Maybe the Instagram or Tiktok algorithm has been sneakily suggesting it’s time for you to look at your shadow self by showing you posts about shadow work, or more likely, you’ve been noticing that life feels extra difficult lately - haven’t we all! Perhaps most things in your life are going pretty ok, you may have even gone to some therapy before and are making progress on becoming your best self, but something still isn’t quite right. When things start feeling stuck or prickly in a sort of abstract way, it might be time to look into shadow work.
Shadow work is an essential aspect to your individuation process. Individuation is the amalgamation of all of the facets of who you are so that you can show up as your divine true authentic nature in the world and all things. The shadow self isn’t a ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ part of you, rather it’s the qualities and aspects of yourself that at one point in your life, likely early childhood, your ego needed to hide in order for you to survive and fit in. Later in our lives we may notice similar negative patterns or relationships repeating, feeling very triggered or judgmental around certain people or events, struggling with impostor syndrome, or just feeling like something is ‘off’ or missing in our lives, these are all signs that a part of our shadow is coming up to be integrated. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the signs you might be encountering that are signs it’s time for shadow work.
#1 - You’ve been having new nightmares that don’t relate to your waking life
Our shadow first begins to show itself in our dreamtime. Carl Jung considers dreaming to be a projection of what is in our unconscious, and when we have nightmares it’s a clear sign that something from our unconscious is starting to come to the light. Our shadow first shows up as ominous, indiscernible figures in our dreams, as it continues to come more and more to the light of our consciousness those vague figures turn into more clear ‘villains’ - vampires, monsters, a rogue gunman. When we start having nightmares that don’t have any clear trigger from our waking life, it’s a sign that a piece of our shadow is coming up and looking to be integrated. As you become more familiar and adept at shadow work, eventually we can do most of our shadow processing via dreamtime instead of playing it out in our waking life.
#2 - You’re finding yourself extra triggered or judgmental around people in your life or events in the World.
If we weren’t able to integrate our shadow through our dreamtime, it continues to gain more and more of your conscious attention by being projected onto the people in your life. It usually starts with random acquaintances or broad groups of people - find yourself extra agitated by homeless people? Or drug addicts? That's a projection of your shadow! As the shadow continues to come more into the light it starts becoming projected onto the people who are closest to us - our family, friends, partners. Our shadow might also be projected onto events, either personal or on the World stage that we find triggering. World events are a great way to see what we, as a collective society, are working through in our collective unconscious. When you find yourself especially triggered by the people who are closest to you, or events in your life or the World, it’s a sure sign there is a part of your shadow that’s ready to be worked on.
A quick reminder: Your shadow shows up, generally, as a perceivably ‘ugly’ aspect in another person - arrogance, selfishness, entitled, naive, etc. When we say it’s a projection of your shadow, this doesn’t mean that you are the quality, it means that you actually push that quality away. Effectively, we fear being seen as that negative quality and use a lot of our energy to defend against that. When we do shadow work we integrate and accept this aspect of ourselves and no longer need to defend against it, thus helping us feel more complete and more authentic.
#3 - You’ve been feeling like you’re doing all the right things but something feels stuck
This is the avenue to which I discovered shadow work. I was doing everything ‘right’ and yet nothing at all was working. It felt like something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. When you feel like you’re driving at 100mph yet going absolutely nowhere this is often a telltale sign that we aren’t showing up as our authentic self in our life. In order to show up as that authentic self, we have to integrate, at least some of, our shadow. Shadow work helps us to identify our shadow, acknowledge it, and then integrate it into our conscious awareness. In doing this we become more complex and deep as individuals, and allows us to show up authentically in our lives.
You struggle with impostor syndrome or have been noticing a lot of fear or anxiety around showing up in a new role or relationship.
Impostor syndrome is a clear sign that it’s time for shadow work. We might also have brief experiences of impostor syndrome when we begin a new role or a new relationship. At the core of impostor syndrome, we know deep down, but not consciously, that we aren’t showing up as our authentic selves in our lives. We might even be doing everything under the sun to ensure we are, but when our shadow isn’t integrated it’s simply not possible to show up in our full authenticity. The shadow is protected and guarded by our ego, so in a case like impostor syndrome where we are aware of many aspects of ourselves and doing our best to show up, it’s very helpful to work with a coach to do shadow work because they can help you step around your ego’s defenses to get to the heart of the shadow. As we integrate our shadow we start becoming more comfortable with truly being seen, and impostor syndrome starts to fade.
#5 - You keep finding yourself in the same, unhealthy, relationships over and over.
When we start noticing patterns in our relationships or situations in our lives, that’s a great sign! It means our awareness has grown to a place where we are able to see, acknowledge and start to shift those patterns, it means we are learning. When we find ourselves stuck in seemingly the same relationship over and over, it’s often a clue that a specific part of our shadow is seeking integration. Are you always choosing partners who wind up being charming at first but incredibly entitled and arrogant later on? Maybe they just don’t have the capacity to truly see you for who you are, yet you want to hang on because of the potential they have? Whatever the circumstance, type of partner, or relationship - you’ve noticed that you keep finding the same thing time and time again. The qualities you keep attracting and choosing in partners are in part a reflection of your shadow that is showing up to be integrated. That arrogance, entitlement, shallowness; they are all shadow qualities that keep showing up in your close relationships because that part of your shadow is ready to be claimed.
When people say ‘the qualities you dislike in others are a reflection of you’ is in part, a statement on shadow work. This was a statement that often irritated me, because I thought ‘what the hell? I am anything but entitled! I hate that quality!’ One way to look at this is not that we are being or secretly hiding the quality we dislike, but we are actually defending ourselves against being seen that way. And when we push away that quality, what we also push away is what benefits being that quality can possibly get us. What does an entitled person gain from acting entitled? They have a really high sense of self worth and believe they actually deserve everything they want! What does an arrogant person gain from acting arrogant? They feel like they are right no matter what, they have confidence and authority!
When we look at this projection of ourselves onto the other in this way we can now see what benefits shadow work will give us. By gaining awareness of our shadow and integrating it, we no longer have to defend against being seen in the ways we dislike. As a result, we can actually start showing up in our lives in the ways we have been afraid to - with our full confidence, authority, authenticity, sense of self worth, self esteem, our power.
For more information on shadow work and Transformational Spiritual Life Coaching with Kim please visit our website and apply for coaching! We are accepting clients anywhere in the world, and sessions are completed virtually!
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Lion's Heart Wellness, the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin's #1 Cosmetic Acupuncturist and #1 Holistic Healer.
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