Shadow work has become a buzzword in New Age and spiritual circles, and it is often misinterpreted or misused. In this article, we will explore what shadow work is and how we can engage in it.
The idea of Shadow was introduced in the early 1900 by Carl Jung, a swiss psychiatrist who revolutionized the field of psychology. Besides developing his own psychoanalytic approach, he explored eastern and western philosophy, mysticism, theology, alchemy, esoterism, and Astrology.
Jung broke new ground on many levels with his work. However, one of the most popular aspects of it probably remains his concept of Shadow.
Carl Jung and the concept of Shadow
According to Carl Jung, the shadow consists of all the unconscious parts of our personality. These, when brought to consciousness, feel threatening, uncomfortable, or completely foreign to the Ego, defined as the conscious part of our personality. Jung pointed out that not only do we have a personal shadow, but we also share a collective shadow, which belongs to the collective unconscious.
Our shadow contains everything we don’t see about ourselves. It’s much easier to observe someone else’s shadow than our own. Our shadow consists of our blind spots, of all those tendencies, qualities, and traits that we have disowned: it’s important to keep in mind that these are not all negative. Our unconscious also contains repressed qualities and positive traits that, for instance, weren’t accepted by our family or culture of origin.
In childhood, we usually develop the tendencies we are praised for and encouraged to express, and we suppress those that aren’t accepted, or that we are judged or shamed for. This phenomenon generates a split in our personality and causes us to disown a part of who we are, which is then relegated into the shadows.
The Shadow and the Phenomenon of Projection
Carl Jung stated that “Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event.” This sentence illustrates the phenomenon of shadow projection: becoming aware of our projections represents a crucial part of shadow work.
What we disown, what we can’t express, and what we can’t accept in ourselves, tend to appear to us externally. Our projections give us a lot of valuable information about ourselves and our unconscious: they show us traits we inherently possess yet, for some reason, have suppressed, unacknowledged, and disowned. We can project on other people both positive and negative qualities. For instance, we can blame others projecting on them something we would judge and condemn ourselves for, or we can idealize them projecting on them traits we personally admire but don’t feel able to fully express.
Astrology offers us a key to understanding how this phenomenon plays out in our life. All of us tend to project on other people qualities and traits belonging to our Descendant sign, the point opposing our Ascendant or Rising sign. The Descendant rules the 7th Astrological House of the Other, which opposes the 1st House of the Self. The qualities of our Descendant sign and any planets we find in our natal 7th House represent something we feel we lack and, for this reason, something we look for in another. These traits are often mirrored back at us by other people before we learn to see them in ourselves and integrate them.
What is Shadow Work?
As Jung wrote, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Shadow work is precisely the process of making the unconscious conscious. There is no such thing as overcoming our shadow or getting rid of it. However, being aware of it prevents our actions from being driven by energies such as jealousy, envy, anger, hate, evil, greed, or insecurity, and helps us avoid projecting these traits onto others.
Analyzing our triggers and observing our projections without judgment represents key aspects of shadow work. Shadow work implies a commitment to consistently question ourselves to uncover the root causes behind our automatic patterns of behaviors, our reactions, and the repetitive loops we seem to be stuck in. This helps us discover more of our nature, of our psychology, of our true desires and needs.
As we uncover more and more of our unconscious material, we will find that our shadow also contains positive qualities that we suppressed due to the familial, social, cultural, and religious conditioning we have been exposed to. If, for example, when we were children we were taught that anger is bad, we may now struggle to assert ourselves. If, for instance, we were punished or shamed for expressing needs, feelings, and emotions, we may now find it extremely challenging. Shadow work can help us gain awareness of these dynamics, and it can inspire us to reclaim and integrate those traits we suppressed and disowned in the past.
Shadow Work and Astrology
Shadow work can be associated with the archetypes of Scorpio, its modern ruler Pluto, and the 8th Astrological House. Scorpio, Pluto, and the 8th House are connected with the unconscious forces driving our choices and behaviors, with our unconscious emotional attachments, with our secret intentions and motivations, with our repressed desires, our deepest wounds, fears, compulsions, and obsessions.
An emphasis on these archetypes in our natal chart corresponds to a faster evolutionary pace. If our level of consciousness supports it, a prominent natal Pluto, Scorpio, or 8th House leads to an inclination towards deep therapeutic or psychological work and it often corresponds to a stronger desire to uncover what’s in the shadows, to bring to light the unconscious aspects of our psyche. Transits of Pluto, in particular, are famous for speeding up these types of processes, as they catalyze our evolution by forcing us to confront something we have been trying to avoid or we have swept under the rug.
Shadow Work: Path to Wholeness
When we consciously engage in shadow work, we learn how our triggers are our teachers, how what provokes us about other people is pointing at something unresolved within ourselves and giving us a chance to gain more self-awareness.
Central to this journey are radical self-acceptance, self-responsibility, humility, and the willingness to take accountability for all that we are. Our shadow isn’t meant to be defeated or eliminated: we are not supposed to disown or suppress any part of ourselves, whether perceived as positive or negative.
Shadow work is a lifelong journey that can help us access and express our full potential. Familiarizing ourselves with our unconscious, witnessing ourselves as whole beings, and acknowledging the aspects of our personality we split off in the past allows the integration of qualities we weren’t aware of having and can prevent destructive impulses and tendencies from taking over and leading our lives.
Everything is interconnected. Astrology is one of the tools we use here at Moon Omens to access the deepest parts of ourselves. The depths of the Universe within. When we realize that we are the Universe experiencing itself everything shifts. We tap into infinity and limitless potential of our being.
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