A Complete Guide to Individuation: Integrating the Shadow (Part 1)Integrating our personal darkness is the initiation phase on the journey towards psychic wholeness.
Every human life carries with it some potential. If this potential goes unfulfilled, the life has been a waste.
This potential is developed not through force, but through embracing the totality of the psyche. The whole of your being.
My embracing the darkness. Our darkness is not to be feared, but rather given life and love.
In each of us there is another whom we do not know. We call this our Shadow.
Why Engage in Shadow Work
This is a darkness. Our darkness. If you cannot learn to love your darkness you are disconnecting yourself from a power far great than you.
Until we have regained our ability to be violent, selfish, lustful, powerful, manipulative, and ugly we cannot become whole. We cannot reclaim what is fundamentally ours, what is us.
You cannot run from yourself. Your Shadow is a psychic force, as real as you are, and like you it has to express itself. It demands it.
If you silence this expression, you will unconsciously lead a life of destruction. A warped and confused existence.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." - Jung
Every society, culture, and religion recognizes the Shadow, and so too it's power. Afraid of it's rawness we look away, and do so with great intensity. We hold our Persona together with laws, locking away those Shadows that we do not like to see.
This only leads to deeper wounds. Here we break that cycle, by looking at our own reflection. Seeing, loving, and integrating the Shadow.
This is the secret to all Morality, the basis of spiritual growth. Real morality is based on your understanding of the darkness.
You have to be violent, before you can choose not to be.
What is The Shadow
"Man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be." - Jung
During our childhood we discover that socially acceptable behaviors are rewarded, and unacceptable ones punished. This creates a split in the psyche of the developing child. On one side of the split is the Persona, on the other is the Shadow.
It's not only the darkness that is punished, but often the light. Out of fear, parents or authority figures can reprimand otherwise positive traits in a child. Self-confidence can be punished, artistic expression can be punished, liberality and sexuality can be punished, exploration and risk-taking can be punished.
Generally, though, it is the darker aspects that are punished. Selfishness, aggression and violence, excessive sexuality, addiction, and social exclusion. The repression of these behaviors is key in forming a healthy and functional Persona.
And so you find your Shadow full of complexity. Full of what you want, and also what you may not want. Full of darkness, and light.
The Shadow is an archetype, that is, another entity living within your psyche. In a very real sense, it's not you, but something that can possess you and control your actions.
You don't have to think of it this way, but it can be helpful. What is actually going on, who knows. This is just a useful map.
* Neo-Jungians may find issue with my use of terminology, I am trying to make a very vague and mythological topic very concrete in the hopes of appealing to those who are lost in this work. I have sacrificed correct terminology, as well as certain details and truths to this end. Of course, my understanding of Jung is also partial and distorted by my own lense.
The Ultimate Goal of Shadow Work
“Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.” ― Carl Jung
The shadow becomes hostile only when it feels ignored or misunderstood.
It is the requirement of the Ego to give up its pride and embrace something which seems to be dark, but may not be. Thus integrating the Shadow and bringing the darkness into the light.
This is the ultimate goal of individuation. To become whole. To move from the most superficial expression of Self to the deepest. The journey of individuation follows along a set process of integration:
- The Persona
- The Shadow
- The Syzygy — Anima and Animus
- The Self — Wise Old Man and Wise Old Woman
The Persona has likely already been developed, and so your first step is integration of The Shadow. This is the purpose of this guide.
Enough meta-talk about the shadow, let's dive in to the work.
The Phases of Shadow Discovery
"There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
The shadow exists at different levels and the deeper we go the more emotional the work becomes.
The process here is not entirely linear, it spirals, loops, morphs, and changes. Often times you will find that Shadow work leads to the discovery of limiting beliefs, which in turn leads to a cathartic emotional healing. Do not be afraid to venture away from the Shadow, let this work take you where it may.
That being said, I have personally found myself going through
- The call to undertake shadow work
- Awareness of the collective and personality shadow
- Integration of the personality shadow aspects (the setup for Shadow confrontation)
- Confrontation with the deepest shadow
- Understanding, emotional processing, agitation, catharsis, etc.
- Integration of the shadow
- Repeat, now uncover new shadow traits!
Pay careful attention to that last step. This is not a process, not an event. Your shadow will continue to evolve over your lifetime, just as you do. As this happens you must grow connection to it. Integrating anything new that arises, and reintegrating stubborn parts.
Again, this is not a linear process, but when you find yourself spiralling into the depths of madness, you may find comfort in having a structure to return to.
1. The Collective Shadow
The Collective Shadow contains the repressed thoughts, feelings and behaviors of your culture. This reason we start here, is because it takes the least amount of digging to unearth. Many of us share a similar culture, and so we share its Shadow.
Of course, culture is no simple thing. So let's break it down.
Biological (Collective Archetypes)
Archetypes are inherited collectively, that is, we are all possessed by them. They are brought to consciousness through mythology, and have outlived any human. For a powerful list of the Archetypes, Scott Jeffrey's Ultimate Archetypes List is the best resource on the matter I have found.
You must take this seriously! We all have an Archetypal expression, it could be any, you could be living out a tragedy and not even know it. Your entire life depends on this... Can you grasp that?
You can use any archetypal map that suits you. To name a few: Enneagram, MBTI, KWML, Religion.
There are other Archetypes as well, we already have an existing Archetypes track with 7 archetypes so start there if not the KWML scale.
The trick to this is to figure out which archetype is dominating your life at this point in time. What shadow sides of the archetypes are you possessed by. The shadow is on the left side of each triangle.
Don't think you'll be a full blown sadist, or psychopathic manipulator. You will be at some point between the poles, your job is to figure out where. Luckily, we have a track coming soon to help with that.
Either way awareness is the first step, so try to determine where you lie in each archetype and which one is causing you the most grief in life.
Once you've got this, you'll naturally start to self correct as you notice it in your life and drain it of it's power. Of course you can speed up the process by taking specific actions in your life to put the archetype out of it's comfort zone. Essentially do the opposite of what it's doing now.
But sometimes, just letting it rest in your awareness is enough.
Repressed Ethnocentric Traits - national laws, religious systems, local beliefs and attitudes
In our age it should be quite clear that there is a great mess of cultures. And we each inherit, to some degree, the shadow of our culture.
A large part of what we believe we must do, is in fact just cultural programming. Anything we rigidly believe we must do, or must not do becomes a shadow. It is black, or it is white. But of course it is pallette full of swirling colors.
So what is the cultural rigidity, specifically?
- Sexual uptightness
- Laws and convention
- Success drive, consumerism, materialism
- Religious sin, moral belief systems, self-sacrifice
- Racism, sexism, economic prejudice
- Power, status, fame and control
These issues are deeply societal, and exist at every stage of development, in different ways.
They arise through a repression of our biological drives. Well of course we don't like to feel driven, so we take away the steering wheel.
For example sexual strictness arises out of our fear of dirtiness, rape, and uncontrolled lust. Our laws and religious beliefs about killing end up repressing out biological drive to murder, commit genocide, wipe out those that oppose us.
This isn't always "feel good" work.
At it's core shadow work is literally seeing yourself in Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Nixon, Bin Laden, or Castro. Can see how you would wipe out a race, or start a war, in a very genuine way?
Sitting here, it's easy to look back and judge human history: wars, major scientific blunders, witch trials, slavery. Well, we're doing the same thing today, only in our own way. And we can't see it. We don't change.
It is not hatred that leads to violence, it is unacknowledged hatred. Can you integrate your racism? Or your thirst for power, sex, and status? I assure you they are there, and that's okay. Become conscious of it.
Can you see how all and destructive world leaders, corrupt judges and market manipulators — anyone you demonise — how they are all you. You are reacting to it because you can't face it in yourself.
Right now, make a list of all the parts of life and all the types of people that you reject or judge.
Then go through that list and start to see yourself in them, or them in you. Try to understand the person, the situation, or the philosophy. See what it wants to tell you.
Say you were a judge (pun intended), do you not think you could be tempted by bribery, or manipulated with threat. That maybe you could make the wrong call based on public opinion, or for the power trip? Because if you don't see how you might, well then you certainly would. Really think about how little it would really take for you to lose yourself in the Shadow.
And make no mistake, you are already lost to it.
Developmental Stage Shadow (Spiral Dynamics)
Spiral Dynamics is at its core, model of human evolution. It is stage-based, and each stage has it's shadow.
In our current phase of development, most of western society is stage Blue-Orange. Assume you are here.
There are two methods tp Shadow work with Spiral Dynamics. Firstly, you must learn to see your blindness, that is, become deeply aware of the shortcomings of your own stage. And secondly, by seeing which stages you most often find yourself in strong reaction to.
The picture I'm about to paint is not intended to be some visual spectacle, I intend to spend no time on the positive traits, only the destructive and pathological elements. Keep in mind, we are not out to demonise anything but integrate it.
Each stage can be thought of as a new perspective, incorporating the previous and transcending it. By seeing the excesses of your stage you can not only begin to transcend it but to work through your own "cultural" shadow.
Blue Shadow - Religious-Authoritarian
Blue can often be hard, strict, polarizing, fixed and inflexible. They operate from within their closed off belief system. Either religious, familial or societal.
This leads them to become judging and cold. Finding fault with everything that does not conform to their expectations.
Extreme bureaucracy and hierarchy arise. Blue often follows a set of traditional practices, this can lead to a lack of freedom and autonomy. Or alternatively to a rigid ranking system that doesn't factor in complexity. Examples are government wings or the military.
"Sticking to rules or laws because those are the rules!". This may lead Blue to becoming blind to the dogmatic side of laws.
Blue is continuously striving for perfection, even when solutions are already workable.
Orange Shadow - Scientific-Materialist
Orange has a pull to embody exploitative or manipulative patterns to increase their personal material success. Whether that be exploiting the environment, political system, and cheap labour. Or, manipulating others through low consciousness sales tactics, deception, and lies.
Orange gets easily caught in the rat race. Chasing after money or sex and losing sight of the human aspect.
Orange is often skeptical of any "new-age" or spiritual experiences, and dismissive of world views that don't align with their own material perspective. They dogmatically believe in science and rationality. They can be surprisingly closed-minded.
This can lead them to believing they can think their way out of things, and so they repress their emotions or feelings.
Orange can adopt a polar victim-victor mentality where you must either win or lose, they can them begin to identify with one of those sides. This leads to often unhealthy levels of competition, where they have to dominate other people in sports or work or relationships.
This may manifest in a desire to build muscles, diet, get a high paying job, attain power, have lots of sex, or at the very least pretend you have this (on social media, or in conversations).
Green Shadow - Inclusive-Relativist
Green has a tendency to appease and avoid conflicts. In essence, a form of cowardice and aversion to the difficult aspects of reality and society. They can be soft and patronizing. Conflicts are not dealt with and so fester and become much larger and more serious issues.
This can be personal conflicts, familial or romantic, social, environmental or otherwise.
Green has a tendency to exclude the truth of everyone who is not Green. Such as wall street bankers, tree-loggers, big business, and rational-logical types. This becomes limiting and can lead to the creation of dogmatic and ideological environments.
Ideology and blindness to higher perspectives can often become an issue at this stage.
The need to include everyone in the process often leads to a lack of real-world results. Green can often value this over the results, which can lead to serious issues in their lives.
Green can hypocritically be very intolerant of intolerance or ignorance.
So what do I do with this information?
You have undertaken the first step: awareness. From here it is back to you for integration.
Now that you see the general behaviors manifesting in your life (i.e chasing status and money at stage orange) you can go about uncovering your specific pulls.
For example, you may notice yourself pinching pennies all the time in an effort to ensure you remain wealthy. Counter-intuitively this brings about a scarcity mindset and puts limits on your potential for material success, so it's best to deal with these things head on.
Now that you are aware of the behavior (i.e being cheap) you can begin integrating it in 4 ways:
- Forcefully changing the behavior through sustained effort — fake it till you make it
- CBT — reason yourself out of the underlying belief with logic on a continual basis
- Deal with the underlying emotional complex and feelings
- Embrace the behavior, understand it and love it fully and unconditionally
These will all be touched on in more detail later. A mix of all of these tactics is generally best. Keep reading, or skip down to Integrating the Shadow to get a better idea of the exact integration process.
2. The Personality (Persona) Shadow
The Persona is our mask, all the pretty little actions we wants the world to see. It is the opposite of the Shadow, containing all the parts of our psyche that have been brought forward into the light.
Our personality is primarily an expression of Persona. We can then start to see the shadow aspects which "complete" the Persona. That which has been pushed away.
Persona and Shadow are a yin-yang duality that complete each other. Chasing the other's tail in and endless loop. Luckily for us, personality is a well studied topic.
Uncovering the Shadow with Personality Tests
The key task is to see what is either lacking, or in excess.
Lets take the example of introversion. If you score high in Introversion (i.e low in extraversion) your Ego is likely repressing many linked extraverted behaviors such as expressiveness, socialization, general life enthusiasm, and friendliness.
Remember, you can repress socially positive traits if something in your past overpowered the forces of culture.
Once you understand where your personality is in lack, or excess, you have a clear map of where to go next. Towards filling the lack, or damming the overflow.
You will doubtlessly face resistance. Understand that this is just resistance, not truth. The work here is in moving through this resistance and integrating those repressed aspects of your personality.
This time we'll take the opposite stance. Let's say you are very high in Openness, which is normally considered a very positive dimension. What could possibly be the problem with high Openness? Where do I begin!
Well let's see what someone low in Openness would look like. Of course it's easy to see the negative side — close-mindedness, traditionalism. But so too come the positive aspects — remaining grounded, career specialization, stability.
The highly open person often neglects the mundane nature of reality. Just doing the dishes, cleaning the car, paying bills, watering the plants, ironing clothes. They can be so caught up in abstract ideas and fantasy that a mountain of trivial tasks will suddenly wreak havoc on their lives.
It's really that simple. And that's just one small part of one dimension of one personality test.
You've also got:
- DISC Personality Profile
- Enneagram (coming soon...)
- Myers Briggs Type Index - a.k.a Jungian Cognitive Functions
Enough to keep you busy for a lifetime, and trust me, it will.
I will finish by saying this. The personality is not fixed, ultimately you created it, and to the degree that it was created you can also change it. Now, that's not to say this change will be easy. Far from it. But with enough repetition you can integrate the opposing forces and bring about a balance and wholeness in the personality that few achieve.
Uncovering the Shadow Through Feedback
Of course, an online personality assessment is a very crude instrument, and so the key issue remains.
How do I become aware of what I can't see in myself?
Well, there is a simple solution here. Ask someone who will be honest with you. The closer they are, and the least you want to ask them, the more you should.
There are two possible eventualities.
- They project their own issues onto you
- They give you real insight into your shit
Now be careful here, the mind is slippery and not to be trusted. It is ridiculously easy to project your own shadow back onto them (meta-projection). You've been warned!
So I leave you with this simple statement: assume whatever they say is completely true.
3. The Ego's Deepest Shadow
This is where things get good! Everything up to this point (assuming you chose to work linearly) was a warm up to dealing with your deepest shadow elements.
The work at this stage is what causes outbursts of depression, anger, grief, love. And is already causing many deep external issues in your life.
The methods here are much more detailed, and plentiful. This stage is where you will get the most insights and the have to go the deepest into yourself.
I will outline an extensive set of methods, and give some general guidance on the overall process here. Pick whichever methods resonate with you, and whichever ones you will actually do! There is no point intellectualizing about this work, it serves an important purpose but does only insofar as you do the actual work yourself.
Seeing Your Projections
This is by far the best place to start!
Projection is so juicy that you could do the majority of your work with this tool alone. It's so universal and yet so few understands when they are projecting.
Every aspect that we disown appears outside of ourselves, that is, on someone else. We project it!
It's pretty simple, any time you make a judgement or evaluation about someone else, you are projecting.
"It takes one to know one" - Some Kid
Projection does of course come in different degrees and depths. You project more onto some as opposed to others, and project differently in different situations.
Judgments of Others
At first our judgments appear objectively outside ourselves. They are, without question, the characteristic of the other. We are so sure about this that we readily announce it:
- You are so angry all the time
- She is naive
- He is an addict
- You are beautiful
- You are being immature
- He has no common sense
- She works too much
- He is afraid of commitment
- She is manipulative
- You never learn
We project differently onto different types of people, those closest to us tend to really get to the heart of our issues. Family members, partners, children, mentors, close friends.
Those we are less acquainted with tend to be the recipients of more superficial projections — which nonetheless need to be addressed. Coworkers, strangers, celebrities, or that random guy who cut the queue.
"You can only let go of that which you have first owned" - Ken Wilber
So we need to take the parts of ourselves we don't identify with and reintegrate them. Only then can we truly let them go.
The following steps are adapted from Ken Wilber's 3-2-1 process.
- Pick an experience to work with — an idol you cannot get over, a coworker that irritates you to no end — anything that produces strong emotions.
- Make your judgments — be honest and brutal about their issues; Lily is lazy and constantly escaping to TV Shows
- Talk to the projection (mentally) — Why are you this way? Why do you run from reality? Why do you avoid your problems? Why constantly watch TV?
- Reframe it as "I" — become it, "I am often lazy and avoid my problems in life" — have empathy for it, if you resist it you don't fully understand it. Try to get a deep understanding of it. If you don't fully love it, you don't fully understand it.
It’s often easier to begin with a person with whom you have difficulty (e.g. a lover, relative, boss). This person may irritate, disturb, annoy, or upset you. Or maybe you feel attracted to, obsessed with, infatuated with, or possessive about this person. In any case, choose someone with whom you have a strong emotional charge, whether positive or negative
If you are in a relationship (which has passed through the honeymoon phase) you have one of the best tools for shadow work at your disposal! Someone you are with regularly who has the ability to irritate you that you can also be open with (hopefully).
The same applies in this case, just watch how you react to your partner on and become aware of recurring patterns or strong emotions that arise.
You can also become aware of projections in retrospect (like the list above). Right now sit down and write all the past judgments you've made of others, it's okay to repeat yourself.
Take the most common judgment themes and start the work there. See how they exist in your own life.
Below is a list of projections, and their integrated expression from David Richo's work. Work on moving from the left side to the right side, start with those that call out to you.
- Addictiveness — Steadfastness
- Anxiety — Excitement
- Approval seeking — Openness to appreciation
- Arrogance — Self-confidence
- Bias — Discernment
- Bitterness, grudge-holding — Refusal to overlook injustice
- Caretaking — Compassion
- Clinging — Loyalty
- Compromise — Negotiability
- Compulsive orderliness — Organization, efficiency
- Conning — Teaching, encouraging
- Connivance — Intelligent strategizing
- Control, manipulativeness — Leadership, efficiency, coordinating ability
- Cowardice — Caution
- Cruelty — Anger
- Cunning — Forethought
- Defensiveness — Preparedness
- Demanding — Asking
- Dependency on others — Reasonable trust of others
- Flattery — Complimenting
- Foolhardiness — Bravery
- Greed — Self-provision
- Guilt — Conscientiousness
- Hostility — Assertiveness
- Hypocrisy — Ability to “Act as if”
- Impatience — Eagerness
- Impulsiveness — Spontaneity
- Incompetence — Willingness to experiment
- Indecision — Openness to possibilities
- Insensitivity — Objectivity
- Intimidation — Confrontation
- Jealousy — Protectiveness
- Jumping to conclusions — Intuitiveness
- Lack of order — Flexibility
- Laziness — Relaxedness
- Loneliness — Openness to nurturance
- Loquacity — Articulateness
- Lying — Imaginativeness
- Neediness — Asks for respect of appropriate needs
- Obsequiousness — Respect
- Perfectionism — Commitment to do things well
- Procrastination — Honoring one’s own timing
- Rigidity — Tenacity
- Sarcasm — Wit
- Selfishness — Self-nurturance
- Self-pity — Self-forgiveness
- Sense of obligation — Choice
- Slyness — Shrewdness
- Submissiveness — Cooperation, docility
- Tactless bluntness — Frank candidness
- Taking for granted — Accepting
- Vengefulness — Justice
Movie Character Projection
A really fun method which I formalized from reading Scott Jeffery's work, but had been doing for years before that, is seeing your projections onto movie and TV show characters. After all what is a movie other than modern day mythology?
I started to intuitively catalogue all of the times that scenes which moved me would appear, same (though less) with scenes that really bothered me. I'll give you some of the scenes that really moved me (without giving away spoilers).
- Eddie The Eagle - 1:32:19 (90m Jump)
- Deepwater Horizon - 1:14:14 (Self Sacrifice)
- Mad Max - 1:52:18 (Quiet recognition)
- Rogue One - "I am one with the force, the force is with me"
- The Dark Knight Rises - 1:55:05 (Prison Escape Jump)
- Hacksaw Ridge - 1:38:20 (What do you want me to do?)
- 8 Mile - End Scene (Rap Battle - owning your shit!)
- Maniac - Every moment of self realization
- Gattaca - Final swimming scene
- Donnie Darko - Laughing at his fate
- Westworld - Season 2 (native american episode)
Now you won't be able to detect my theme (well, maybe you can) but it's there. I won't tell you how they fit together for me, but it's something my subconscious was craving. You have to take this pointer and do the work for yourself.
You can also do the same with the antagonist. See in which ways they really agitate you, then try and figure out why.
We must never forget in dream-analysis, even for a moment, that we move on a treacherous ground where nothing is certain but uncertainty. A suitable warning to the dream-interpreter — if only it were not so paradoxical — would be: “Do anything you like, only don’t try to understand!” - Jung
Alongside awareness of projection, dream work is perhaps the most important tool in shadow work. It is a time where your subconscious mind consumes you, where the suppressed and repressed behaviors, emotions, and memories lie.
Let's take a minute to understand dreams. Essentially, the subconscious mind uses dreams to communicate meaning to the conscious self. To do this it uses symbols, either objects, concepts, archetypes or characters. Every character in your dream is a part of you, a projection of your subconscious mind, except unlike life where it's not entirely projection, in your dream it is wholely you.
There is no running away from yourself down there, you are literally the environment, the story, the characters, the challenges, everything... And they are all there for you.
Let's start with the most basic step first, learning to remember your dreams. We average between 3 and 5 dreams per night. Most people struggle with this, hardly remembering one.
The trick to remembering dreams is simple: first thing in the morning after waking up, write down whatever you remember! Commit to doing this every single day for a least 2 weeks. You will rapidly start to see your dream recall increase. If you're not, don't brute force this. Simply strengthen your intention to do dream work, to remember your dreams.
This can be done every night before sleep, repeating to your mind "I remember my dreams". Pretty soon, you'll wake up with a single momentary memory of part of one dream. This is a good start.
Now that you can remember your dreams, we take the next step... understanding the dream contents.
Dream work can get rather intricate, again, there will be another more detailed guide in the future on using dreams for personal growth. Here I will provide an overview, should you wish to know more I recommend the book Inner Work by Robert Johnson
Encounters with the shadow
The dream world provides an environment for what's known as an encounter with the Shadow to occur. Every single dream character of the same sex can take on this shadow character role. When a masked criminal in a SUV side-swipes you car, jumps out and points a gun at your head, it will be a rather obvious encounter (that's the start of an actual dream I've had by the way).
There are a few ways to detect the Shadow.
- Dialoguing with the dream characters — this requires some lucidity
- Observing and reflecting on a characters behaviors
- Becoming aware of the personal meaning of common dream symbols
Dialoguing is pretty straight forward, if you're aware enough to realise you are in a dream you may begin to ask characters questions. The responses can be quite terrifying.
I was in a dream and there was a girl in front of me. I decided to talk to her and use this opportunity to explore my psyche. She responded to me with what started as some kind of nursery rhyme and slowly she started altering the words, it became really sinister and quite dark. As this was happening her face began to shift into a devilish face.
Above I use an example, not of the Shadow itself, but of a Shadow Anima. This is a deeper form of non-same-sex Shadow. Either way the process is the same. I can take the words she spoke to me, along with the feelings that came up, and almost instantly realise how this applies to my life.
Reflecting on certain characters is slightly more difficult, since you're psyche isn't giving you an answer your conscious mind is as capable of understanding. Remember, you are also a dream character.
If you find yourself stealing a small item from a local grocery store in a dream, understand it is likely showing up in sneakier ways in your life. Perhaps white collar crime, information theft, etc. which the sneaky person you are, you won't admit to yourself is in fact stealing.
Have you ever pirated a song or movie, guess what... That's stealing, no matter how you rationalize it. You're not as innocent as you think.
If you're really struggling to understand a dream a therapist may help, or failing that the Jungian subreddit is always helpful.
But let's take a direct example of seeing your own shadow, albeit not in a character, from my own dreams.
I was in a shopping center and was dared by my father to try on women's clothing at a store because I said I wasn't affected by peoples opinions much. I decided to try on a bra / thong setup in a private changing room. It was a curtained one, and an older woman kept trying to get in not knowing I was there. I was doing everything I could not to let her in.
Okay, certainly an interesting one. Now let's break it down!
Let's take it at a literal level first. Clearly a part of my shadow is affected by the judgments of others more than I let on (hence hiding from the woman). I may be afraid of wearing women's clothes. But that's very surface level, let's go deeper.
I find it interesting that my father is daring me to try on women's clothing. The father is a representation of the masculine, daring me to do something explicitly feminine. Am I afraid of embracing my femininity, maybe not too much since I was clearly willing to wear the clothes. In my waking life, I'm not too afraid of embracing my feminine side a little.
What stands out then is the fact that I was hiding from the woman trying to see me. Am afraid of the world seeing my feminine side? Well it might seem as much.
Now that I see it, I can try and link it to other parts of my waking life. Do I have a habit of judging homosexuality, or bisexuality? Of judging feminine men? Do I have issues with women? Do I hide my "feminine behaviors" (art, dancing, love) from the world?
Well it turned out to be that this was exactly the case, and I've been working with this insight ever since.
Understanding of dream symbols can take deep introspection over quite some time. Dream symbols are almost entirely personal, a bus to one person may represent something completely different to another.
Some dream symbols I've become aware after seeing their repetition over hundreds of dreams:
- Bus / Train
- Martial Arts / Military
- Supermarkets / Shopping Centers
- Scuba Diving
- Certain people from my past
- Houses and Buildings
The symbols are very multi-faceted, but I'll list some meanings without telling you which meaning belongs to which symbol. Remember all meanings are personal and I don't want to muddle yours up. This is just to give you an idea of how abstract or obvious some symbols might be.
- Goals and missions
- My psyche
- Exploring my psyche
- Unconscious behavior
- My personal drive
Something to keep in mind is that a symbol does not only have one meaning. It's normally best to focus on the deepest meaning, but focusing on the smaller facets of a complex symbol can also be quite illuminating. In the purest sense a symbol refers only to itself, it is the meaning. An entity in its own right. As you delve deeper into the work this will become more and more true in your experience, however when starting off it is too abstract to treat the image as irreducible.
The meaning then becomes a co-creation between subconscious and conscious. It is the playful unity between your conscious work, theory, and knowledge and the deeply unconscious emotions, drives and images in your psyche.
One way to become familiar with dream analysis is through fiction. Book can be great, but due to the visual nature of the mind the Netflix Show, Maniac has been a great personal asset to me. The "dream" sequences in are carefully crafted to mimic the way your subconscious mind does.
You will come across three types of dreams in your work:
- Recurring Dreams — Often compensate for a deficiency, or are used to assimilate trauma
- Nightmares — A powerful dream the subconscious mind needs to be seen
- Incubation — An answer to a personal issue you are facing
Active imagination involves inducing a kind of waking dream state. It is a very much like dream work.
As you sit or lie down to meditate, begin to invite the unconscious mind in. Verbalize whatever feels right: "I am ready to know", "help me understand", "I open myself to inner answers", "I would like to see my shadow".
Then wait for an answer. If nothing comes keep waiting, keep probing. An answer may appear as mental dialogue, a thought, visuals, a desire to physically move, or a general feeling.
You may start to have a certain movie scene start playing in your head, be reminded of a book chapter. Or it could be something completely new of your own creation. If this is what you get, simply let it play out.
If you have clear connection to your shadow, or some part of your inner self you may begin to dialogue with it. Writing, drawing, moving, or thought of any kind can be used. Just observe, do not interpret or judge.
Make notes on your experience, whatever that may have been.
Uncovering Shadow Behaviors with Internal Family Systems
Internal Family Systems is a method of understanding what are essentially personal forms of the archetypes.
It is easiest to use this method in a state of possession. That is, when you are experiencing some strong emotional charge or self-loathing. For example, you've spent the entire day watching TV shows to avoid something you need to do and are feeling terrible.
When you notice you are being possessed by the archetype ("family member"), take a step back and dialogue with it.
Our Internal Family Systems Track will help guide you through the process. However, as a start here is a simple process. Take the possessor and start asking it questions:
- What is your name?
- What do you look like?
- What situations bring you out?
- What is your approach to the world?
- What is your basic motive?
- What do you want?
- What do you need?
- What have you got to offer?
- What are your blocks to full functioning?
- Where did you come from?
- What if you took over permanently?
- What helps you grow?
- How do you relate to women/men/children?
- What do you hold me back from?
- What actions do I need to take to healthily integrate you more into my life?
Active association is a form of Shadow exploration, it requires some place to start: a word, a feeling, an image or experience. Once you have this, you can begin. Below I outline a process for engaging in a active association. Note, this is similar to free association, but slightly different and so I've come to name it as such.
- Draw a circle with a word/image in it's center and 6-8 lines as running off from it.
- Write an association with the image on each line. Do not use synonyms, definitions, or simple descriptions. Let a word or phrase arise spontaneously.
- Choose the most striking or surprising phrase of the eight that has been evoked.
- Turn it into a question to you or a request of you.
- Respond without thinking.
- Evoke the power of the original image to translate this response into a practical plan.
If this is too formal of a method, just start writing, write and see where it takes you. Try not to stop, try not to think about it, let the words pour out of you. It may come out as poetry, an essay, be beautifully formatted or a grammatical mess. It doesn't matter.
Jung's Inferior Functions
Jungian functions are often highly misunderstood, you can learn more about the functions here.
We have four primary functions, a dominant and auxiliary and a tertiary and inferior function. The inferior function is the most unconscious of a type’s four functions, it is the most difficult to access and integrate. An integral part of shadow work is centered on discovering and integrating this missing function. It is impossible to achieve psychological wholeness without it.
The inferior function is a child, it does not interact with the world in a mature way. For instance, when a Thinking type undertakes a quest for love, he is likely to do so through his inferior Feeling function. So he is prone to idealization, fantasy and distortion — this leads him to much pain.
The strategy for working with our inferior function is to better understand it. This involves learning about our type’s inferior function and how it has manifested in our lives, including the ways we have indulged, avoided, or crutched it.
During childhood you develop your two primary functions, only then can you move to the two inferior. Your best bet is to simply understand the inferior function of your particular type and how they manifest in the world. Take a rundown of the INTJ (NiTe) personality type below. Can you see how the two inferior functions have a very clear shadow side to them?
The functions are useful as pointers, there is no doubt you could discover the inferior function on your own, but why not build upon the work of others? Do your own research here, spend some time reading about your functions. This will not only help you with your Shadow work, but also with developing a well functioning Persona and Ego.
Trauma — Psychedelics, Holotropic Breathwork, & Binaural Beats
This is where things can get a little ugly. Everyone has trauma of some kind. Almost always from childhood. Some traumas are more extreme than others: abuse, sexual assault, and parental death are all forms of strong abuse. But even more subtle forms of trauma can leave an equally deep psychological wound.
This stage comes with a word of warning... Reliving past traumas can send people into a full blown emotional panic, psychosis, and can sometimes do more harm than good. Generally you're safe though, so don't be scared off.
Trauma tends to surround a single key event in life. Whatever it is, this first event then tends to have scattered branching-traumas that are related and stem from the trunk but occur in a different time. This creates a cluster of traumas that have to be worked through for full healing to occur.
There is some speculation that the original trauma in each of us occurs at birth, and we all interpret or birth differently. At this stage, the idea of a birth trauma probably isn't relevant. I mention it solely to provide understanding should you experience such a reliving in your work.
No one method is the definitive best for uncovering traumas, experiment to find what works best for you. Should you find yourself unable to work through a particular trauma on your own, a therapist can be of great help.
Psychedelics can be powerful tools for inner-work. They quite rapidly open the doors of your perception. What happens occurs within you.
Psychedelics have the ability to thrust you into an elevated state of consciousness, where your unconscious mind becomes incredibly real. It is much like dreaming, or active imagination. Expect to have some profound insights into your deepest self, also expect these insights to be quickly forgotten — much like a dream. Your goal is to bring back insights to integrate, to this end I suggest writing them down during or after the trip.
Unlike meditation, psychedelics are not gentle! Within an hour or two you will be resting with your demons. Not everyone can handle this, it could be incredibly beautiful or quite literally the most horrific experience of your life.
Again, I will be writing a full guide in the future on "Psychedelic Inner Work" so stay tuned for that. However at this stage I will outline the process briefly:
- You must have engaged in Shadow work for some time already leading up to any trip — any trip without first engaging in other methods will lead to recreational usage.
- You must have your trip intention set in advance — this could be "shadow work" or something more specific.
- Should the trip start going "bad", realise this is taking you where you asked to go. Surrender yourself and go with it.
- When you come back down (and perhaps even during the trip) you should write down your insights.
- You should then work on integrating the actionable insights
Overall, stick to lower doses, going higher can be irresponsible and wasteful. Remember I write for a global audience, I don't condone participating in illegal activities, always check the legalities for your country and region.
It should be very clear that I am not talking about recreational usage. This is a complete misuse of the psychedelic and will lead you into a pretty horrible kickback.
Another warning, this work can have a lasting psychological impact that may very well be negative. There are cases of drug induced psychosis, and persisting hallucinations. Though rare,it is possible. Always do your own research, do not trust a single source.
If psychedelics aren't your thing, there are certainly other methods. Holotropic Breathing is one such method.
This is not an easy one, you have to push through a lot of physical discomfort. But as you go for longer, you will likely start to experience "trip" side-effects or flashes of memory. There is no saying how an individual may respond.
I won't take the time to explain it here, this video covers the process in more detail than I can. Just think of it as rapid, deep breathing.
Okay, so how does trauma relate to the Shadow?
Your shadow is that which you repress. Trauma refers to the deepest repressed memory-emotional complexes, they tend to be intimately linked to the subtler shadow behaviors.
By finding our core traumas we begin to get a deep understanding of our current Ego.
If you are struggling to start, or have no idea where to begin we've developed a track specifically to help you initiate the process of shadow work.
Done with proper intention and commitment there is no doubt this track can help to kickstart or continue your work. Of course, the journey is unique to each individual, no preformed "test" will take you the whole way.
Fears, Aversion & Clinging
"That which you most need will be found where you least want to look” – Jung
A helpful practice is to feel out what your deepest fears are, and embrace them. The goal is to go from superficial fears — spiders, heights, public speaking — to the most existentially terrifying aspects of life.
Whenever there is danger, walk straight into it!
These differ from person to person, most people will have all of the primary fears to some degree. We care about which are dominant. Below is what I mean by more existential fears:
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of getting hurt — physically or emotionally
- Fear of helplessness
- Fear of being alone
- Fear of going insane
- Fear of death (change)
- Fear of inadequacy (worthlessness)
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear of meaninglessness
What are you unconsciously — or perhaps consciously — avoiding in life?
Is it a relationship? Solitude? Work?
Whatever it is take that, and then go deeper. The aversion or clinging is not really to the thing in itself, but to the feeling it produces.
What are you clinging to?
Is it a relationship? Solitude? Work? (see, clinging and aversion can go both ways)
You probably know that one thing you are genuinely afraid to do. Where so much resistance arises that you reason yourself out of it. What are you afraid of doing?
Sustained Self Awareness
Patterns express themselves throughout life in many different ways. Only by watching continually, alertly, will you become aware of it.
You need to lose the idea that this is a one-time activity, a quick process to "fix yourself". It is nothing of the sort, your intention should be to remain aware of the shadow over the course of your life.
Keep your awareness strong in every situation. Especially when you feel the pull to unconscious behaviors; when you're most emotional is when you need to be the most aware. A paradox of course, don't expect to get this quickly.
The simplest way to develop your self-awareness is this: write it down. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can do this all in your head. Patterns become clear on paper, when a moment of awareness is documented it is automatically sustained. Over time, your insights during hundreds of these moments becomes an invaluable personal resource. Start now.
4. The Syzygy Shadow
The Anima and Animus (Animi / Syzygy) are Jungian archetypes much alike the Shadow. The Anima is the masculine psyche's representation of the feminine. The Animus, the feminine's representation of the masculine.
The Animi are incredibly nuanced, as a basic level they can be thought of as representing the contents of your soul.
It is debatable whether the Shadow has an Animi figure and the Animi figure has a Shadow — archetypes which fractal out to infinity. But at the very least, the Anima or Animus can take on a Shadow form.
The Seducer, The Prostitute, and The Narcissist are some expressions of this shadow anima. The Thief, The Tyrant, and The Codependent are expressions of the shadow animus. These are examples only, a few amongst many shadow forms .
Here's Carl Jung explaining the behavior which manifest under Anima Possession and touching on the Shadow Anima.
Irrational moods are the progenies of the male anima shadow. Irrational opinions the core of the female animus shadow.
Again, the process of discovery here is similar to that of the Ego shadow. Dreams, Active Imagination, and Projection are the hallmarks of Anima work. Use them wisely.
This section is here to arise curiosity more than anything, some of you may need to work with the Anima/Animus alongside the Shadow. Many will not. Part 2 of this series will be specifically about the Syzygy, so if you are interested in that, you best start your shadow work now.
Documenting your Darkness
Of course, as you move along this path you will build up an intuitive subconscious understanding of your shadow. This is a key part of your work. But even then, do not overestimate the power of your memory and intuition.
Let me say this simply, write as often and deeply about your insights and discoveries as possible!
You need to take this pursuit seriously, how you document the process is reflective of your overall attitude to the work. Writing single worded dot points on an old receipt simply won't do. You need a dedicated solution:
- Notion — my personal choice
- Any notebook app — Evernote, OneNote, Google Docs, etc.
- A physical journal
Each has it's benefits, personally I recommend a digital solution for a few key reasons:
- You will have insights everywhere, at any time, and you need to write them down.
- You want to evolve and rewrite those insights and shadow aspects from time to time as your understanding evolves
- Searching and revisiting is important to re-prompt yourself regularly
You may be able to do all this with a traditional notebook or journal. I can't. Do what works for you!
Listing & Exploring Shadow Aspects
At a high level what you want to start doing is listing the behaviors and manifestations. Then group them under relevant labels. Then just start write about each aspect.
An Example of Behaviors
Say I notice that at a restaurant I struggle to select a meal, people start waiting on me and I can only choose because I'm pressured to do so, and even then I go with my default choice. I then remember that this happens almost every time I go out.
A few days later I'm at a party, a friend asks me if I'm drinking. I say I haven't decided yet, I try and decide if I want a drink or not and 20 minutes later I'm no closer to a definitive answer.
A week and a half later I have to decide when to launch a product I'm building. I start thinking about it, trying to factor in the variables to time the market and fit it in with my life at the same time. Launch at the perfect time. 1 month later I still have no concrete launch date.
I come out of University, and have 3 career paths ahead of me: Programmer, Writer, Designer; and I could do each of those independently or work for a company. After weeks of pondering I decide the best bet is to get more education and go back to university and get my masters. And after that, I end up repeating this behavior and going for my PhD.
I go shopping, I start picking up the cheapest foods I can find. I also need a new blender, there is a $100 or a $40 one. I choose the $40 one without hesitation.
I'm sitting at home and asking a friend which movie we should watch together, it's his choice. He starts scrolling through, looking for something good, reading a few blurbs and watching some trailers. After 20 minutes I snap at him, and in a moment of rage push him to just select a movie. I become aware of this in hindsight.
- I wake up from a dream, in it I was driving a bus. I was in the driver's seat, the actual bus driver was somewhere behind me. The driver told me to take the wheel. I thought he was kidding but then he didn't come back. The engine wasn't on and I hadn't turned it on, I was coasting along the road very slowly not sure what I should do.
These are a few examples of similar and also unrelated shadow aspects.
Some are brought through momentary self-awareness, some are projections, some require a long-term reflection of behavior patterns. Some related, some not.
Remember, become aware of the behaviors. Group the behaviors. Label them. Explore each one more fully.
Categorizing the Behaviors
We'll categorize the behaviors:
1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 all seem to be related. We'll call it: Indecisiveness / Overthinking!
5 however seems unrelated. It seems more like: Stinginess!
Don't worry too much about the labels, you may come up with multiple, just write them all down. The label represents the surface level manifestations, it does not describe the deeper motive or cause.
Of course you will have many more then just two groupings, and they will reveal themselves to you over time. This is a progressive process.
Exploring the Behaviors
Let's start with the Indecisiveness trip, since that seems like the more prominent issue.
I'll only lightly go into the example here as it will be heavily personal for everyone (that is the nature of The Work). Keep in mind that your understanding should be constantly evolving, each day should move you closer to your deeper truth. You might imagine a series of concentric circles, once you've become aware of the outer layers they slowly fall away, leaving you with the heart of issue.
Removing the outer layers of the circle is easy. Just ask "Why?" 5 times.
This takes radical self-honesty and you will no doubt delude yourself. That's okay, just keep going deeper.
But let's explore, I'll take on this role now and give you a tangible example of what this COULD look like!
Why do I feel indecisive when ordering food?
I'm not really sure. I guess it's the number of options can be overwhelming and I don't know which one is the right one for me. I don't want to get stuck with something that I don't like.
Why am I afraid of getting something I don't like?
Because it means I made the wrong choice. That in a sense I messed up and it will ruin the experience for me. But I don't know what that might be at the time so I get paralyzed.
Why am I so afraid of making the wrong choice?
Because it makes me feel like shit. Feel worthless. Like if I spend 10 years going down a job that ultimate leads nowhere and I start getting miserable and I can't turn back then I'll feel like a failure.
I can see how my friend now might have been feeling the same way, afraid of picking a movie that I won't enjoy which could ruin the evening. But I still don't know what all this confusion is about.
What is this confusion about?
(At this point you might be completely lost, sometimes a simple question like this will stump you. At this point it's okay to do some research if you really can't answer it.)
After a quick google search, this insight resonates: Confusion is a sign of the Innocent One. If you feel confused, discover what you’re hiding from.
Okay, what am I hiding from then...
Well this is where it gets good, and I don't want to spoil your own journey. Undertake this process yourself and see the benefits appear in your own life, this is only an example. But already you can see themes arising.
Let's look back over and deconstruct that a bit.
"I don't know which one is the right one"
You can see how this indecisiveness could perhaps be arising from perfectionism, or having too high standards of yourself. And the perfectionism also stems from a deeper issue.
"I messed up", "Because it makes me feel like shit. Feel worthless", "I'll feel like a failure"
Once you get to a feeling, and you see how that feeling is present in all these behavioral patterns. Or more likely, some resistance to experiencing that feeling. You know you're on the right track.
Now the best part here is that the work in compounding. Say for example you've already discovered how the "Stinginess" aspect stems from your desire to have money, which again stems from your desire to feel like you're deserving of love, which is you running away from the feeling of worthlessness.
Okay, now we've boiled it down a bit more. We can see how different shadow traits are really stemming from this deeper feeling you're avoiding.
You now become hyper aware of your projections (this is actually very easy). You see how you judge people in such a way that you see them as worthless in some way or another. And you're positive projections, your idols, you imagine them to have some deeper self-love and intrinsic worth.
Now this is just an example of the exploration process. Really what it is is trying to connect pieces, and boil it down it it's essence — usually a strong emotion or feeling.
The point here is there is no right or wrong way to do this. It's an exploration, and you have to reframe it so that you don't care about figuring out an answer. But you care about the process of exploring. Embrace everything that arises, feelings, emotions, dark thoughts, and "bad" behaviors.
Creating Integration Actions
We integrate the behaviors and try to seek closure and understanding. When integrating the Shadow, you will utilise two processes.
- Internal integration — fixing it inwardly first, and let the outside manifestations self correct
- External integration — work on it outwardly, and slowly change the inward behavior pattern
- Pure acceptance — give it love, there is no need to change it
Let's keep moving through with our example.
Once you've gone deep into a part of the Shadow, you normally know what needs to be done next, if anything. Often you can just accept that this is a part of yourself, there is no need to change it, you need only become aware of it. Other times, a particularly destructive Shadow may need some taming, this is still done with love, you are not forcing the Shadow out, but welcoming it into your consciousness.
Slow change here is counter-intuitively better than rapid change. Small actions lead to big results, sometimes doing nothing but be aware can lead to the biggest changes. Don't try and fix yourself, traditional self-help can be great but it often leads to issues of repression and we want to move in the opposite direction. You've been running from your dark side you're whole life. Now you must move towards it.
If you have issues with rage, to embody is not to push away the anger, it's to see how that anger is trying to help you. You need anger, the same way you need worthlessness. Anger helps you set boundaries, it helps you defend yourself and others who may try to harm or manipulate you. But rather than lash out in a fit of physical rage, you let the anger guide you. But the innermost Self always remains calm.
If you come across a particularly big insight, it can often be helpful to integrate it with some kind of ritual. Like how we bury or burn the dead, to help provide closure. You can do something similar with ourselves. You can either destroy something, create something, or doing something meaningful yet trivial. This step isn't often required, though some may find it helpful.
Another method is to create a personal affirmation. This can either be an affirmation of acceptance, a surrender to the power of the Shadow; or an affirmation of integration. An affirmation of acceptance might look something "I'll never be good enough, and that's okay".
Very deep emotional wounds often need acceptance, they are already far more powerful than you and any attempt to change it will be futile. Just surrender yourself to it, let it consume you and watch the healing begin.
Other times an affirmation might look like: "Every day I accept and forgive myself more and more", this is more towards the integration end of the spectrum. Find the balance that works for you, try different affirmations and rituals and get a feel for the process.
Integrating the Shadow
Everything up to this point was intellectual, a bit of fun. Now comes the actual work. This is where all the results come in, and change occurs, and everything becomes real. If you've made it to this stage you've made it further than 99% of all people. But if you stop here, you'll quickly revert.
The actual steps are pretty simple, you've written down the actions you need to take. Now you just have to implement. What I'll be talking about here are some of the common traps, pitfalls, and issues, as well as how to measure your progress.
Measures of Progress
How do you measure progress on this path. This is super important, without a measuring stick you may begin to lose motivation, feeling that you aren't moving forward.
This is one of the biggest measures of your development and growth: projection decreases. Or, you very rapidly realise the projection and see it in yourself. This means that your judgments of others should go down, either in frequency or depth. What is left is understanding, a form of unconditional love.
Your toxic behaviors should begin to diminish. Though they will not just disappear. Even so, you will be less bothered by the behaviors that remain as you learn to accept your darkness as fundamental.
Major emotional issues will feel less painful as you have stopped running from them.
Your intention and desire to keep doing the work will increase.
Overall, don't get too caught up in ensuring you're making progress, fall in love with the process is by far the best strategy.
Traps on The Path
We've already talked about some of the traps you will encounter, particularly with the specific techniques. But to make sure you understand them, because they can be nasty and stifle progress, I will reiterate them here.
Expect Ego Backlash & Backsliding
The biggest issue you will repeatedly encounter is backsliding. What you might call Ego Backlash.
This is not easy to deal with but you can prepare yourself for it. Keep a few things in mind as you do the work.
- Things will get worse before they get better
- When things start to get really good, they're about to get worse again
- When things start to get really bad, expect to reach a new peak pretty soon
You are in a state of homeostasis right now, this means that your default pattern of behavior will try and resist any changes. Very literally, integrating the Shadow archetype means you are killing it. By becoming a part of the Self, it dies... It does not want to die!
But it's power over you will diminish over time, and you will begin to notice this no doubt. But even then, it behaves as a swinging pendulum. Swinging left and right, until eventually it runs out of energy and lies balanced in the center.
You will go from over-embodying the shadow trait, to under-embodying it, and then back again! Just remain aware of this, the goals is for the intensity of the swings either way to decrease as time goes on.
Be Gentle with Yourself
This ties in to the ego backlash trap, but stands on it's own in a unique sort of way.
Don't go too hard too fast. It can be tempting to dive head first into the water, but counter-intuitively a much better way to go about this work is to dip your toes in, then a leg, then submerge yourself. Then go climb the rocks and dive in afterwards if you feel so compelled.
You don't need to make integration actions so big that you never actually do them. Or push yourself so hard that you're breaking down crying every second day. It defeats the purpose.
If you find yourself doing this constantly, you might want to consider what's actually going on there... Hint, hint!
It is possible to make things worse if your reaction to the backsliding or slow progress is shame, guilt, or some kind of judgement. You need to remain hyper-aware in these moments. It's hard to pull through this, but it can be done.
If you start judging others again, or reverting to old habits. Love yourself, stop fueling the shadow. This is all part of The Work.
If you're doubting me about how ugly shadow work can get. Look no further than the most beautifully messy documentary about shadow work I've seen in my life.
The work will feel very different than how you think it will feel. At this stage, it's probably all fantasy for you. In your head. The second you start doing the work you'll realise that it's not always as dramatic as you'd expect it to be, and that when it does get dramatic it actually does not feel good. You are genuinely suffering in a very deep way.
Accept whatever arises!
Whatever arises in your experience, your purpose is solely to accept it with love and understanding. This is particularly true of your emotions. If guilt arises, do not feel shame about the guilt — rather, feel it fully. And, if you do feel guilt that you are guilty, accept that as being how you feel. If sadness arises, welcome it.
Do not think you can escape your emotions, they are more fundamental to you than thought. Just accept with the knowledge that this too shall pass.
You'll make your life significantly easier by just documenting what you're learning about yourself.
Certain methods literally require it. You will never develop dream recall without first starting to write them down.
If you're low in Conscientiousness (personality trait) and perhaps high in Openness you can expect your shadow to show up here, you'll think writing everything down and organizing it is either pointless, a distraction from the work, or just not in alignment with "your style".
This is your shadow showing up, remember how sneaky it is. A good way to start integrating that would be to document and organize your insights, and perhaps schedule time each week or month to come back and do some reflection.
Again, a digital notebook works best for me. But you do you.
The idea that you can fix someone is fundamentally flawed. You cannot force a person to change, nor should you try to.
But knowing what you now know, the solution should be obvious. Rather than attempt to "fix" a situation or person, understand that you need to work with yourself.
An all too common trap is to project the need to do shadow work — I've come to call this meta-projection. As you just start your journey, you may start seeing how your partner would be so much better if they just some shadow work and stopped being so withdrawn.
Or that your friend would be so much better if he could see how his shadow is so controlling.
If you start doing this you've missed the point!
Can you see how this is just you, projecting your own shadow. And you're so terrified of facing it that you would rather convince someone else to do this work than do it yourself.
Do you see that?
It's easy enough to see in your mind, to grasp intellectually. But can you remain conscious of this when it's actually happening in your experience? Time will tell.
Get to Work
No one wants to acknowledge that to accept ourselves, in all our pitifulness and neuroticism is the hardest of tasks.
The very thought can make us sweat with fear. We are therefore only too delighted to choose, without a moment’s hesitation, the complicated course of remaining in ignorance about ourselves while busying ourselves with other people and their troubles and sins.
Well it all sounds very simple, to embrace the Shadow, walk into your own personal hell. In reality, however, the acceptance of the shadow-side of human nature is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks for a human being to undertake in their lifetime.
And so too the most important.