“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow?
I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” — Carl Jung
Shadow work is a term coined by Carl Jung. It refers to acknowledging and understanding the dark side of our personality which Jung felt was essential to having a fulfilling life.
How well do you know yourself? The flippant answer would be that I know myself better than anyone. Jung said that there are parts of your personality that you despise so much so you hide them away. This is your shadow self.
“There is no light without shadow and
no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” — Carl Jung
But, if these things are repressed, how do we acknowledge that they exist? Wouldn’t you rather focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses?
In order to grow, you need to address your flaws. Can you acknowledge that you might be jealous, selfish, or even racist?
This might sound like therapy and like therapy, shadow work can reveal parts of your personality you might not be ready to acknowledge.
So, I would say right here that I don’t recommend trying to do some shadow work based on just this post or the links at the bottom.
Shadow work means confronting some of the worst things about your own personality and character. I learned about it, unsurprisingly, in therapy. I don’t know if Dr. F. was a Jungian but he introduced it to me.
If you’ve ever read or studied Jung in a course, you probably learned about archetypes. I kept a journal for my sessions which is part of the shadow work and two things we looked for were recurring themes and patterns.
“Everything that irritates us about others
can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” — Carl Jung
We talked about things that “trigger” me. Is there something that pushes you to anger? How do you react to angry situations?
I won’t get into my own flaws here. That’s something you work out privately. Did the shadow work help? Yes. Did it free me from those flaws in myself? To a degree and in some ways, but not completely. This is lifetime work. I wish I had started earlier.
I did learn that it is not about just uncovering repressed thoughts or desires that make me feel uncomfortable, but more about being aware of what I feel a need to hide and pretend that those things don’t exist in me.