Shadow Work


As human beings, we learn through our families and our society to relate to the “nice” parts of ourselves. Concurrently, we are encouraged to conceal the “not-so-nice” parts of ourselves and be ashamed of them. This trend causes denial of entire aspects of our emotional world and disavowal of behaviors that are not acceptable to our society. The denied parts transfer into the “shadow,” part of our personality, and thus become hidden, unconscious and unapproachable. Through time, this type of denial can lead to a decline in the vitality and variety of our life experiences, resulting in significant emotional obstacles.

The only place in which we cannot see our shadow (the physical shadow of our body) is in the dark. Similarly, if a person has an emotional crisis (a dark place) s/he is not aware of his/her shadow. Gradual revelation of the shadow introduces a great deal of light in one’s life, eliminates a heavy burden, and thus, a vital, deep healing ensues.

Shadow work takes place through an in depth, thorough exploration of the personality construct. The individual’s thought processes and behavioral and emotional responses are thoroughly mapped. This is done both through exploration of areas that are more exposed on an everyday, ordinary basis, while concurrently, dark and less conscious areas are brought into light. This process leads to the identification a system of beliefs, mental habits, and functions that negatively affect one’s quality of life.

Shadow work is conducted through meditative contemplation, and eventually via discourse that aids in shedding light, mapping out and understanding the construct of the blocked shadow. Following this understanding, it is possible to embark on a process of non-identification with the constructs discovered, and thus to a gradual extinction of the behaviors that produced the psychological suffering.

Shadow work is essential in order to address a phenomenon called “spiritual bypass.” Spiritual bypasses are situations in which an individual experiences a certain spiritual understanding that is only partial. In this case, lack of awareness of the psychological blocked aspects that exist in the shadow might cause a situation in which the spiritual work inadvertently strengthens the shadow. Thus, the individual creates for himself a semblance of a new spiritual identity – usually characterized by isolation, detachment and avoidance, and is often accompanied by a feeling of grandiosity. In these cases, the necessary integration between the spiritual process and the psychological process is absent, or incomplete; and this might lead to a block in development and in some cases even lead to further decline in mental health.