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C.G. Jung defined the shadow as follows: “It consists of all the things we are, but never want to be”. Each of us has a shadow. A shadow consists of all those aspects of our personality that we do not want to admit and therefore banish into our subconscious. Here is the problem: If we suppress our negative sides, they will rebel hidden deep down inside us and express themselves through jealousy, anger, fear, and sadness. This creates psychological pressure for many people and takes our life quality, which is why we talk about integrating the shadow today.
Building a unity within yourself – with all your positive and negative qualities is extremely important.
If you do not find unity within yourself and accept all (your negative) aspects lovingly, you will not experience unity outside.
If you are fragmented because you are splitting off certain parts of yourself, you will also experience the world fragmented.
You might feel cut off from the rest of the world and suffer from feelings of loneliness.
And you might feel an inner emptiness that you can fight with all kinds of addictive substances and destructive behaviors, but you cannot fill this emptiness.
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The only way to unity and a fulfilled, loving life is to integrate your shadows.
Shadow components often manifest themselves in uncontrollable, completely exaggerated outbursts in everyday life, inexplicable (existential) fears, or emotional instability.
In your shadow are rejected and therefore disconnected experiences, urges, fixations, early childhood imprints, and unlived personality parts.
As a psychology student (and double Scorpio) the human mind and especially the dark sides of my personality have always fascinated me. I hope this blog post about integrating your shadow will help you get a little bit closer to yourself.
And please note: This post may contain affiliate links, that help me keep creating free content for you guys!
The Source Of Our Shadow
In order to find the origin of your shadow, it is often necessary to take a look back at your childhood.
As babies and kids, we are dependent on our parents or other caregivers and require protection, food, and love.
We receive recognition and criticism for what we do and then we start to learn: Ok, with this or that behavior I (don’t) receive love from my parents or caregivers…
This is how we get conditioned.
The result is that we primarily show those qualities and behaviors for which we receive recognition – and hide the others.
This is how the shadow is created: “unpopular” qualities are suppressed in our subconscious…where of course they are not gone, but still unconsciously affect us.
Later in life, when other people show behavior that corresponds to one of our shadow aspects, we react negatively and may judge that person.
We thereby project our shadow on others: on partners, friends, work colleagues, or strangers.
This is why doing shadow work and integrating your shadow is a necessity.
How Do I Find My Shadow?
The following signs indicate that shadows are active within us:
–> We have strong emotional, irrational, and senseless reactions to a person, usually in a negative sense. This means that we dislike what another person does or how this person behaves. In most cases, this is accompanied by feelings of hate and revenge.
–> On the contrary, we might admire and worship other people excessively for the things they have achieved, how they look or what they possess.
–> We keep doing certain things unintentionally and have the feeling that we cannot change or control our behavior.
For example, our shadow parts can mask themselves as greed, misery, rage, hate, revenge, anger, egoism, envy, jealousy, and manipulation. These are parts that we cannot admit, neither to ourselves nor to others.
The shadow usually finds a way to manifest itself, which can lead to major problems.
These can be physical complaints, symptoms, or illnesses, as well as other people who mirror your unconscious parts in the outside world (this can also explain why some people get into the same toxic relationships over and over again).
In this way, the suppressed aspects regain a place in your life.
The suppression of the shadow parts requires a tremendous amount of energy and attention, which you could use more meaningfully in your life.
Unconsciously we waste an enormous amount of time and energy on keeping our shadows hidden so that we end up with no time and energy left to live the life we truly desire.
What Happens When You Integrate Your Shadow?
Integrating your shadow in your self-perception is important to realize your full life potential.
Without integrating your shadow, you cannot feel complete, yourself, or healed. If we do not integrate our shadow parts, we will not find true, lasting happiness.
The awareness of your shadow aspects serves, among other things, for your deeper self-knowledge.
Integrating your shadow mainly means to accept and embrace unloved and unlived parts of your personality.
Self-love is essential: accept yourself as you are, with your light and your shadows!
Shadow work will confront you with negative memories, feelings, and emotions that you have suppressed for a long time.
Even if integrating your shadow and the confrontation with these dark energies might seem uncomfortable at first, it helps us to heal.
Accepting and integrating your shadow and unloved parts of your personality provides you with the potential,
–> to become more authentic;
–> to develop better self-esteem and more self-love;
–> to regain strength and joy of life;
–> to feel yourself and to feel complete.
How To Integrate Your Shadow
1) Integrating Your Shadow: Awareness
If you want to integrate your shadows, you have first to be aware of them.
It is completely normal that you have no knowledge of your shadows. The first step is therefore to bring them back into the light of your consciousness.
This alone can result in a lot of healing. Nothing is more healing than pure consciousness.
So the first step is to become aware of your own shadow. The best way to find our shadow is through mirrors in the external world.
Begin by observing exactly which behaviors and characteristics of other people trigger strong emotional reactions in you.
These behaviors, feelings, and characteristics are part of your shadow, otherwise they would not touch you emotionally.
As already mentioned, these do not have to be only negative characteristics.
Also, the things that you notice especially positive about other people are part of your shadow. Otherwise, you would not notice them at all, nor would they trigger any emotional reaction in you.
Take a close look at famous personalities or people from your environment that you find terrible, maybe even absolutely despicable.
What do you find so bad about this person? Which characteristics, traits, behaviors make you feel repulsive or angry?
This is part of your shadow.
In the same way, you should look closely at people you admire. What exactly fascinates you about these people?
You have exactly the same in you.
Take a piece of paper and divide it into two sections.
Write down on the left section all the qualities, character traits, behaviors that you find absolutely despicable (in others).
Write in the right section all the qualities you admire in others.
Read through this list and recognize that all these traits are part of yourself.
Even or especially if you are not (yet) aware of them. If they were not, you would not have such intense feelings of admiration or rejection towards these qualities and aspects.
2) Integrating Your Shadow: Recognize The Positive
You integrate your shadow by recognizing and embracing the positive aspects of it.
In certain situations, every negative characteristic can be helpful and very useful. That is why we need all of our negative and positive qualities to be truly healthy and complete.
Here are a few examples of positive aspects of supposedly negative qualities:
Jealousy: You can create deep feelings for and attachments to a person
Fear: You keep yourself safe
Anger: You know what you like and what you don’t like and act accordingly
Greed: You always want more and stay motivated; You do not waste your resources without reason
Annoying: You are persistent; You do not give up
Laziness: You can relax; You can enjoy life
Selfishness: You take care of your own needs and respect them
Aggressiveness: You are assertive and show inner strength
Recognize and embrace the positive aspects of your shadows to make peace with them. In this way, you find emotional freedom and fulfillment.
With the positive aspects that you have written down, you can ask yourself to what extent you yourself carry these qualities within you.
Remember the situations in which you have embodied and lived these aspects.
Maybe it was a long time ago, but if you focus on it, memories will come up.
Recognize yourself in these aspects and qualities.
Recapture them and ask yourself how you can integrate them into your life.
3) Integrating Your Shadow: Visualize The Shadow
You can also support the integration of your shadow parts by active imagination.
Imagine the shadow part you want to integrate as a personality:
What does he or she look like?
How does this personality relate to you? Is it bigger or smaller than you?
Where is this personality located? Far away from you or close to you?
What is the posture of this person?
What facial expressions and gestures characterize him or her?
How does this person speak? What does her or his voice sound like?
Start a conversation with this part of yourself. Ask questions like:
What is your gift to me?
What do you want to accomplish that is positive for me?
What is your task?
Ask these questions inwardly and see what answers, images or impulses arise spontaneously without thinking about them.
Alternatively, you can do this exercise with a journal and let your thoughts and intuition flow through your hands!
Trust your intuition. Let yourself be surprised by the answers that emerge within you.
Tell the personified personality aspect why he or she is not doing you good and what he or she is preventing you from doing, and see how he or she reacts to it.
The active imagination allows access to your subconscious, which can lead to amazing and very enlightening insights.
My Book Tip For You:
Why you should not be “happy”, “mindful” and “positive” all the time.
Positive emotions alone are not enough. Anger makes us creative, selfishness makes us brave, and guilt is a powerful motivator. The real key to success lies in emotional agility. Drawing upon extensive scientific research and a wide array of real-life examples, The Upside of Your Dark Side will be embraced by business leaders, parents, and everyone else who’s ready to put their entire psychological tool kit to work.Todd Kashdan & Rober Biswas-Diener
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