting it to a governmental body, it may mean that you refuse all interference (including help) from them.

If it is meant for spiritual purposes, the document will include stating that you are not allowing any negative influences in, whether energetical, spiritual, physical, mental, or emotional.

The contract or declaration of sovereignty involves more items and subjects but that is the basic idea of it. Please look up more information about this topic if you are interested in it. 

The journey to discover yourself, all of your worth, all of your rights, and all that you are meant to have and be in this life is a tough one. But, rest assured that your natural-born rights are law and protected by law. Which gives you permission to fight for them and yourself.

A writer with a love for hot chocolate and rainy days. Has a bachelor's degree in Journalism and is experimenting with fantasy writing.

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