The witchy community has many different practices up its sleeve to help a vision manifest and open the intuition even more. One of these practices is shadow work, a great but often misunderstood practice to full immerse into our deepest, most intimate self. Since it is called “shadow work”, it is easy to see how it is able to evoke all kinds of dark and sinister things. So what is shadow work in witchcraft?
Perhaps the work on shadows is a dark spiritual practice, perhaps it is a process that involves the most negative or most malevolent aspects of our personality. But the truth is that it is neither. Today I want to explain all I know about shadow work, learning what is shadow work in witchcraft and so much more. Let’s get started.
What is shadow work?
Let’s consider the moment we were born. We were born as a whole, but this totality is short-lived because we are relationally dependent as children. Being born relationally dependent in families who introduce us to a society that has not yet fully evolved is a problem because it teaches us that some aspects of ourselves are acceptable and others are not.
What is acceptable and what is unacceptable depends on the perspective of the family you were born into. Aspects of us that are seen as unacceptable, both positive and negative, are rejected by our family, and aspects that are seen as acceptable are not.
So, being relationally dependent in the name of survival, we do everything we can to reject and deny and suppress these aspects of ourselves that are disapproved of and, at the same time, exaggerate those that are approved, and we dissociate ourselves from what we disapprove of. This creates a split within a person we call the conscious and the subconscious.
The reason why the shadow mainly contains what we would consider negative things is that many of us tend to deny, suppress, and reject aspects of ourselves that we perceive as negative.
Basically, when we deny, suppress, or reject something, it does not disappear — it simply vanishes from our conscious awareness. This is the real reason why we do so many things in life and we don’t understand why we are doing them. This is why we are not yet completely in control of ourselves.
Our dark side is in our shadow
The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists mainly of a series of primitive and negative human emotions and impulses such as anger, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and struggle for power.
Everything we deny in ourselves, whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable, becomes part of the shadow.
Everything that is incompatible with our conscious attitude — what we choose to be — is relegated to this dark side.
The personal shadow is the renegade Self. This “shadow” Self represents the parts of us that we no longer claim to be ours, including the intrinsic positive qualities.
These unexamined or disowned parts of our personality go nowhere even when we vehemently deny them and do everything we can to chase them away.
We simply don’t get rid of them but repress them.
However, they continue to be part of our unconscious. Think of the unconscious as anything we are not aware of. If we do not recognize and accept our shadow, it remains with us as our dark brother or sister.
The problem arises when we can’t see it… Yet, you can be sure, it’s always there, standing right behind us.
How the shadow is born?
Every child knows kindness, love, and generosity, but also expresses anger, selfishness, and greed. These emotions are part of our shared humanity. But when we grow up, something happens. Traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected.
We all have basic human needs. These needs include physiological needs, security and protection needs, and belonging needs. They are biological and instinctive needs. As children, when we expressed parts of ourselves, we received negative signals from our environment.
Maybe we got angry or had a tantrum. Our parents then scolded us and sent us to our room.
Or maybe we acted bold, playful, spontaneous, or foolish in our first grade class. Our teacher made us feel ashamed for our lack of decorum in front of the class and told us to go and sit down.
Whenever this happened — and it could happen often — one of our basic needs could feel threatened.
Did the disapproval of our parents threaten our safety? Did the disapproval of our teachers and classmates compromise our need to belong?
The fact is that we have adapted our behavior to meet our needs and we have learned to adapt to the outside world.
All the unaccepted or discouraged parts of us in the first 20 years of our life are grouped together, swept away by sight (outside of our conscious awareness).
What is shadow work in witchcraft?
Shadow work in witchcraft means that you explore and acknowledge yourself to a whole new level; you find even the most recondite hidden feelings, emotions, and memories and you bring them to the surface in the attempt of becoming one, a whole.
Why you need it?
Because, as I always recommend, you need to be aware of yourself and know yourself at all levels in order to know exactly what you want in your life and what really matters to you. This is a mandatory step to really commit to your vision, choose the proper practice, and let the magic happen in order to embrace the life and the vision you want.
How to recognize something you suppressed?
Shadow work is the perfect way to recognize something that you have suppressed in your subconscious because you have rejected it, or denied it, or repressed it, so you must face the pain of having had to fragment yourself and lose an aspect of yourself in order to be loved. The original pain of rejection will emerge every time you do that shadow work.
In other words, it will bring out the same feeling of rejection that we received the first time from our parents and those who took care of us and thus make us feel as if we had been exiled or punished again. It sets our survival mechanisms in motion, and therefore makes us feel that we are almost literally dying.
Is it easy to do it?
It is not so easy, but it depends on your approach to the practice! If you see it as a journey, as a chance to get to know yourself on a brand new level, you are going to have a wonderful experience but you need to commit to the practice and open your mind, your heart, and your soul to acknowledge and accept what’s hidden, what’s in your shadow.
It also shouldn’t be dangerous if you’re doing it.
I know self-awareness is not that easy to achieve but if you take baby steps you are going to see amazing results in your craft and in your life.
Shadow work is all about this: it’s about diligently doing the job of becoming aware of what has become subconscious. And it is so important because the more you are aware of your shadow, the more you are embodied as a conscious being. No one has ever achieved enlightenment without confronting their shadow and exposing it to the light of consciousness.
Ultimately, the work on shadows is the process of bringing attention and love to those aspects of yourself that have previously been rejected.
So, if you had to ask me: the work on shadows is, in fact, the highest form of light work you can practice.