Shadow Work Is More Than Just For Negative Traits

Shadow work helps you embrace your positive aspects as well.
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Even in the spiritual community, whenever someone mentions shadow work most people's minds automatically turn to the negative aspects of themselves. It is a common and understandable reaction, especially because of the name.

Shadow work, if you take it literally, it may mean working with shadows or dark aspects, or it may mean something else completely depending on what your perception is. 

There is a large possibility that if your mind automatically thought 'dark' when reading the phrase 'shadow work', you might have also thought negative or evil. 

But, as many who have gone deeply into their shadow work will tell you, doing shadow work does not only involve looking into someone's negative or 'evil' aspects. 

shadow work improves your life
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What is Shadow Work?

Shadow work is a healing journey where you look deep into yourself and re-assess everything from your values to your beliefs, behaviors, way of life, and even the people in your life. 

What do you believe? Is what I am thinking or doing coming from me or from outside sources? Is this really how I want to live or keep living? Why don't I feel comfortable with these people anymore?

Through shadow work, the image and perception you once had of yourself, start crumbling. And, while it is painful, stressful and you may feel lost at moments there will come a time when all of this crumbling of your old self gives way to a new you.

A new version of you that your close ones and even yourself were not expecting, but it is the you that had been hidden inside all along. 

What I mean with 'hidden inside' is that, for you to find who you truly are and find your truth, you need to peel back, your beliefs, and patterns that you have incorporated into yourself in order to survive in the community you are in but are not really things you resonate deeply or agree with. 

Yet you accept them because you want to feel loved and accepted. There is nothing wrong with this. We all want to feel love and accepted but the outside love and acceptance can be fragile and flighty, therefore it is better to learn how to love and accept yourself. Which you can learn how to do with shadow work.

peeling off your beliefs is a core component of shadow work
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What do you do in shadow work?

When doing inner work your job is to take a good look at yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. After becoming aware of yourself, the healing process starts.

Shadow work includes looking at and expressing your feelings, looking at and analyzing your surroundings, and facing your fears.

You begin healing all the trauma, negative thinking, negative feelings, and accepting yourself in order to live a more fulfilled and joyful life. 

Note: If you have gone through trauma or situations that need the attention of a professional in the medical field, please go to your professional. This article is not a replacement for medical treatment that is available through psychologists, therapists, doctors, and other professionals in the field of medicine and healing. This article is for information and education purposes only.

What is hidden in the shadows?

When people in the spiritual and, even, the psychology communities talk about shadow work they often refer to it as a type of cloak that hides things in it. To view them you have to lift up the cloak. 

Many people don't want to lift the cloak because they believe that what they'll see is something bad or monstrous but that isn't always the case.

The things that are pushed into our shadows are aspects of ourselves that are deemed 'inappropriate, unacceptable, taboo, and even unlovable'. But, those who label these aspects are entities and people outside of yourself that many times see themselves reflected and are uncomfortable with that due to them not having done their own inner work and accepting themselves. 

Here are some of the things Shadow Work helps with, aside from uncovering our 'negative' traits.

1. Positive aspects can also be worked out through shadow work

Some 'unacceptable' aspects that we encounter during shadow work sometimes turn out to be positive or just neutral aspects. These positive or neutral parts of ourselves can be happiness, joyfulness, a calm demeanor, introvertedness, quietness, playfulness, etc. 

But, how can these traits be seen as bad? Don't most people want to be like that? Yes, most people do want to be happy, joyful, playful, among other things, but a lot of people don't.

There could be many reasons for this from having a traumatic experience in the past and thinking that it would always be the same if they try to search for happiness to having had these emotions suppressed because your family thinks it is inappropriate, preferring seriousness over playfulness. 

It could even be that you used to be a happy child and, one day while you were out with your parents, smiling and waving at everyone, as usual, one particular woman that you smiled at scowls at you, and you're left with such an unsavory taste that you never smiled or waved at anyone again. 

Whatever the case may be, positive and neutral traits can also be uncovered, brought to light, and healed using shadow work. 

Positive aspects can also be worked out through shadow work
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2. Shadow Work helps you understand others 

In shadow work, you are required not only to look inside yourself but also to observe the people and situations that surround you. The main reason for this is to watch how you interact with people and ask yourself why that is. 

But, as you begin to notice your patterns and behaviors, you also begin to become aware of other people's way of doing things or being. And how they respond to you in certain scenarios. 

You begin to notice how they move their mouth around when they are deep in thought or how they sway back and forth when they are nervous. As you put the pieces together you get a glimpse into their own world and their own troubles.

This, in turn, helps you look at and reassess your own ways of acting and reacting to certain triggers and situations. Which in the long run, helps all involved as you become more vulnerable and open, teaching others to do the same. 

3. Shadow Work helps develop compassion

According to Compassion, an organization dedicated to helping children out of poverty, the word compassion means recognizing the suffering of others and then taking action to help heal or help eradicate that suffering. 

When you start observing and figuring out or realizing why people do what they do, when you start dwelling deeper, you realize that people are human just like you. And, just like you, if they had someone to help maybe things wouldn't have gotten as far as they did.

Realizing that under all that debris people have hearts, emotions, and a bright soul, makes you want to help them with their problems and suffering, it gives you compassion. 

Slowly, as you go along your healing path, you start realizing that you need compassion too. You can give yourself compassion. You are allowed to feel your own suffering and work to heal it, take action towards it. 

For an example of compassion, think about animal lovers. Whenever you watch a rescue video or a transformation video, what do you see? You see humans risking their lives and pouring themselves over the animal, in a respectful way, in order for it to recover and heal. 

A feeling of love similar to the one you see people pour into these rescue animals can be poured over other people and yourself as well. Once you start taking action, you unconsciously start to transform the energies inside of you.

energy circle
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4. Shadow Work helps you transform negative energies into positive ones

Once you have identified the things or aspects you need and want to work on, the next step is healing it.

Healing negative aspects can take on different forms. Sometimes just by becoming aware, recognizing, and accepting them, these negative aspects dissipate. Other times, you will need to face these negative aspects head-on. 

A detailed plan sometimes is needed to overcome negative patterns and behaviors. There are situations in which you might need the help of a professional, like a therapist or psychologist. 

Whatever the case is when you start healing you also, slowly, transform the negativity into positivity. Upward spirals of positive energy begin to replace the downward spirals of negative energy in your body, mind, and heart. 

It takes time and it doesn't feel or look the same to everyone. But, the fact is that once you start working on yourself the final stage is a new you that is completely transformed. 

This transformation is in part due to you unlearning certain things and re-learning others.

5. Shadow Work helps you re-learn and re-discover yourself

As you start peeling away the layers of trauma and negative energies that are surrounding and attached to you, you start seeing your true self.

You realize you really are worthy, you really can be successful, you really can have a happy life, you really can live without that other person or group of people. You don't actually need all they say that you need, you start loving yourself and practicing self-care. 

You begin putting up boundaries, respecting them, and respecting yourself. You remember that you really liked to dance, sing, read, etc; and you remember why you liked doing that. 

If some traits of yours were forced to be suppressed, then you are able to remember how to experience them and integrate them again in a healthy way.

You realize that you don't have to care anymore what other people think and that there were some things that were pushed on you that you pretended to go along with but that you no longer have the strength to keep up with anymore and that's alright. 

You also discover new passions, dreams, and things that you hadn't realized, seen, or noticed before because of all the noise and interruptions around you. 

Shadow Work helps you re-learn and re-discover yourself
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6. Shadow Work helps you create new habits

With newly discovered dreams and goals, it is time to form new habits and patterns. 

Shadow Work helps you observe and identify your old patterns and habits, in order to analyze them and figure out how to break them apart.

This gives you an opportunity to find new ways to do things or to realize that you don't really have to do anything in the first place because either you don't want that anymore or it was never necessary for you to do much. 

Becoming aware of negative patterns helps you break away from certain cycles that were, most likely, holding you back from living your best life. It is hard to break these cycles but, like a lot of things, it is a question of readiness, willingness, acceptance, and getting comfortable with your new life.

Besides completely stopping these negative behaviors, one way that you can start breaking negative patterns is by substituting them with positive ones. Depending on you, it might take baby steps or you may be able to do it cold turkey but that depends on how you work as a whole, your body, your mind, your emotions, etc. 

Take diets, for example, some people can completely change their diet in a day while others may need months or years to get used to and change their way of eating entirely. 

Of course, this is only taking into account the actual change of food and maybe some behaviors, but it does take some time to learn what and how exactly you can eat and to get into the mindset of it. 

You can also think about fashion changes. Maybe there's a person that can change their fashion preferences and start dressing differently overnight. But, there are some of us that need to take a slower approach.

Maybe trying out a certain piece of clothing for a while before coming up with the confidence to buy or put an entire outfit together in that style. 

No matter how you do it, remember that it can be done just be patient and compassionate to yourself. In the end, it will all be worth it. 

Shadow Work helps you create new habits
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7. Shadow Work helps you balance the give and take dynamic

As you go deeper into yourself and become more aware of what goes on and who is around you, you start seeing all the imbalances in your life.

A lot of us either take too much or give too much in our daily lives. If you are an empath or a sensitive it is most likely that you are one of those people that give too much. 

But how do we break this uneven dynamic? As mentioned previously, shadow work helps us see everything as it is. Once you have learned to observe and healthily detach from situations and people, you are able to see things clearly.

This is where you discover if you are giving too much of yourself or taking too much out of other people. Giving or taking doesn't necessarily refer to material things only, it could also be time, energy, attention; leading someone on, etc.

Be aware that if you want to change this dynamic, you have to first be aware of it. Another thing you will have to do is set boundaries, which is difficult for a lot of people. 

Let me give you a hint with a saying I have heard throughout my life: Your rights end where mine begin. Ask yourself a few things. 

Is this behavior something you should be tolerating? Do other people tolerate it? Do I want to let this continue or do I want something else? Is there a possibility that this isn't all there is, that it can be better?

Let me help you again with another saying. Whatever you are being told or made to believe: You're not a tree, move. Much like this saying, sometimes you have to be honest with yourself, even brutally honest but that will push you into something new. 

No, you don't have to keep up tolerating that which grinds your gears or puts you in a situation of humiliation and hurt. No, you're not responsible for anyone but yourself. You have a right to freedom and happiness, even the constitution says this. 

You have inalienable rights that no one can take away, not even the government. Among them are being healthy, free, sovereign, and living the best life possible according to you. That is, as long as you're not hurting other people. 

Essentially, it is up to you whether you change your ways or not after you are aware of them. Still, whether you actively take action or not, an unbalanced dynamic never prosper. 

Eventually, things balance themselves out but it's much faster if we take action when and where we are able to take it. It also gives us a sense of satisfaction that we were able to contribute to our own well-being. 

So, what do you think shadow work is about now? Still, think it is just all about darkness and negativity? Shadow work gives you the tools to change the negative parts and embrace the positive ones

I encourage you to start your own journey into your ideal and better life, we all deserve it.

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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