if you’re newish to whatever spiritual journey you’re on, particularly if you’re newish to witchy shit, you might have heard the term ‘shadow work,’ but you might not be that familiar with it.
witchery isn’t all crystals and moonlit baths, regardless of what instagram would have you believe on your curated timelines.
i personally think this is the most powerful personal protection you can build in this world.
if you’re doing it right, you’re bound to encounter dark things, and sometimes, depending on what’s going on in your life, or what you’ve been through, you may encounter more dark than light.
if you’re suppressing or ignoring your shadow self, when these dark things come up, they can be even darker (or scarier) for you.
your shadow self is part of who you are
the prolific psychiatrist, Carl Jung, referred to the shadow self as“…to become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”
it’s a conglomerate of all the so-called negative feelings, emotions, behaviors, traits, thoughts, and experiences that you have lived through or portrayed at one point in your life, but have been taught, either by other people telling you, or by the reactions of others, that these are ‘undesirable’ or better kept locked away somewhere dark inside.
you repress all of these things, but they never go away.
and when they occasionally emerge, like when someone cuts you off in traffic and you hope something horrible happens to them, or someone says something about you that you don’t like and the thought of cursing them and watching their house burn down flits across your consciousness for just a split second, this is your shadow self.
and then you feel ashamed, because you’ve been taught its bad to feel or think those things. and that shame then becomes part of how you feel about yourself. you begin to try harder to deny that part of yourself, and in so doing, you deny a part of you.
the point of shadow work is not to get rid of your shadow
on the contrary. the point is to acknowledge that it exists and that its completely human to want to get revenge, or to be angry when someone does something that hurts your feelings, and so forth. it is what you do with that emotion, how you respond to it, and how you let yourself know its okay to feel that, that changes how you and your shadow co-exist.
your shadow will always exist, but if you’re never acknowledging that inside of you there is darkness along with the light, you will find that in your magickal practice, you will only be a surface-level witch. and its okay if that’s what you’re comfortable with. its not a judgment.
but if your goal is to be a powerful witch who can control her destiny and manifest her will, seeing and acknowledging your shadow must be part of your self-improvement efforts, or it will hold you back. you will experience things like fear, anxiety, self doubt, and more, that all just stand in your way.
this goes beyond the concept of ‘white magic’ and ‘black magic.’ magic is neutral. but the intent of the one casting is not neutral.
many witches shy away from using any type of magick that may be deemed ‘dark,’ and that’s perfectly fine. you may have absolutely no need for it, or simply find other means to solve your problem (and that’s actually a great thing, rather than resorting to magick that may affect another person).
we’re taught that ‘dark’ magic is bad, but what’s actually happening is just further reinforcement of the ‘bad’ or ‘dark’ aspects of our humanity, which further encourages us to suppress them, shove them deep down, and pretend as if everything is okay, i’m okay, you’re okay, and all we need is to just take an herbal bath and pull a tarot card.
but we know truthfully that’s not solving these dark existential problems, is it?
what you can gain
i recently started doing a shadow work journal. i really highly recommend that one i just linked. i don’t get any kind of financial incentive for linking it, i just think its a good product.
in just the first handful of exercises, i can already see myself consciously making changes to how i think about myself and others. i’ve begun to think on the macro level vs the micro level.
instead of focusing on taking things personally or worrying if i am up to a particular task, i’m changing my perspective to think about how i can benefit from a mistake or criticism, or what positive lesson can be learned from an experience i would previously have thought was negative.
i can already see how this type of self-exploration changes peoples’ lives radically, to include healing from illnesses, elevating their careers, and saving their relationships, to name a few.
think about if you could remove all those self-limiting or self-sabotaging thoughts in your head, even for just a week, what could you do? let alone long-term…
if nothing stood in your way, where could you go in life?
what new path would you venture down if you were no longer afraid to?
how would your life improve if you began to conquer every goal you set out?
so, beyond just making you a better magickal practitioner, because you will be able to use all of your energy and will, unblocked and released from the boxes you have tucked them away into, you’ll be a phenomenally more stable person.
the one caution i have with shadow work is that this can be extremely uncomfortable, especially as you dive deeper and deeper into your psyche and dredge up emotions that have been bottled away for some time.
you may begin to relive experiences that were traumatic or hurtful, and you may pull up memories you had suppressed in the name of self preservation.
its not recommended to do shadow work if you suffer from low self esteem, and i can see why. you will actually just feel even more terrible about yourself if you did that.
you may need to couple this with copious amounts of meditation at times, as well. the darkness in all of us is natural, but can be difficult to accept if we have built our entire psyche around ‘only light,’ ‘only good,’ and ‘only positivity.’
i’ll just be blunt and say that each of the exercises i have done so far have brought tears forth, as i finally physically write down these things that i’ve held onto and not faced (some for almost my entire life).
but the feeling of therapeutic relief once i do so, the words plainly sitting there on the page staring at me, released and out there for the world to know, is priceless. its like an actual banishing of your barriers.
it has helped me begin to eliminate fears one at a time, and its liberating.