a shadow spread to get out of your own way

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, because a picture is worth a thousand words. If you follow me on IG @bwitch_please , you’ve likely seen me doing some IG Live broadcasts a few times a week with shadow self exploration using a couple of decks I really like for working with the shadow self.

I developed this shadow spread if you’re someone who would maybe benefit from a little initial guidance on where and how your shadow self may be showing up for you, where it may have originated, and what you can do to avoid this affect, OR work with that shadow self to overcome the limitations its imposing on you.

The Spread

This is pretty straightforward and I won’t really dive deep into this, as I think if you’re even a novice at tarot, you can still just follow the layout, make notes on where each card appears, and then go from there.

If you don’t have a deck or aren’t yet comfortable reading/interpreting for yourself, let me know, I do readings from time to time and we can set something up.

One note I will say about the third column, ‘body/physical,’– I included this because I am a clinician and work with many many many people whose medical problems (physical and psychological) are entirely self-created.

Yes, there are legit illnesses and real medical problems, and then there are people who hold onto their trauma (both physical and emotional), letting it manifest into the physical body.

This column is meant to address both those self-created illness ‘thought-forms,’ for lack of a better term, AND any physical ailments, limitations, symptoms, or other manifestations of psychological or emotional repressions that have appeared and which prevent you from fully realizing physical health, wellness, or a balanced and optimal state of your physical body.

In other words, that column looks at ways you may be holding back your own progression of health and wellness through thought, actions, and choices.

And, as a disclaimer, I feel like it goes without saying, but its going to be said, this is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical conditions. Please consult a trained healthcare provider before making any changes to your health, diet, exercise, or medical therapies.

‘banish negativity’ is an empty phrase

if you feel offended by this statement, and if the shoe fits, wear it.

i see this banal phrase all. over. the. place.

what do you even mean when you say this or repost this shit? do you even know what it means?

its one of those things humans say that have like no substance, but everyone else nods when you say it, like there’s some collective understanding or acknowledgment of its message, with no actual applicable or tangible outcome.

its like standing in a group of people and saying, ‘let’s be happy about trees.’ yeah, okay, i guess, sounds good. but what does this actually do for us?

the way i view it, negativity is required in order to have positivity. this duality exists on a continuous spectrum.

so, ‘banishing’ it really isn’t possible, but beyond that, perhaps you can come up with a better or more specific phrase here? or just stop altogether, because, as i’m getting ready to explain, this is actually counterproductive to our growth.

please define negativity

let’s start here.

are you just parroting this phrase because every other new age spiritualist or ‘positivity witch’ is spewing it? exactly what is negative?

is it your negative self-thoughts? is it feelings traditionally viewed as negative (shame, fear, guilt, etc)?

is it complaining without offering solutions?

is it a victim mentality?

is it being a pessimist?

like give me a specific ‘thing’, ‘idea,’ or ‘personality trait,’ that we’re looking for here, because, again, its impossible to banish ‘negativity’ as a concept.

how about asking why the negativity exists first?

oh my, that sounds uncomfortable.

and you may not be able to make an infographic about ‘which crystals are best for asking why your negativity exists’, but, you know, maybe you’re more concerned with personal growth than clicks? *awkward silence settles*

i’m all on the shadow train these days, have been diving deep into this stuff for a while now, and, personally, this is what we need to be posting instead of just telling people to ‘banish negativity.’

guess what, if its your own negative self-talk, your own fears, guilt, or shame, or your own tendencies to victim-complex, scapegoat others, or whine and complain, that bitch lives inside you and she’s not going anywhere. banish away, sweetie. she’s just gonna laugh and go back to calling you a failure.

but, here’s a crazy thought, what if…*and this is a BIG what if*…you sit and talk to her and find out why she’s there.

what made her negative? was it things from childhood, people who hurt you, bad decisions and regrets, and so on?

because likely it was some or all of those, plus traumas, and stressors we all live through as part of the human condition. you can’t banish these. these happened to you. they will always have happened to you. you can only change the way you confront, accept, and react to them.

you have to admit that and then you have to accept that. and then, guess what? let yourself be okay with them existing. in you, at that.

embrace negativity

so, this took a turn.

hear me out. negative emotions and thoughts serve a purpose.

before modern society, when humans were still hunter-gatherers, fear of others or unknowns kept us alive.

anger over a neighboring tribe or clan stealing our harvest led us to wars or battles, some of which we won and prospered from, others we lost and learned valuable lessons (we hope).

but the point is, these negative thoughts and emotions came from somewhere in your past. something, somewhere, someone cultivated them and they are the result of learned experiences, upbringing, environment, and even personality traits from things like our natal chart, our genetics, and more.

what’s going on in the world right now, and specifically in the US is a massive, fiery emotional uprising demanding attention. POC are dying because they do not receive fair treatment in the eyes of law enforcement.

and quite frankly, there are a LOT of white people who are finally waking up to this reality. they’ve been denying it for likely their entire lives, but its now becoming harder and harder to excuse and push away what’s happening to our black brothers and sisters.

you can’t banish this. but for some of my fellow white people i’ve talked to, they’re struggling with the internal war of the negative and biased thoughts they have about POC.

some of these people will even swear up and down they’re not racist, but internally, they’re terrified of the conditioned responses they feel to black people truly having equality. it makes them uncomfortable, but they don’t know why.

and then they might even be that person that says ‘i’m not a racist because i have a black friend,’ while posting on social media that if black people just followed police officers’ directions, nothing bad will happen to them, because that’s what happens when you’re white, why would it be any different if you’re black?

it shouldn’t be karen, but it is.

i don’t care who you are, if you’re a white person in america, at some point in your life, and perhaps for even your entire life, you have been exposed to biased sociocultural thoughts like ‘black people are criminals, that’s why they make up so much of the prison population,’ or ‘asian people are smarter than everyone, that’s why they’re good at math and science.’

take a long hard look inside yourself and you’re going to find plenty of these. and your immediate reaction is going to be shame, and then you’re going to ‘banish’ that thought and move on with your day, refusing to confront this darkness.

stop doing that. stop ‘banishing’ this type of negativity. sort thr0ugh it. CONFRONT IT.

where did it come from? were you raised like that? were there people that directly or indirectly contributed to it? was it from an incident(s) that happened at some point that colored your thoughts this way?

because nobody is born racist. how can you undo the root system that thinking has laid in you?

it is absolutely 100% scary to admit that we have these thoughts, because we have to admit we are/were wrong. we have to admit our parents were wrong, or our racist uncle was wrong, or whoever it was that planted those seeds…was wrong. and then we have to rip them out and replace them with something better.

all the while, not ‘banishing’ the negativity. because the negative aspects of the human self are what drive us to action. if it wasn’t there, we couldn’t look at it and know there’s a problem and then act on it to make the situation better.

if you never experienced conflict within yourself, congratulations, you’re a fucking ascended motherfucking spiritual being and why are you even here on earth with the rest of us peons?

but for those of us who are normal, we DO experience discomfort and conflict within ourselves (e.g. such as thoughts or beliefs that are harmful or limiting towards another ethnic group, LGBTQ+ persons, the elderly, etc etc).

we can either stop and figure out why we have those thoughts and make a conscious choice to change our perception, expand our perspective to include empathy and solidarity with those marginalized groups, or we can ignore it and keep being the actual problem.

‘banishing’ thoughts and emotions is tantamount to ignoring them and pretending like they don’t exist. and that’s exactly how we ended up in the current situation we have right now. the last thing we need to do is ignore this.

shadow work: why you should do it

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.

here’s why.

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.

cautions

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.

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