We describe the shadow as “the part(s) of ourselves which we have labeled as flawed that we have denied.” We all have a shadow. Those parts of ourselves that we have come to believe is bad so we try to pretend that isn’t us. If you are new to this concept of your shadow, you can read this post to give you more clarity. If you feel unclear as to identifying your shadow, read this post to help. We believe that through befriending your shadow, you begin the process of becoming Happy + Whole.
Keep in mind that we have many shadows. There are many parts of ourselves that we don’t like and try to repress, reject, and deny. The object is to not get rid of the shadow either. The object is to integrate. There is a difference between the two, mainly one is another form of abolishing and rejecting vs. the other is acceptance and understanding. If you already feel well aware of what your shadow is, there is a series of questions that can help you begin the process of befriending your shadow. You’re going to want to start with one shadow at a time. Turn this into a spiRITUAL where you are taking about 20 minutes to sit alone. Set the ambience for a meditative practice–whatever speaks to you. Play soft music. Light incense or a candle. Focus on your breath for a minute to calm down your nervous system and get you focused.
5 Steps to begin to Integrate Your Shadow:
1|5: Close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in a chair in a room.
There is an empty chair in front of you. In walks one particular shadow self. It can be the part of you that you believe is lazy, stupid, unintelligent, unloveable, etc. Choose one of your shadows. Notice what she looks like. If your shadow could take life form, what would it look like? What is she wearing? How does she carry herself? Sit with that picture for a minute.
2|5: Ask your shadow, “When did you first enter into my life?”
Try not to judge your answers either. Just go with it. Was is a message you heard from a parent? Did you watch a parent/sibling/friend behave a certain way and you determined to never be like that? Sit for a minute on when you first believed that characteristic was “bad” and that you could not be that person.
3|5: Now ask your shadow, “What are the blessings you have given me in my life?”
This is a weird question initially because how can something you have deemed as bad actually give you something good? But the truth is, you developed this shadow because you needed something to help you survive. Let’s say Anxiety is one of your shadows, and you developed it because your dad was an alcoholic and you never knew what you were going to get when you got home as a kid. Anxiety can be very helpful as an emotion. One of the blessings it gives is that it make you more in tune to your surroundings and help you change your behavior in order to survive. Maybe it helped in childhood and now as an adult, there are circumstances where you are more in tune with your environment than others typically are, leaving you able to read a room better. So there are things about your shadow that helped you get through certain parts of life. They aren’t for nothing. Write down what you find here. It might surprise you to see that your shadow can be helpful even though you might think she is “bad.”
4|5: Ask your shadow, “What do you need from me?”
Maybe all she needs is to be acknowledged. Maybe she needs to focus on her breath and be reminded that everything is okay. Whatever you hear from her, make a deal with her that you will follow through and do what she needs from you.
5|5: Conclude this time by integration.
Imagining you are hugging each other and as you do, you notice that she integrates back to you, leaving you whole. You are seen, understood, and accepted. All parts of you.
Repeat this with as many shadows as you need/want. And remember, integration doesn’t mean they disappear. Don’t be alarmed if you find this particular shadow popping up again in your life. In fact, she will. This time, instead of fighting her, greet her, say “Aaahhh, there you are again. I see you,” and then ask her what she needs. Remember this is now a part of your self care routine.