To work with the shadow, it is helpful to notice when it is most active. One of the ways to know that we are in the shadow terrain is to recognize the emergence of a certain type of blindness, deafness, or shutdown. To work with the shadow, it helps if we attune ourselves to this “lack of knowing,” which will make us more sensitive to how we relate to the world around us. Instead of paying attention to where we have openness and clarity, we pay attention to where there is constriction, lack of understanding, and disconnectedness. As we start to become more aware of how our shadow feels, we can begin to work with the shadow when it comes up. We learn that, if we pay attention, then we can gather some really valuable information to help transform our shadow and open up to even more expanded ways of being.
Another way to see our shadow is to notice when we are blaming, shaming, victimizing, or moving into anger, deception, or aggression. Behaviors such as these are clear indicators that our shadow is active in some way. While the first way of seeing our shadow is about becoming attuned to a feeling—how the shadow feels—the second way is to know that if you are pointing a finger at someone chances are there is a shadow involved.
A misconception that people sometimes develop about working with the shadow is that this way of looking at things means that everything is “their fault,” and they feel that they are going to have to continually take responsibility for every experience regardless of how bad the other person’s behavior is. While you are always responsible for your own behavior, regardless of the situation, every other person is also responsible for their behavior. Just because you look at your responsibility in a situation doesn’t mean that another person doesn’t have the same responsibility in the same situation. If you are around someone who does not take responsibility for their behavior, your healthiest choice might be to leave the situation rather than continuing to look at your shadow.
Recognizing the role that your shadow is playing in the situation is not done just as a practice of accepting responsibility; it actually gives you a greater degree of clarity about how you can proceed. It helps you see how you might be able to bring a problem or a challenge to the surface so that it can be worked with, or how you might be able to work with it directly. When we work with the shadow, we do so in order to more adeptly change the situation into what we want.
A third way that we can work with the shadow is by doing excavation work and understanding how our issues are likely to show up as shadows. This process of self-inquiry helps us understand how our prior experiences have created these patterns. We can assume that there are some shadow elements where we were wounded in the past and that each wound has its own pattern. These patterns act as templates that can at times be replayed in our current life. And so many times—though not always—this template of wounding exists in the shadow realm. For example, when we think “Why is this happening again? Why am I experiencing the same thing that I’ve experienced so many times?” we have stumbled upon one of these wounding patterns.
It is the process of personal inquiry that helps us to unpack what is going on and to bring what is in the shadow out into the open. When we start to look at our stories, our experiences, and our wounds, then this naturally starts to bring shadow elements to light. It helps to clarify where we might be hiding or where we might not be able to see ourselves. And this, of course, creates a tremendous amount of transformation.
These are three ways that you can start to work with or identify where the shadow exists in your life so that you can create more of what you want instead of more of the same.
We can explore these techniques and more in a one-on-one session designed to illuminate how deep subconscious patterns are affecting your everyday life. Find out more here –> One-on-One Sessions with Dr. Kate