Shadow Work: What is it and why is it needed in your practice?

Shadow Self and Psychology:

The shadow self – sometimes simply called our shadow – is the unconscious part of the brain, which drives a large amount of our behavior. Automatic responses to triggers, deep-seated habits, and emotional patterns “live” in this shadow self. What is the Shadow Self, like really what is it and why is it important to understand it on a basic principal level before diving deeply into witchcraft?

The concept of the shadow self comes from Jungian psychology. Carl Jung was a colleague of Sigmund Freud. While they may have worked together, their theories and findings were on total different wavelengths. Jung took Freud’s concepts of the conscious and subconscious mind a step further, Jung identified the disowned, shamed parts of our mind as our “dark side” and often spoke of our repressed desires as the “shadow.” Today, we understand that shadow work tackles the challenging tasks of fixing old patterns and acknowledging our darker and more wicked sides as part of a larger whole. To work along one’s shadow self is to try and achieve balance and harmony, to break cycles of pain-learning and healing from them.

What is Shadow Work? 

Shadow work is, quite simply, the inner work that must be done for you to progress to the next level of your spirituality. It’s a never-ending process, though, because as anyone who has done shadow work will tell you, the more you do, the more you need to do. However, do not let this dissuade you from doing shadow work, no, let this article help you understand the importance of why you need it to be whole not only as a witch but as a person too.

It’s important to understand why shadow work is so important. As you work with your dark side and acknowledge its desires, fears, and tendencies, you’ll help prevent or correct a variety of issues including:

  • Social anxiety
  • Uncontrollable anger and outbursts
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Arrogance
  • Problems with other people
  • Neurotic behaviors
  • Self-sabotaging and second-guessing yourself

Essentially, when we don’t address ourselves as a whole, negative things happen, and it’s hard to feel aligned and grounded. Jung may have said it best in his work, Psychology and Religion

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interest, so that it is continually subjected to modifications.”

Carl Jung

If we push those feelings to the background, they can become part of our subconscious and are never corrected.  It is not healthy for us to dwell on these things for very long, I will have to say that. To achieve the balance you need, one must work past the issues they face, learn, and grow for them. The past is a piece of history, that we study, but we should not allow ourselves to live solely within it.

Shadow work is not a substitute for therapy. There I said it, there are somethings in life that require professional assistance. Sometimes, you have to let science and doctor’s work their own magic for you, to assist you in achieving your balance. There is no shame in having to have extra guidance from therapy or from your doctor. If you have not gathered this by now, I personally, am a firm believer in balance within in yourself, within magic, & within science.

How to do Shadow Work 

If you’re ready to start shadow work, the first step is to recognize that no emotion that you feel or conjure up is wrong. That’s right! Despite what society – or your mom – told you, anger, irritation, sadness, jealousy, and hopelessness aren’t wrong. They’re not only natural human emotions, they make us have balance. [If you only feel these emotions, this might be a time to talk to a professional] They’re also signs that something’s not right in your world, within yourself, with in your higher self. You know that feeling you get when something just feels off, when you feel off kilter, and a little out of it… well this usually signifies that you might need to assess things. That it might be time for you to do some shadow work on yourself, and restore your natural balance.

Stat by asking yourself one or more of the following questions: 

  • What am I feeling?
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • Could there be something else going on here? 

Journaling can be exceptionally useful during shadow work. As you continue to investigate your emotional tendencies, you might notice patterns in your behavior. Where do you begin to self-sabotage? It might be in your love life, with work successes, or practicing an artistic hobby.

Identifying the Shadow 

It can be difficult to identify the shadow self, but a sure sign of its reemergence are limiting “I am” statements that creep into your speech. Look out for phrases like:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m messed up.
  • I’m unlovable.
  • I’m a screw-up.

The statements can also come in the form of autobiographical statements that don’t begin with “I am,” like: “Nobody cares about me,” “My feelings aren’t valid,” or “I have to take care of everyone else.”  [Again, if this is something that you experience on a daily basis, you might need to consult a licensed professional and get treatment]

As you press forward to identify your shadow self, do so with compassion. Our shadow selves often develop out of trauma and bad experiences. Using your conscious thoughts to deride your subconscious ones will lead you into a deeper, darker hole. 

We’ve already mentioned journaling as a useful tool in shadow work, but others like meditation and spellwork can help you address your less-desirable emotions and habits.

Helpful Herbs and Resins for Shadow Work 

Try integrating one or more of the following herbs into your shadow work.

  • Sage for clearing
  • Lavender for stress release
  • Chamomile for relaxation
  • Rosemary for healing, protection, and cleansing
  • Lemongrass for uplifting
  • Eucalyptus for strength
  • Cinnamon for love
  • Myrrh for peace

Crystals for Shadow Work 

Crystals and gemstones are especially helpful during shadow work since they give you something physical to hold onto while working.

  • Labradorite for shadow work
  • Selenite for aura cleansing
  • Fluorite for self-confidence
  • Sodalite for serenity
  • Amethyst for balance and stress relief

Remember, your shadow self is a part of you, it wants to be heard, noticed, nurtured, and cared for just like the rest of you. There are many different techniques on how you should work on this, and you can always add to them or take away from them what works best for you as an individual.

Why is Shadow Work needed in your practice?

Witches know better than anyone that energy moves in cycles. Some nights the moon shines bright, and some nights the moon is shrouded in darkness. It would be completely unnatural for the moon to appear the same each night. Witches use lunar energy in all its phases—both light and dark. The energies are very different, but neither is better than the other. There is a place for both of them in witchcraft.

In the same way, sometimes we need to look at the not-so-pleasant aspects of ourselves in order to heal an ongoing energetic issue.

Just like the moon, we also hold dual energies. We have our conscious mind, which is often associated with “light” energy. Then we have our subconscious mind—our “shadow” energy.

Though many people think of shadow energy as negative and light energy as positive, it’s not that simple. Shadow energy can be positive or negative. If it’s energy that you have suppressed and it now resides in your subconscious, it is considered shadow energy.

This could vary depending on your specific beliefs about souls and past lives, but generally speaking, we each have a spiritual essence. That soul has a whole set of traits, talents, desires, and other things that make up who we are.

For many witches, including myself, the Law of Attraction is a big part of performing magic. It’s the idea that everything in our universe contains energy. That energy vibrates at all different frequencies. The Law of Attraction states that energies of a similar vibration will be attracted to one another. For example, you may know someone who is always winning raffles and getting airplane seat upgrades and you have no idea how they do it. For whatever reason, it’s likely that this person is holding the same frequency as free stuff and luxury travel.

Many people in the spiritual community believe that the way to raise your vibration to the things you want is to focus on those things while guiding your thoughts away from the things you do not want to manifest in your life.

However, we can’t just ignore all the unpleasant aspects of our life, no, we need to balance them. If you only push positives and never deal with the negatives, it will come back to haunt you sooner or later. The human mind and soul were not meant to only be love and light, there is grey, shadow, and darkness within us all.

One suggestion for utilizing your journal within your practice is this:

After you’ve gone through shadow work process and journaled about your false beliefs, you can use those journal pages in a spell. Fold up the pages and plant them in the ground along with a sunflower seed.

State your intention as, “I release my false beliefs and I honor the brave shadow work I’ve done. I open my arms to accept the gifts of the universe. The channel is clear and I am ready to receive.”

The sunflower seed represents the beautiful gifts that will flow to you as a direct result of your shadow work. After you plant your seed, stand over that spot in the ground and close your eyes. Lift your head up towards the sun (the way sunflowers grow) and visualize a beam of golden light coming down from the sun and into your chest. The universe will send your gifts through that golden channel as your sunflower grows.

In closing:

Shadow Work is essential to not only your daily life, but for your practice in witchcraft as well. It is about finding your balance, your center, figuring out what makes you tick as a person and a witch. It can also help you realize that sometimes we do not need to do those spells on a whim… that we need to focus on what the root of the problem is. Once you figure that out, the go back and decide if the spell or ritual is still needed. Never do your magic when you are hurt or angry, always try to do it with a clear mind & heart if possible.

I hope this helps some, until next time,

LunaOwl~J


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