Embracing the Shadow: The Strange Delights of Shadow Work

Artwork by Pilar Zeta

I’m a healing junkie. Scarce is a modality that I haven’t tried on my path to enlightenment, each one offering its own pearl of self-wisdom. And yet, regardless of outward-facing skills and successes, there are still places I hide from myself.

What I’ve come to know is that my path to healing is mine—no shaman, no guru, no healer nor plant medicine can bring me to my own truth. It’s only me—and in that liberation, there is bliss.

And this is Shadow Work: the only tried and true way to canvass your own inner space and uncover the darkest depths of your own fears. Sure, Señora Ayahuasca may offer you the same—albeit in a much sloppier package. But there are ways of engaging in this process that don’t involve a trip to the rainforest, and allow you a self-congratulatory zeal for having done it your own damn self.



Shadow Work is when we go to the deepest reaches within ourselves to unearth that which has hidden from us, bringing back into wholeness the pieces of ourselves we’ve rejected.

The term “shadow” can be a bit nebulous. Carl Jung helped us grasp the concept in his archetypal psychology. In Psychology Today, Stephen Diamond reminds us that the shadow is:

“…the ‘dark side’ of our personality—dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness.”

Yes, please! It’s exactly these spaces I seek to know within myself; not because I’m a sadist, but perhaps because I’m a purist. I want to know the darkest depths of my soul, where fear and self-sabotage lie.

Rejection of the shadow is common, but by reclaiming the discarded self, we gain greater power, love and affect on this planet.



We are undoubtedly scared of these dark depths, which have been ruled by fear for as long as we’ve been avoiding them.

Marina Abramović is my spirit animal. If I need a megadose of strength and suck-it-up mojo, I call upon her to give me all the courage I can muster. She actively pursues what brings her fear. Whatever I fear, that is my art, she says.

In the Tarot, the Devil is our archetypal shadow—the big scary guy who tortures you for all eternity. Yet I realized, he’s not moving! He’s sitting still on a freakin’ box, to which you’ve chosen to chain yourself, too. It’s only when we see why we’ve placed ourselves there that we can find the courage to open the locks and walk away.

Most of us eschew the dark, for we don’t know how to navigate it. Through Shadow Work, we’re empowered to map out our own innermost spaces. Don’t let the fear of seeing keep you from seeking.



Let’s first establish the basis that all life is energy; the universe is made up of invisible matter vibrating at certain frequencies, which influence thought and form. Everything takes some amount of energy to sustain, from the computer I use to the car I drive, the judgments I make to the beliefs I carry. All things take my energy to live.

But there are energy leaks in my subconscious: which dark crevices are leeching energy that could be better directed to my passions, joy and life purpose?

This is why we engage in Shadow Work: to reclaim the power we’ve misdirected and to reclaim our energy for more productive endeavors. Embracing the shadow is the only path to knowing, healing and ultimate self-love.

What we deny within ourselves, we allow the space to shame, judge and scold. But by embracing these aspects, we return to wholeness.




Improved Health

Sickness results from the body and soul being out of harmony with one another. Inevitably, a journey through the shadow brings our body and spirit back into balance with each other. In this self-realization, there is no space for illness to exist.

Higher Vibration

Faster manifestations and propulsion on your spiritual path are natural benefits of Shadow Work. When we embrace all aspects of the self, we allow in the light of conscious awareness. We amplify our personal power, becoming more magnetic and charismatic, and in greater service to our life path.

Expanded Joy

By loving every last morsel of ourselves, radiance is an inevitable byproduct. When we have nothing to hide or defend, our energy is free to create more peace, joy and increased lifeforce.

More Compassion

Through unbiased self-love, our love for the universe expands. By healing the parts we’ve denied, we’re more compassionate when we encounter that denial in others.

A friend and I were recently discussing oil pulling. I asked what she was doing with the pulled oil. “Swallowing it,” she said. I suggested she spit it out to release the toxins rather than reabsorb them. She thanked me later for not mocking her. Confounded, I accepted her receipt of my love in the compassionate heart, as was intended.

Greater Integrity

I don’t mind my healing a little gritty. What I’ve found is that those who explore their shadow carry more presence, power and integrity than those who’ve only skimmed the surface of their psyche.

To be fully conscious and aware (a prevailing planetary trend), I find anyone not doing this work to be irresponsible. How can you claim to be operating at elevated frequencies if you haven’t yet spelunked your own consciousness?


In Part Two, I’ll offer ways to engage in Shadow Work to expand our presence on this planet now. We need you, love—let’s do this!


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