What is Shadow Work?
Shadow work is any endeavour (intention, action or process) which approaches the subconscious and unconscious parts of our psyche (our shadow). The goal of shadow work is to identify, explore and integrate these shadow aspects in order to heal and move towards wholeness, bringing safety, peace, and balance to the individual.
What is facilitated shadow work?
Healing The Shadow facilitation is an experiential psychotherapeutic process framework for working with the shadow. It is a client led, relational psychotherapeutic model, rooted in Jungian depth psychology and archetypal theory. It draws on the multiplicity of the psyche in identifying, representing and exploring aspects of the personality in order to build relationships with these inner parts and work with internal dynamics.
Shadow work is a wonderful way of approaching the things you want to change, bringing unconscious aspects of your life into awareness: shedding light on how you show up in the world and what drives your behaviours, revealing the dynamics that play out in your relationship with yourself and your relationships with others. Shadow work provides a framework within which you can bring deep healing to those parts that need it, and provides the opportunity to experience new and authentic ways of being. It is a deep, sensitive and safe way of working with all manner of issues even when you have no idea how or where to begin.
Shadow work offers a powerful range of tools to deepen our understanding of the things that operate below the threshold of consciousness that impact our lived experiences. We may experience painful or traumatic life events and experiences that disconnect us, close our hearts and make it feel risky to open to love or trust. We may lose our connection to our full range of emotions, our sadness, joy, grief, and healthy anger. We may struggle to create powerful boundaries and make our dreams manifest. We may have a harsh inner critic that disables us and causes us pain. We may shame ourselves viciously.
Shadow work offers the opportunity for you to see clearly and to experience what is holding you back, and the greatness that you may have suppressed. It offers a place for you to explore your inner life in a respectful way that truly welcomes you with whatever you are bringing and in whatever way you are showing up. Being held in this way that allows everything to have a place can have a deep effect and offers the potential for you to integrate your inner life and find more peace. Trauma can be released, resolutions found and situations reframed.
You are invited to explore and discover parts of yourself you may have hidden, denied or repressed. By bringing these parts out of shadow in a safe, experiential setting, you are able to move beyond your ordinary relationship to the world. Your conscious self can look at it's own psyche from a different perspective, from a unique angle and place of altered awareness. This process offers the opportunity to unlock the power of your true self, for deep healing and a subsequent deeper alignment with the world and your purpose.
How will shadow work benefit me?
Through shadow work process you will become aware of the triggers for your old patterns and since you will be in greater connection with your inner experience, you will be invited into new ways of responding to the events and interactions in your life.
You will start to understand and build deepening relationships with all the parts that comprise your psyche, and through this process of exploration, accessing the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ways of being in the world, you will find you begin to separate from these previously unconscious aspects and begin to be in relationship with these parts of you in a new, more conscious way, allowing you the space to respond rather than react and thereby bringing about greater choice in how you behave, think and feel in your day-to-day life.
As we identify the parts of you at play, the opportunity arises to work with these parts individually. Underneath reactive or destructive patterns and behaviours is often a vulnerability inside that is being protected. Often these destructive patterns or behaviours have a protective intention and were adopted early in life for very good reason. Without conscious work in later life, these patterns can continue to play out even when the potential risk or threat to the individual no longer exists. It is these old reactive patterns that become problems for us, making life challenging, complicated and difficult.
As we identify, explore, transform and re-integrate parts of our psyche through facilitated shadow work, unburdening ourselves from the self limiting beliefs, behaviours and associated stuck emotions that create the barriers in our lives, what emerges is an integrity and an authentic expression of our true self; a wholeness from which flows a greater engagement and enjoyment of life. For what is joy? it is an emergent experience of being in right mind and in authentic relationship with ones self, where connection and gratitude can overflow into a receptive and open heart.
The tools and methods of facilitated shadow work
The Healing The Shadow framework offers a range of tools and processes to work one-to-one with a client. The problem with the unconscious is that it is unconscious, so we cannot approach it directly. We can however, track it through the patterns we recognise within ourselves, the thinking patterns, the way we react to the things in our lives, the things we do compulsively, and the behaviours and habits and ways of being that we adopt in the different environments of our lives.
Emotions, sensations, and the pathology within the body can be a way into the unconscious. The dream world is also a wonderful realm where the unconscious can bubble up into awareness without the presence of the ego that constantly evaluates, discerns, presents to awareness or disregards. So dreams are a valuable way into what sits within the unconscious.
My job in these sessions together is to listen out for what is happening for you below your level of awareness, in the patterns you experience, the behaviours you employ, the beliefs underpinning your choices, and the dynamics that repeat in your life. All of these are trailheads, pathways into the parts of your psyche that are actively seeking attention.
We all have an inner community of parts or selves. As we move through our life and its busyness we are constantly blending and unblending with our inner parts. We do this unconsciously, below our level of awareness as we move between different environments, experiences, and people. In a shadow work session we bring intentionality to the exploration, separating out and representation of parts in order to bring a new awareness and to bring some clarity to your experience.
Shadow work facilitation invites you to step into and experience these parts of self so that we can dialog with them and bring to conscious awareness useful information about that part and any dynamics at play within you so that you are able to see their influence on your everyday thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Working directly with parts of you or a dynamic playing out for you we are able to process strong or destructive emotions; work through inner or outer conflict; set or strengthen boundaries; meet, witness, hold, nurture and support vulnerability or parts you might find hard to accept; work with fear, resistance and protective or controlling patterns of behaviour; work with guilt, shame and traumatic experiences; release limiting beliefs and old patterns that no longer serve; and access and grow the indwelling Self, however that manifests for you; that place of calm and clarity, acceptance and compassion that exists in us all, and that emerges naturally and will grow through the process of your work.