Shadow work in art therapy...

What is shadow work? Shadow work is the process of exploring your inner darkness or 'shadow self'. Shadow work uncovers every part of you that has been disowned, repressed and rejected. Shadow thrives in secret, buried deep within your subconsciousness, but it is a part of who you are. Bringing those hidden parts of yourself to light can form the basis for self-acceptance and self-love.

Some examples of shadow beliefs are:
  • I am not good enough

  • I am unlovable

  • I am flawed

  • My feelings are not valid

Whatever we have removed from our awareness is an essential piece of our wholeness. We need to allow every part of ourselves to come to the light of our conscious awareness to be accepted, so that we can live a meaningful life. Negative emotions such as shame, anger, sadness, guilt and fear can hide specific thoughts or desires. Anger for example, can come from passionately wanting a situation to change, can be used to spur on positive action or can help to set healthy emotional boundaries. Guilt or shame will remind us to act with integrity.

Art therapy is a powerful tool for helping us get in touch with shadow. It can help us to explore our inner selves, the light and the dark. Art therapy brings images out from the unconscious mind to the surface where they can be experienced and felt through the senses and then processed verbally.

Some things I have learnt through shadow work:

  • I will never heal unless I allow myself to face the emotions I am scared of. What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this? I stay with the emotions rather than running away from them. I explore them, write about them and make art out of them.

  • Meditating helps me to gain insights about why I feel a certain way. I can observe the emotion objectively rather than attach to it. I sit with it, accept it, observe how it makes me feel with compassion to understand the meaning behind it, and then I let it pass. This has helped me to heal.

  • Often when I have explore shadow I have encountered personal resistance. Sometimes it isn't easy to acknowledge those painful experiences or emotions! But I have learnt that through examining myself and facing what has happened in my life, I have found freedom through positive change.

When you feel the shadow-self rear it's head, allow yourself to feel it and become curious about it, rather than ignore it, resist it or push it away. This can help you to understand the meaning behind it. In some cases, you may find that it serves you by guiding you away from things that threaten your authentic self.

Artwork is my own.