• Sindile Mkhabela

Shadow work: get to know yourself better and cultivate self-love

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

The “shadow self” is the parts of ourselves that have been pushed down into the unconscious — the parts that we’re insecure about, ashamed of, or frustrated with and therefore repressed.


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The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it mostly consists of negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power.


In order to truly heal from insecurity, self-loathing, or trauma, it is unavoidable that one reflects on the “shadow self” in a gentle way. It is an essential part of cultivating self-love.


Often we avoid it because it’s one of the more difficult aspects of personal development. But we need to hold the mirror to our shadows, taking responsibility for those aspects of self. Once we acknowledge our shadow self and learn to understand it, we can start the process of true growth.


Through shadow work you can find wholeness and freedom, discover deeper love and compassion for yourself and others, and make peace with yourself and all those around you.

You can put an end to the constant battle with self and find the foundation for powerful, transformative healing.

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center. You will find the jewel, and it draws you off. The purpose of the journey is compassion.” - Joseph Campbell

This quote and the intention of the words apply across the board in life and it hits home in the case of shadow work: it is the work of unity, of the liberation of unconditional love and authenticity.


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The Healing Process of Shadow Work


Identify -> Accept -> Love -> Embody -> Integrate


  • IDENTIFY: The first step is to identify your shadows as many of them are unconscious elements of your personality. You will notice them by your triggers, by your disdain, by your rejection of them.

  • ACCEPT: The next step is to accept your own shadows. To own them. To acknowledge their purpose and value.

  • LOVE: You then bring love and compassion to your shadows. You bring them to light and welcome them back into you.

  • EMBODY: As you now own and love your shadows you can consciously embody them and leverage them for your personal growth and development.

  • INTEGRATE: Begin to see the value of your shadows in every area of your life to help expand your virtues and evolve.


3 Steps: Shadow Work 101


STEP ONE: Craft your vybe


Dedicate an evening to yourself to fully immerse yourself into the process. Grab a pen and paper, journal, or your computer to write down your thoughts. If you want to, craft your vibe with some candles, incense, blankets, or tea.


Make it cozy because the rest of the process is challenging.


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STEP TWO: Journal it out


Take your pen and journal, and start writing. Don’t think about what you write - it’s for no one’s eyes but your own. Just let it stream.


It’s important to do this at a time in which you feel secure and safe - not when you are overwhelmed by insecurities.


Write until you can no longer write. This could take hours and usually the entire evening. You will be surprised by what comes out. When I did the work I had pages of things, some of which were incredibly surprising and “brand new” to my awareness.


Continue writing. Write your stream of consciousness thoughts that come up. Question them with “why” to dig deeper. Ask why until you “feel complete” with that stream of consciousness. It will start with the obvious from your conscious mind, then continue from the depths of your emotions, from your subconscious.


For example:

“What am I feeling?”

“Why am I feeling this?”

“Why?”

“Why?”, “Why?”, Why?”

You get the idea.


It goes without saying that this process will uncover a spectrum of emotions as undesirable as the traits you wrote down. Allow yourself time to cry, to judge, to feel into these discoveries.


Here are some questions to ask yourself:


  1. What are your core values as a human being? What’s the most important to you? What are you morally passionate about?

  2. What are your toxic traits? How do these present themselves? How do you project these onto others?

  3. What do you think is your worst trait? Why is it "bad"? What positive aspects does this trait bring with it?



STEP 3: Make peace with your shadow


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Now that you’ve reflected on your shadow, it’s time to make peace with it. Every person on Earth has gone through a difficult time in their life that created shadows within them.


The good news is, the entire universe is on our side trying to help us become whole again. Every action of the universe is headed in the direction of growth and expansion.


We are provided with abundant opportunities to confront our shadow selves so that we can finally be free of them. It doesn’t matter how long you avoid looking at your shadow self. It will keep manifesting into your reality until you pay attention to it.


The self that is fractured seeks to become unified, and we will be presented with opportunities to see the aspects of ourselves we have suppressed, rejected, denied, and disowned.


The more you become aware of your shadow self and accept it, the more embodied you are as a conscious being and the more agency you have over yourself and your life.


When you’re ready, pick up your journal again and consider these questions:


  1. When I think about my life in the present, I am most proud of…

  2. What are the current and recurring problems in my life? What would happen if I started viewing problems as opportunities?

  3. The one negative thing I can't stop saying to myself is ________________. And, honestly, I'm hanging onto this negativity because _____________.


End off the session with some breathwork or a meditation. Well done on completing this difficult and challenging step towards self-love!


Choose flow over ego!



x


Sindile

P.s the moon in all its phases is still the moon.



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