I’d like to share a process I’ve been using, called Shadow Work, which is beneficial to anyone suffering from emotional trauma.
The idea behind shadow work is basically that the suffering you experience today, is rooted in emotional trauma from childhood.
In order to heal yourself from this suffering, shadow work teaches you to go straight to the root, so the initial trauma has nothing to branch from.
Here’s how it works:
If you suffer from anxiety attacks, instead of trying to “get rid” of the anxiety, using shadow work here means bringing your awareness INTO the anxiety, and understanding what actually caused the emotional wound in the first place.
Doing this allows you to actually heal the wound because you’re nourishing the root, instead of just cutting off the branches.
You can use shadow work at any time, but it works best right when you’re feeling an emotional trigger. This means any moment when you experience something that throws you into an anxiety attack, or in some way provokes a strong emotional response.
This is the process I use whenever I feel an emotional trigger:
-First I sit still with my eyes closed for a moment and just be present.
Whatever you RESIST will continue to PERSIST, so if I were to push against the anxiety, that would just make it worse. Instead, what I want to do here is release resistance, and let myself feel the emotion completely.
The anxiety may be an emotional response that my body is using in order to tell me something, so I simply take a moment to tune in, and allow myself to FEEL the emotion.
To start, simply identify what emotion you’re feeling right now.
-Once you’ve identified the emotion, focus on how it physically feels in your body.
For example, “fear” often feels like a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Or “rage” may be a burning sensation in my neck and head.
Just take a moment to sit with the emotion, and allow yourself to feel it completely in your body. Pay attention to the actual physical sensations of the emotion.
-Next you’re going to have to use your intuition (which may seem like just your imagination, or an out of context thought which just “appears” in your mind).
You need to ask yourself “when was the first time I felt this way.”
In your mind, you may be brought back to a memory from your childhood, which directly corresponds to the exact sensation you’re feeling in your body.
For example, if anxiety gives you a tingly feeling on the side of your neck, the memory that comes up could be a time in your childhood where there was a seatbelt or something physically restraining you, while you were experiencing that same emotion of anxiety.
You’ll notice a correspondence between the literal event you see in the memory, and the physical sensation you’re experiencing right now due to the emotion.
The idea here is that certain events in our childhood can be so traumatic that it causes the consciousness to split off from itself, and disassociate from the emotion in order for you to maintain your wellbeing.
Your consciousness becomes fractured, and the root cause of this emotion becomes suppressed in the subconscious mind.
One time when I did this, it made me realize that I always press my lips together when I’m feeling afraid and self conscious, and there’s a certain emotional feeling attached to it.
It turns out the cause of this was when I was a baby my mom would always press my lips together in order to stop me from crying, so the feeling I experience now is just a reflection of that original emotional trauma.
Learning to identify the emotions in this way, and finding any childhood wounding attached to the root of them, allows you to heal the actual cause of the emotion, instead of just covering up the symptom produced by it.
-Once you’ve identified the childhood wounding, it’s simply a matter of validating what you’re experiencing.
One of the biggest issues when it comes to trauma, is the tendency to disassociate because we’re taught that it’s not okay to feel how we feel. It’s not just the pain itself that you’re experiencing, it’s the fact that a parent or caregiver made us feel WRONG for expressing our pain.
When you’re taught that you’re not allowed to be in the state that you’re experiencing right now, you learn to suppress, deny, and disown that aspect of yourself.
The emotion does not actually go away, it just gets suppressed and buried in the subconscious mind.
This is what psychologist Carl Jung refers to as the “shadow”. It’s the aspects of your personality that have been rejected and denied, so they become hidden and suppressed within the part of the mind that we’re unaware of.
You disassociate from who you are, because you’ve been taught that it’s not okay to be that way.
“Shadow Work” is simply the process of becoming conscious of what is unconscious. It’s to shine light on the hidden aspects of yourself that you’ve never been allowed to express.
The band Tool also references this in their song “Forty Six & 2”. Notice the line, “Listen to my muscle memory. Contemplate what I’ve been clinging to.”
When using this process to heal emotional trauma, you can actually interact with your child-self in your memories, and doing so will rewire your brain circuitry to react as if the initial memory had occurred in whichever way you choose to alter it.
When you’re inside the memory, simply take a moment to sit with your child-self, and let them know that it’s okay to feel how they feel. Be with them and hold them as they experience these emotions, and let them know that they haven’t done anything wrong in feeling this way.
Give unconditional presence, and simply allow yourself to feel how you feel.
When I do this, I like to tell my inner child self, “I am completely here with you now. I honor this emotion you’re feeling. It’s okay that you feel this way. Anyone in your position would feel this way.”
Once I sit with it for a moment, my inner child-self may ask me to do something to alter the memory. Here you can actually interact with your child-self, and meet any unmet need they’re experiencing at this time. You can also interact with other people in this scenario, like explaining to the caregiver what they’re doing wrong, and what they could have done better. It’s especially healing for your child-self in this memory to see your adult-self defending it, by validating their emotion and allowing them to express what they’re feeling.
You can stay here in the memory for as long as you need to. I usually feel my intuition tell me when I’m done here, and it often feels like the memory “dissolves” into my being, as the fractured aspect of my consciousness has rejoined and become whole.
Once the trauma is no longer there, the branches connected to it will also become healed.
So, in short, here’s what you do:
-Identify the emotion
-“How does this emotion feel as a physical sensation in my body?”
-“When was the first time I felt this way?”
-To your inner child “Thank you for showing me this. i am completely here with you now. I honor this emotion you’re feeling. It’s okay that you feel this way. Anyone in your position would feel this way.”
-Alter the scenario however you see fit.
This is Shadow Work, which is also called “inner child work”, “soul retrieval”, or “healing the emotional body”.
As for the result of doing this process, the most important thing I’ve found personally is that it’s more so about learning to UNDERSTAND why the shadow is there in the first place.
Even if I don’t “heal” myself from it, the real point is to bring myself to a point where every time I’m triggered, I instantly know the root cause of the trigger.
This makes it so that I come to a point of not being upset over the things that trigger me, which will in turn allow the trigger to become more of a point of awareness, instead of something that launches me into a negativity spiral of dark emotion.
This teaches you to feel the emotion, without being dragged down into lower emotions because you’re able to see that it’s just something you’re experiencing, and not the ultimate truth of who you are.
You become conscious by observing your emotions, without being attached to them.
This means every time I get a sinking feeling due to fear, my mind instantly goes to the root cause of this emotion, instead of thinking that what I’m feeling has anything to do with what I’m experiencing right now.
This alone will change your entire outlook on life.
Once you learn to integrate your emotion and become conscious of what is unconscious, nothing will ever bother you, and you will begin to have a much deeper understanding that everything you experience is just a passing experience. It’s not the truth of who you are, it’s more like a landscape you’re observing while passing through it.
Become the observer. Dive deep into your emotions, and you’ll see how much beauty you have suppressed within you.
Unconditional love ❤