I just returned from Debbie Ford’s The Shadow Process Workshop and man, am I whooped! This 2.5 day intensive uncovers the shadow, or those parts of ourselves that we’ve disowned either because we think they’re bad or we find them shameful. The idea behind shadow work is that if you uncover and embrace all aspects of yourself, without judgment, you become more whole. When we deny parts of ourselves they can come up in unexpected and unpredictable ways.
Take for example the numerous sex scandals by those that are of higher moral standards such as religious leaders and clergy. Those that are of a higher moral authority are often the ones caught in sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. Because they’ve denied parts of themselves it erupts in a destructive manner.
It’s when we are out of balance of our shadow that it begins to control our life. What we resist persists. If we learn to honor it, find the gifts within it and embrace it we become less triggered when we see it in others. Think about the things in your life that upset you, what is it about those things that gets your blood boiling? Is that some part of yourself that you have denied? Is that some part of yourself that you are ashamed of? Can you find the gifts in those qualities? If not in those specifics, can you find the gifts in their opposite? For instance, if being lazy is a trigger for you, what’s the gift of being lazy? One could say finding time for yourself, relaxation, recharging your battery, maintaining a healthy work-life balance. When you shift your perspective and are able to see the gift in a once-denied trait you can embrace it without judgment or shame.
Let’s take a harder example. How can we find any way to embrace racism? It’s hard to find the benefit of being a racist so what’s it’s opposite? By not being a racist, one can become more accepting, tolerant and open to others of a different background then their own. If it weren’t for racism maybe we’d be less aware of other people’s struggles and challenges.
So here’s some tips on how to begin to uncover, understand and embrace your shadow:
Step 1: What triggers you?
What really gets under your skin? What can you not stand in other people? What is a trait or personality that you just can’t deal with? Notice if this is something that started in childhood. Were you told at an early age that this was wrong, bad or otherwise unacceptable? Really list out all the negative traits associated with what triggers you. If you need help, ask yourself, what kind of person would do that?
Step 2: Own it
Take those negative traits and repeat the phrase, “I am x” or “I am that” while looking at yourself in the mirror. Really let the words resonate within you. It will be hard to even say the words out loud at first. Trust the process, let it unfold before you.
Step 3: Find the gifts
Now take a look at your list and see if you can find the benefits for those traits. If you struggle with that, then find the gifts in their opposite. Now really breathe in those gifts, let go of judgment, shame and guilt. Know that by embracing these so called negative traits within yourself you are fully able to step into who you really are. You will gain more tools in your toolbox with which to manifest all that you desire. And once you are able to embrace these traits you will be less triggered when you see them in others.
One of the key tenants of the shadow work states that we must stop trying to fix an unwanted part of ourselves and instead, accept and love it.
If you would like to learn more about the shadow I would highly recommend Debbie Ford’s Dark Side of the Light Chasers book. It is the quintessential guide to the shadow with practical examples and exercises to help uncover those parts of yourself that you may have been denying.
My wish for you is that you fully embrace your beautiful, radiant, divine light. For it is only through the darkness that we see the light.
Sending love to those parts of you that are hiding in the dark,
P.S. After I wrote the above article, I hosted a Reiki Healing Night where we discussed the Shadow in more detail, including a Shadow meditation. Enjoy!