Working With Shadow, and why it's a good thing!

I recently saw a post where this person, who claimed to be a Spiritual coach, was saying that they refuses to work in shadow. Shadow work, as it's usually called, is when someone goes into the dark sides of their inner self in order to "clean it out" or release the long held negative beliefs. Anyway, this person said that they only choose to work with "Love, Light and Positivity." 


First of all, that's called Spiritual Bypassing and I'd personally never hire someone who refuses to acknowledge their own shit. 


Second, shadow work, or working on our darkness, doesn't have to be a "bad" thing. 


When we go to the parts of us that are hidden, that are in the shadows of our minds, what we usually see is the Archetype called "The Divine Child", this is the aspect of us that is usually lost, our own inner kid, that part of us that looks at the world around us with opportunity, wonderment, excitement and possibility. This is not a part of us that we want to keep hidden, this is a part of us that we should find and bring back to our awareness. 


Another thing I believe that shadow work does is allow us to see the other parts of us, our talents and skills, that we have never been able to develop. We may never have had the right support to let these inner talents come to the surface or develop, and in our shadow work, we can see things about ourselves that we absolutely LOVE. 

So here is an exercise I would like you to do to work on your shadow self, and see what you can see in a more positive way. 

Exercise #6: The 3-2-1 Shadow Process

If you want a step-by-step method for shadow work, try the 3-2-1 Shadow Process developed by integral philosophy Ken Wilber in Integral Life Practice.

So here are the basic steps:

Step 1: Choose what part of your shadow you want to work with. I find it's often easier to start with a person you have some hard feelings or difficulty towards, (relative, boss, ex-friend)

This person my really piss you off, annoy you, make you feel rage, anger or betrayal. You could also feel an unhealthy attachment towards them. 

Just choose someone whom you have a really strong emotional reaction to, negative or positive. 

Step 2: Face it: Picture this person in your mind, and tell them about the qualities that they have that upset you, or perhaps tell them all of the things about them that you are attracted to. Just be sure to use 3rd-person language (she, he, it, they). 

You can talk about them out loud or write it down in a journal. However you are getting your feelings out is perfectly fine.  

Don't mull over the right thing to say, you don't have to be polite, you don't have to worry about hurting their feelings, they will never see this or hear this. Be brutally honest. This process is supposed to be cathartic. 

Step 3: Talk to it:  Now in your mind, have a very open dialogue with this person.  Speak in the 2nd person to this person (using “you” language).Be sure to talk directly to this person as if he or she was actually there. Tell them what bothers you about them.

Feel free to ask them question like:

  • Why are you treating me this way?
  • What do you expect from me?
  • What are you trying to do to me?
  • What do you have to teach me?

Imagine their response to these questions. Speak that imaginary response out loud. Record the conversation in your journal if you like.

Step 4: Be it: Become this person. Take on the qualities that either annoy or fascinate you.

Embody the traits you described in step 2. Use 1st-person language ( I, me, mine).

This may feel awkward, and it should. The traits you are taking on are the exact traits you have been denying in yourself.

Use statements such as:

  • I am angry.
  • I am jealous.
  • I am radiant.

Fill in the blank with whatever qualities you are working with: “I am __________.”

Step 5: Notice these disowned qualities in yourself.

Experience the part of you that is this trait. Avoid making the process abstract or conceptual: just BE it.

Now you can re-own and integrate this quality in yourself.

Facing Your Shadow Side

American philosopher Alan Watts possessed a unique gift for translating complex psychological and philosophical ideas into beautiful, practical, and concise poses.


I hope that this exercise was helpful to you. Sending you lots of love this week! 


xxo- N

Nikki HartleyComment