The term “shadow” was first used in as a psychological term by Carl G. Jung as a denied part of one's self—a part we repress because we have been given a message that it is “bad” or “evil” or that we need to feel shame and guilt if we have it. The hidden shadow side is our impulsive, wounded, sad, or isolated part that we generally try to ignore.
"What you resist, persists" ~ Carl Jung
All of us have this shadow self and it can block us from reaching our true potential. If it's ignored or not identified and properly addressed it can wreak havoc on our life. The shadow or the dark side of us is what gives us a perspective to the light side and makes us a whole human being. When we start doing shadow work, our personal growth process gets easier, since it brings out our hidden powers and turns them into light.
We have all been hurt because of these hidden shadow sides, which have been repressed and denied. When they get repressed, they control us; when we bring them out and learn to work with them, we are in control. Some of us have learned to take this pain and hurt and to bring a sense of balance to our disordered parts of the shadow. We do this because we want to feel a sense of liberation from unnecessary pain and sorrow. Through our shadow, we can face our hurt, fear and anger and learn how to live from our fullest functioning individual self, one that is content with life and where it’s going. One that is positively functioning to his fullest.
Most people are aware that there is some part of them correcting other parts, but they may not be aware of a higher self or what we could call an intuitive self. It’s the part that allows us to come back into equilibrium, and learn how to observe the shadow parts. To observe and do shadow work, we need the experience of being centered in a higher self. That is why our spiritual practice is so pivotal.
When you work on the shadow, you can turn your anger into something positive—for example, a set of boundaries to be assertive and to say yes or no to what your heart wants. Or, you can turn your sadness into a door to connect and understand others by expanding your compassion. Or, you can turn your fear into a tool to become emotionally detached from an upsetting situation. Or, you can understand why you might project negative feelings onto others or scapegoat people unnecessarily.
In addition, you may find yourself needing help and support in doing and discovering your shadow side. You need to work on feelings like fear, anger, jealously, insecurity, hate, resentment, guilt and shame or any other self-restraining feelings that are irrational, out of balance or too intense. You may also need to focus on how to get rid of the old patterns of behavior and thoughts that are not serving you well anymore. This can be done through behavioral and cognitive modification, which can be mixed with the shadow work.
One of the great purposes of life is about self-understanding and growth. Shadow work is an essential piece of revealing your true self.
Eventually with personal and life work, when we befriend our shadow, give it a nod and wink, accept and learn from it, we learn to use it's powerful messages and energies in profound ways. Instead of residing in the depths of the unconscious, it gains its rightful place as a function and gift of the personality allowing you to hear the pure, intelligent wisdom of your soul. It allows for true personal understanding, deepening of consciousness and can bring beautiful gifts along the way.