If you’re just starting out with shadow work, one of the first things you’ll do is work to find your shadow self. But that can be easier said than done. For beginners of shadow work, you might be wondering how you find your shadow self and what that process is like. We break down commonly asked questions about finding your shadow self you can start implementing today.
- What is the Jungian Shadow?
- Does everyone have a shadow self?
- How to Find Your Shadow Self
- Examples of the Shadow Self
- Is the shadow self the ego?
What is the Jungian Shadow?
The “shadow self” is a concept coined by the famed psychiatrist, Carl Jung. It’s the part of our conscious mind that we repress because it houses all of our dark qualities that we’re ashamed of.
The shadow exists in everyone, and it is both a positive and negative force. It contains our repressed emotions, primal desires, undeveloped qualities, and unacknowledged aspects of the self.
When we face our shadow, we can begin to integrate these qualities into our conscious selves. This is a difficult but rewarding process that leads to greater self-awareness and wholeness.
The first step in that process is finding your shadow self.
Does everyone have a shadow self?
Yes, everyone has a shadow self. It’s an integral part of our psyches and it exists in everyone, regardless of whether they’re aware of it or not.
The shadow is often referred to as the “dark side” because it contains all of the qualities that we consider to be negative: anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, and so on.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s an inherently negative or bad thing that we should fear. In fact, our shadow self serves an important function. Our shadow self, despite its name, is a great tool for shining a light on the parts of ourselves that need healing and improvement.
The contrast between the parts of ourselves we like and accept, and those we keep buried, can provide us with valuable insight into ourselves and each other, as well as provide us with a vehicle for personal growth.
Can the shadow self be positive?
Yes, the shadow self can be positive. In fact, it contains many aspects of ourselves that we consider to be positive, such as our creativity, intuition, and sexuality.
It’s only when these qualities are repressed or denied that they become negative or shadowy. For example, if you’re not allowed to express your anger in a healthy way, it can lead to destructive behaviors like lashing out in violence or passive-aggressiveness.
On the other hand, if you’re able to express your anger in a constructive way, it can be a powerful force for good in your life. The same is true of all the qualities contained in the shadow self.
So whereas we may not define our shadow behaviors or the characteristics of our shadow self as “positive”, it doesn’t mean that our shadow self does not have positive attributes.
Can the shadow ever be beneficial to personality development?
While the shadow self is often seen as something negative that we should try to get rid of, it can actually be a helpful tool in our personality development.
By facing our shadow, we can begin to understand the parts of ourselves that we’ve been suppressing. We can also start to integrate these qualities into our conscious selves.
This is a difficult but powerful process, one that can lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth. So let’s dive into how to access your shadow self.
How to Find Your Shadow Self
Getting started with shadow work is all about finding and getting to know your shadow self. This requires engaging in shadow work – exercises that help you understand your shadow self.
You can do this through a variety of methods. Here’s a brief overview of common shadow work strategies people employ:
1. Pay attention to your dreams and nightmares.
2. Use shadow work prompts in a journal to understand your core beliefs, thoughts, and feelings.
3. Talk to a therapist or counselor about the things that bother you.
4. Look for patterns of behavior that you don’t like in yourself.
5. Identify your fears and insecurities.
6. Ask yourself tough questions about the things you’re ashamed of.
Once you start to become aware of your shadow self, you’ll start working on understanding him/her.
Much of this work boils down to identifying what you don’t like to show about yourself, digging up core beliefs you’ve buried, and understanding the darker side to what motivates you to do some things, but not others.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Learning to Ask Questions and Observing
We are all so busy.
Our attention is constantly tugged on and pulled throughout the day. Whether it’s our devices, our friends and family members, our work, or a world that is perpetually “on”, it can be easy to slip into autopilot mode.
Finding our shadow self requires us to do the opposite. It forces us to slow down and ask, “Why?”
Why do I want to blow up in rage at this woman taking forever to pay at the register? Why is it my first instinct to make fun of someone who dresses drastically different than me? Why do most of my conversations with others involve complaining and commiserating?
The more you stop to observe your behavior and reactions to the world around you, to question the thoughts that pop up into your head, and your instincts in certain situations, the more you will understand your shadow self.
It requires a lot of patience, honesty, and ownership over your own thoughts and behavior – a tall order for a lot of people!
Examples of the Shadow Self
In order to better understand the shadow self, let’s take a look at some common examples:
1. The perfectionist who can never relax because they’re afraid of making a mistake.
2. The people-pleaser who bends over backward for others but never says “no” for themselves.
3. The control freak who tries to micromanage every aspect of their life, but can’t stand to let others make decisions.
4. The passive-aggressive person who reacts to conflict by behaving in passive or manipulative ways.
5. The workaholic who is constantly focused on achievement, but never seems to have time for family or friends.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of qualities that might be found in someone’s shadow self. Who is your shadow self?
Resources for finding your shadow self:
An video that helps further explain shadow behaviors:
Remember, the goal is not to get rid of your shadow.
The goal is to understand it and learn how to integrate it into your conscious self. Even when we recognize that our behaviors are negative or unhealthy, we might not understand why we do them. Where did we learn these things? What shaped us?
Finding the ‘why’ is at the crux of all shadow work.
If you’re unsure where to start with this process, we have 65 unique shadow work prompts for beginners that can help you get started.
Is the shadow self the ego?
No, the shadow self is not the same as the ego. The ego is the “I” or self-consciousness that we identify with. It’s the part of us that’s aware of our thoughts and feelings and makes decisions based on them.
The shadow self, on the other hand, is the hidden or unconscious part of us that we’re not aware of. It’s the parts of ourselves that we reject or deny, such as our desire for power, sexuality, and aggression.
Although the ego and shadow self are related in some ways – both are aspects of our consciousness – they are distinct from each other. While the shadow self may contain qualities that also exist in the ego, they are not the same.
Some people may define the shadow self as a type of ego or “false self”, but this is not accurate, and may have to do with the ways we use the term “ego” colloquially. There’s nothing false about our shadow self, just hidden.
When people talk about the ego, they are referring to this sense of self that is separate from who we “truly” are. People like to conflate the word ‘ego’ and ‘shadow self’ because we like to believe that we aren’t our dark side.
But shadow work is all about understanding and accepting your dark side so that you can learn from it.
Where do we go from here?
As I mentioned before, identifying your shadow self is really just the beginning of this process. Shadow work takes time. The important thing is that you now have a solid grasp of what you shadow self is and some tools in your toolbox for identifying your unique shadow traits.
The next step will involve learning to integrate your shadow self into your everyday life so that you can break old patterns of behavior and see some positive growth.
How well do you know your shadow self? Tell us in the comments below!