If you're feeling lost, disconnected, or like you're not in control of your life, it may be time to do some shadow work.
Do you know who you are? I bet you think you have a pretty good idea of who you are, but would you be surprised to know you’re not actually that person at all? That there is another part of you pulling strings from behind the scenes?
For most of the time, we base the concept of who we are based on our conscious expression, thoughts and actions – what you think, that narrative that runs through your head each day, the things you do – but beneath that there is a deep, hidden pool of your true self hiding in your subconscious.
The sub conscious mind (the shadow) is very powerful, but also very hidden and when we resist exploring its depths, those shadow parts of us remain unintegrated, directing the show from behind the scenes in ways that we are often not consciously aware of.
Curious as to what that may look like? Here are 3 ways your shadow may be running the show from back stage:
A loud inner critic picks apart your good ideas. Many of us have that little voice in our head that seems to make itself known when we are on the verge of doing something new; are feeling in need of some validation or perhaps simply just feeling a little bit tired.
When you are feeling like you want more from life and are starting to imagine the ways your life could look different, up pops the inner critic to pick apart your ideas and remind you all the ways you’ve failed in the past and will probably muck this thing up too.
And its quite likely the more you persist in trying, the harder you try – the louder it gets. The more evidence the inner critic finds to parade in front of you (usually at 3am) and the harder they try to convince you to just quit now and avoid making a fool of yourself.
Truth is, this inner critic voice is a part of you that fears rejection, failure, and the pain of being hurt by others. It’s driven by a desire not to see you win, but to keep you safe. This is the part of you that desires you to conform, to fit in and not cause conflict or draw attention.
Safe and small is sexy for the inner critic and its sole purpose is to keep you as small and safe as possible.
When you get curious about what your inner critic needs, you can find ways to sooth them by creating a tending to those needs which creates a sense of safety and self-trust within you. By fulfilling those unmet needs, you can better understand yourself, bring more conscious awareness to those hidden parts and in doing so, understand how you can prevent them from taking over the show.
Envy and judgement are regular companions. Is it possible that you feel even the smallest bit of pleasure in doom scrolling through your phone, feeling the heat of envy and the spice of passing judgement on others? That my friend is your shadow at play once more – diverting your attention and energy onto others rather than yourself, whilst also harbouring a deep yearning for what others have and you deny yourself.
Comparing yourself to others, feeling envy and or judgement can be an indication that there you have an unmet desire slinking round your shadow like a naughty cat, causing everyday, casual chaos likes it's their job.
Bringing a playful curiosity to exploring the things you judge others for can bring enlightening insight into what you want for yourself. What if your judgement of people who show off their latest haul/makeover/creation on Instagram held a seed of desire about you wanting to be more vocal about your own achievements, creations and things you’re proud of?
The same old patterns pop up through life, no matter what your conscious intention is. Carl Jung is reported to have said “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”.
That is to say that no matter what you consciously want for your life, if there are repeated patterns that come up that contradict what you consciously want for yourself, then your shadow is messing with the game.
When the shadow is not integrated (i.e you do not spend the time and energy to connect with and seek to understand those hidden parts of you) it will act on intentions that you are not fully aware of (what I call shadow intentions), leading you in directions that are not aligned, or creating resistance to the things you are striving for.
If you can look back and see repeating patterns in your life that happen despite your best intentions, that can be your shadow at work.
An important note here to add that this does theory does not take into account systemic forms of oppression and all the fuckery that comes with them. Many people from marginalised communities face real barriers such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism etc which cannot be "fixed" by mindset changes, quantum shifts or shadow work.
This is also not about victim shaming, placing blame or suggesting that an individual’s circumstances are their own fault. This is about bringing light to aspects of your subconscious that, with more awareness can begin to act in your favour, rather than against you. This is the gift of developing self connection through shadow work.
Shadow work can be done solo, but it's also a journey best shared and supported by someone who can gently guide you through the bits that feel a bit stretchy when you are first beginning to explore.
If you'd like to explore shadow work further, check out my Shadow Initiation Course here.