What Is Shadow Work? Why would anyone want to explore their feelings?
Shadow Work is about going beneath the surface, looking more closely at what's going on in those dark shadowy places that usually don't get a lot of attention. This is completely uncomfortable! And nobody likes to be uncomfortable so we avoid it. Avoiding your shadow would be fine if it didn't mean you were also avoiding your gifts. So if you are at all interested in pursuing your dreams at some point you are going to have to deal with your shadow.
Doing any kind of Growth Work without doing Shadow Work is a recipe for Spiritual Bypass.
A few examples of spiritual bypass:
- Mindlessly repeating positive affirmations while ignoring all of the fear that they trigger in you.
- Pretending to believe in yourself while you go on sabotaging your dreams in how you live your daily life.
You know how sometimes I rant about how sleazy some of the online personal growth/life transformation world is becoming? This is another example of spiritual bypassing: massively success people telling themselves that they are successful because of their positive affirmations and believing in themselves when really they're tapping into the power of privilege and some completely sleazy (but financially effective) marketing strategies and sales tactics.
I know all about Spiritual Bypass because I practiced it for like 10 years.
These are known as my "starving artist years" in my 20s. This is when I visualized and prayed and did ALL of the manifestation techniques while avoiding looking at the things I'd need to change in myself order to actually CREATE my creative dreams. How did I get the traction I needed to become a self-sustaining well-fed artist? By doing Shadow Work which unearthed the incredible power that was always there in me.
Shadow Work is the best way to get in touch with your magic.
Because the only thing standing between you and your magic is your shadow! Over the years I have shared images like this many times: If you're like most humans, you spend most of your time in the outer ring, your conscious self, and you're focused mostly outside of you, looking out at the world. When you can turn your attention inward, yes at first you see the shadow and you're probably see something there that freaks you out and that's totally uncomfortable. But if you stay there, and go deeper into it - that's where you find your gifts, your dreams, your inner magic.
Doing Shadow Work will free you because it will help you see everything more clearly.
Seeing things more clearly, while definitely a huge gift, can also be a little uncomfortable. Like when I started to do Shadow Work I was totally astounded to discover that I had a lot of issues! For years I thought that it wasn't ME who needed to change, it was the world that needed to change. Like if I lived in a world that was more supportive to creative people and their dreams - then I'd be doing fine with my dreams! It turns out the world didn't need to change. I needed to change. I was afraid of BOTH success and failure, I felt uncomfortable putting myself "out there" in the ways that my dreams demanded, I was addicted to people-pleasing, and I was unwilling to do actually do the "hard parts" of making my dream real. Once I started facing my own issues, I was able to grow and nourish my dreams myself - instead of waiting around for the world to do it for me. And - the best part is that we CAN change the world when we start by changing our own selves.
Shadow Work will change everything.
This is where the magic of healing and transformation actually happen. So - how do you actually do Shadow Work? I'm going to write about that next and share the two main techniques that I use. Stay tuned for that!
Want to try Shadow Work with me and my friend and colleague Chris Zydel?
Chris runs Creative Juices Arts and has over forty years of experience as a creativity mentor. She has a master's degree in Depth Psychology and The Art of Counseling. She is an astrologer and has certifications in expressive arts, process painting, hypnotherapy and various kinds of bodywork. Chris is amazing. She is who I want to be when I grow up and I could not be more thrilled to be teaching with her. As a super-sentive highly introverted person, I really prefer working alone. Chris is one of the few people I make an exception for.
Chris and I are leading a 1 day online workshop on Shadow Work called Gifts Of The Shadow: Wild Creative Momentum on Dec 4.
I'm going to be in California at Chris' place where we'll stream live. Chris and I together are really really good at holding space for this kind of work. It's been a few years since we've done a class together and it could be a few years (or more!) before we do this again. Details and registration for this class are here.