Healing From Trauma Is A Battle (And I Hope You Show Up)

Something happened to you and you became numb. You stopped feeling. You took your pain inward and banished it to the depths of your mind. You did this as a means of protection. You thought it was an act of self-love, not allowing yourself to feel the hurt. You suppressed the trauma and the hurt became dominant. 

But let me tell you this: exiling your trauma to the back of your mind will allow it to become a part of you. And it’s tender, the way it settles quietly into your body. 

You will start to notice the body language of trauma: your body tightens and caves in. You fold your arms and tuck your legs to your chest and let yourself become as small as you can be. Your body will become afraid of its own shadow, afraid of the way its darkness takes up space. 

The longer you pretend your trauma doesn’t exist, pretend it doesn’t still hurt, the more distant it becomes – but it will also get stronger too. Eventually, your hurt will swell. It will take up so much space inside of you that you don’t even realize it. And it will become nearly impossible to defeat. It will become louder and it will convince you that the trauma was your fault: what happened and how you dealt with it. 

This is the brutality of it all: you hold yourself back from feeling that pain, despite how crucial it is. You fawn. You tiptoe around it as if your mind is a minefield: you dodge the memories of how it felt and what hurt the most. 

It’s complex, the very thing you’re afraid of is what you have to face the most. In its own twisted way, this “armor” is self-sabotage: by letting your trauma make a home in your body, you’re keeping yourself from true healing. 

You have to return to the war. You have to let yourself feel it all: the righteous anger, the quiet grief. Bring the trauma to the forefront of your brain and fight it. Don’t let yourself be numb to it forever. By confronting it, you can then let it go. Don’t let yourself become numb to the trauma forever. Be brave enough to go back to the battlefield and face it head-on. Stare it down until it surrenders. Fight for your healing. Your heart. Yourself. Because you don’t really have another choice. 

5 Questions To Ask Yourself If You Want To Start Bettering Your Life

If you’ve always wanted to start the habit, here are five ways to start journaling and get you started:

1. What was difficult this week?

Addressing what was hard this week will shed light on the challenges in your life. Often these negative events cause repressed emotions that show up in monstrous ways. There is nothing healthier for your overall mental space than to let your words be your therapy and write about the challenges in your life. In doing so, you may come up with creative solutions you never knew existed—so give yourself the time and space to work through your problems as you navigate through them in the outside world.

2. What gave you joy this week?

Gratitude is a gateway to something truly beautiful. By pinpointing exactly what brought you joy and how it felt while engaging in an activity, you can bring more happiness and intention into your life by knowing what makes you feel the most alive. Understanding yourself and what lights you up is a path to a life well-lived.

3. How can you show up better next week?

In some regards, you may have failed at doing something this week. Flipping the script and changing your perspective to a more positive frame of mind can help you understand that failure teaches you lessons that will help you become a better individual. This is crucial when it comes to being aware of where you went wrong and how you can show up better for yourself in the coming weeks—life is, after all, a learning process.

4. What are new things you experienced this week?

If you experienced anything new this week, how did it make you feel? What is something that surprised you? Were you proud of yourself that you jumped out of your comfort zone and tried something new? Take careful note of these experiences, as they may unlock a key to something you never knew existed for your future self.

5. What new things do you want to experience next week?

One of my personal favorites when it comes to journaling is planning for the future, including things you want to manifest. While it’s not the best idea to hyper-focus on it, allowing yourself to dream and cultivate your future is an exercise that will bring you so much fulfillment and satisfaction when you see your wildest dreams come true. Having a vision is powerful—just don’t expect it to look exactly as you saw it because it may very well look even better than you saw it.

Journaling is not just a reflection of what’s around you but a reflection of how you’re feeling internally. It’s an intentional practice that gives you the time and space to not just open the door to a new world, but to change the story of your life if you don’t like the one you’re currently writing.

When You Start Over, You Have A Chance To Write A Better Story

I remember when starting over felt like the heaviest burden in the world. An experience to dread. Something that made me feel like a failure sometimes, like I couldn’t get it right the first time around. It made me feel like I was losing my stability until I realized that starting over is one of the most liberating experiences ever. It’s sometimes essential. It’s sometimes what you don’t know you need. It’s sometimes the only way to move forward because when you start over, you have a chance to write a better story. 

Your new life will cost you your old one; your new dreams and plans will force you to let go of your past and the things that didn’t work out for you. It will force you to release all that wasn’t serving you. Your new life will cost you old friends and meaningless attachments but it will reward you with the things that you actually desire. The things you were scared of doing. The people you were intimidated by. The risks you were too afraid to take.

Starting over means being brave enough to say goodbye to so many things and so many people because you’re choosing yourself instead of bending over backwards to please others. Starting over means living the life you were meant to live instead of following someone else’s dream or path. Starting over means you’re no longer stuck because you’re not afraid of changing everything around you for a better life. 

Starting over means building a stronger foundation because now you have experience, now you know what makes something stand tall and what makes it fall apart. Starting over means writing a new story because now you’re wiser and you actually have something to say. You have an ending to look forward to and you know who you need in your story and who doesn’t really have a role anymore. Starting over means allowing yourself to be reborn again in the same lifetime, it means seeing life from a whole new angle and living the life you’ve always imagined. Starting over means you’re not giving up on yourself and you’re not settling either. It means you’re fighting for yourself and the life you were meant to live. 

So please don’t let anyone make you feel like starting over means you’ve failed, because the real failure is staying stuck in a place you hate, living a life that doesn’t excite you, or being with someone who doesn’t love you. The real failure is choosing to live in the same environment that broke you instead of going out and creating a whole new one. Starting over doesn’t mean burning bridges or losing everyone you love, it simply means you’re crossing that bridge and moving on with nothing but love for what you left behind, but you know you can’t take it with you anymore.

Starting over means trusting that new beginnings will eventually lead to better endings and that you are capable of taking your life in a whole new direction because as painful as it can be, sometimes letting go of who you used to be and the life you used to live, can bring about the best experiences and the happiest of endings. 

Reminder: Everything Will Eventually Work Out

Every problem in life has a solution.  Every problem in life can be dealt with. Every problem in life needs some time to be spoken about. And all it takes is the courage from within. All it takes is some resilience. 

We’re all human beings, and yes, we all might have the ego within us that probably holds us back from finding possible solutions to our problems. The ego within us that stops us from giving in a little to others. The ego within us that refuses to give people a chance to be heard.

Not everything in life sucks. Yes, sometimes things don’t happen the way we want it to be. Yes, sometimes things don’t happen when we want it to happen and that is okay. Things meant to be will eventually find their way back. All it takes is some time and effort. Time and time again, you need to remind yourself what you are capable of. You need to continue to persevere and you will eventually achieve what’s ideal for you and all that you’ve ever wanted. 

We’re all human beings and we’re incredibly resilient. We all have dealt with pain at least at one point of time in life and we all have recovered. That’s because of the strength that we have within us that pushes us further and we don’t give up easily. We may not have achieved what we dreamt of when we were all much younger, but we may have achieved something we never thought of.

Eventually, we all would do fine with what we are faced with.

At this moment, even if life does not seem to be that good, trust the universe that the happier days of your life are just ahead of you. Even if you don’t believe right now, trust me, things will get better. And that’s because eventually everything will work out.

The Importance Of Learning To Say No

When do we say no? When do we feel pushed too far? How often are we done with people or things? Mostly, occasionally, rarely, or never at all? Do we say it as much as we should? Or do we not say it at all?

It is a human error that we tend to agree to everything that is being said even though it isn’t at times acceptable. Rarely do we say no to what is being asked of us. It seems so difficult to say no that we say yes to doing something that is way off our radar. It is not about challenging our capabilities but a matter of our limits. The ones which we have already set straight for ourselves. We cannot expect ourselves to go an extra mile for every next person without burning a piece of our soul in that process. Their anger, hostility, or lack of acceptance of your boundaries is the edge of where their respect for your ends meet.

Saying ”no” doesn’t make you argumentative or ruthless. It doesn’t even make you uncaring or selfish. It is nothing to get blamed for. You don’t have to be the bad person or feel like one so those taking advantage of you won’t feel guilty about what they did to you or were planning to do. Standing up for yourself is self-care, not self-centered behavior, and it should be known by all. You have to understand the fact that sometimes it is the need of the hour to say no to things that have the potential to disrupt your peace. If you are not okay with something, it should be a good enough reason to say no.

Moreover, people are always highly judgmental of the actions of others. It isn’t necessarily a conscious thing but surely a social evil. Even if it is a small thing like saying no, the fear of being judged and criticized for the same is what ruins us. It is a person’s right to express themselves freely, be it saying yes or no to any particular thing. The sense of freedom is lost for ages; sadly, this phenomenon continues to exist among us. The only thing that ironically puts me at ease as well as distress is that we are the ones who make up the society and its so-called acceptable norms. It is people amongst us who are too toxic to hear no for an answer. It is we who need to change and give others a breather. No matter what you do, you should never back off from standing up for yourself, because being your own supporter always guarantees good. Walking an extra mile by saying no might make you tired, but it surely will make you happy in the least.

It is indeed high time we realize that saying no is a need. It is a feeling. It is a necessity and sometimes a want too. Because after all said and done, it should be understood that no means no and it should be taken like that without any offense.

Please Believe That In Time, You’ll Get Where You Need To Be

In time, you’ll get where you need to be. If you aren’t exactly where you want to be, there’s a lesson you’re still learning. This delay isn’t meant to be punishment or some type of twisted torture. No, it’s allowing you to build all the resources you need to propel your success. 

The truth is, you’re already moving in the direction you want to go. Just because the progress isn’t as fast as you’d like doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. 

You’re learning how to navigate life your own way. There is no blueprint on how to live your unique life. It’s never been done before. You can have all the mentors and guidance in the world, but they aren’t you. Your mentors give you advice based on their lived experiences. You still have to decide how these recommendations fit into the context of your life. 

Please believe that in time, you’ll get where you need to be. So many of us give up when there’s any sign of struggle. Your setbacks do not mean you’re a failure. Your setbacks aren’t a sign to quit. Your setbacks do not mean you’re on a mistaken path. Your setbacks are not an indication that you’re the wrong person for the job. If you’re moving forward in five steps but take four steps backward, you are still moving forward. Do not quit. 

Changing your mind about how you show up is not quitting. Taking time to rest is not quitting. Choosing a different direction is not quitting. Changing your mind is not quitting. Having doubts and moments where you question if you should just pack up your bags and disappear is not quitting. Surrendering to the process is not quitting. 

Surrendering to the process gets you closer to where you need to be. The things that are meant for you will come easy. We think easy means that we aren’t required to put in work. We think that easy means a lack of conflict. No, easy means that despite setbacks, you choose the same purpose, goal, or person time and time again. The decision is easy, not always the process. And so often, we confuse the two. Other times we make the process much harder than it needs to be because we believe that we must struggle and suffer for what we want. What we truly want to know is “Am I worthy enough for this?” This is an act of self-sabotage.

The cure for self-sabotage is to take action. Messy action. Imperfect action. Any action. I know you have a desire and purpose in your heart that keeps you pushing forward. Don’t lose sight of this. Please believe that in time you’ll get where you want to be. 

This Is How You Truly Move On From Everything That Caused You Pain

You don’t move on overnight. Things don’t automatically stop triggering you. You don’t wake up one day and feel alive again. Instead, it happens slowly, perhaps when you’re not even aware you’re doing it. It happens when you’re openly talking about your pain and you don’t feel defined by it anymore. You’re talking about it like a distant memory or a lesson of the past you’re going over. It happens when someone asks you about your parents and you don’t flinch. It happens when someone asks you about your ex and you smile because somehow you have forgiven them. It happens when instead of living in your victim mentality, you learn how to become a winner—a person who has endured tough times and has been bruised and broken but is still very much alive, hopeful, and eager to live and try everything again like it’s the first time.

You don’t move on by reading a book or watching an inspirational video or getting advice from your friends. It’s not a one-time thing. You move on when you repeatedly work on your problems and commit to fixing yourself instead of relying on others to do so. When you become more aware of certain patterns and triggers that this pain has caused you and realize that you need to do some extra work to get rid of it. It happens the first time you go to the therapist’s office and you don’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong. It happens when you start addressing all those issues that you swept under the rug because you didn’t want to deal with them. It happens when you’re no longer trying to hide your pain and you’re no longer diminishing it. 

You don’t move on just because someone tells you that you should. You move on when you realize that your past is holding you back from truly enjoying your present. You move on when you realize that there’s a better life out there for you that you can create for yourself. When you realize that there are better people out there for you than the ones who hurt you. When you realize that no one else is responsible for fixing you but yourself. You move on when you realize that moving on is your job and your responsibility and that you’re very qualified to do so. 

You don’t move on suddenly and it doesn’t happen in two weeks or two months. To truly move on from the parents who let you down or the partners who broke your heart or the friends who betrayed you, you’re going to have to invest years in this process. It happens slowly and sometimes unconsciously when you are truly determined to move on but it will change everything else.

You won’t listen to the same songs or watch the same movies anymore. You may change your inner circle or who you spend most of your time with. You may start attracting people who weren’t really ‘your type’ before. You may start saying things or doing things that could shock some people but this is what moving on is all about. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it changes who you are from within which in turn changes everything else around you. 

10 Different Types Of Health

When we talk about health, it is common for many people to think about physical health, in itself a person suffers or does not suffer from an illness. However, the concept of health is much broader and covers other areas of our life.

Some experts consider that health can only be talked about when the body is in optimal conditions anatomical and physiological. While others state that it is a factor or a range to determine if the body functions in its normal or at least acceptable conditions, in such a way that, from this perspective, health is seen as a margin of determination.

There are different definitions of this concept, but one of the most successful is that of the WHO, which was made public in the Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization, which was approved at the International Sanitary Conference, held in New York in the year 1946. This definition, which has not changed since then, affirms that health is “a state of complete well-being, physical, mental and social.”

The 6 Primary Types of Health

There are mainly six different types of Health includes Physical health, Mental health, Emotional health, Social health, Environmental health, and Spiritual health.

1. Physical Health

Physical health refers to the state of your physical body and how well it is operating. It is influenced by levels of physical activity, adequate nutrition, rest, environments, etc.

Physical health promotes proper care of our bodies for optimal health and functioning. Obtaining an optimal level of physical wellness allows you to nurture personal responsibility for your own health. As you become conscious of your physical health, you are able to identify elements you are successful in as well as elements you would like to improve.

Physical health consists of many components, but a brief list of the key areas are given below:

  • Physical activity – includes strength, flexibility, and endurance.
  • Nutrition and diet – includes nutrient intake, fluid intake, and healthy digestion.
  • Alcohol and drugs – includes the abstinence from or reduced consumption of these substances.
  • Medical self-care – includes addressing minor ailments or injuries and seeking emergency care as necessary.
  • Rest and sleep – includes periodic rest and relaxation, along with high-quality sleep.

2. Mental Health

Mental health is a level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the “psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment”.

Good mental health doesn’t just mean if you don’t have a mental illness. It’s about having a sense of purpose, getting involved with things, coping with stress and setbacks, forming close relationships, and being in touch with your own thoughts and emotions. To maintain mental health we have to be confident and accept ourselves. In this case, yoga and breathing exercises help us to focus and keep negative thoughts out of our minds.

3. Emotional Health

Emotional health refers to a person’s feelings which encompasses everything about you. It actually governs all of your decisions, your mood, and who you are. Every single aspect of you is determinant of how you feel about something, what is actually going on in your heart, not in your head.

Basically, from your relationships to your mindset to your personality, to how you want to show up in the world; all of these are run by your emotional health. And if you’re feeling thoughts of overwhelm, anxiety, stress, worthlessness, these are all common negative emotions that can have a hugely detrimental effect on your emotional health. But if you can rightly understand yourself, and find out from where these negative emotions are coming, then you actually be setting yourself up for a lifetime of consistent success.

4. Social Health

Social health is how you get along with other people, which involves your ability to form satisfying interpersonal relationships with others. It also relates to your ability to adapt comfortably to different social situations and act appropriately in a variety of settings.

If you want to really optimize your health, you need to go beyond physical and mental strength and actually look at the strength of your close social relationships. Research now shows that a lack of strong social ties puts you at a greater health risk than obesity.

If we really want to understand human thriving, the social component is essential. There is 80 years long Harvard study done on individuals that showed the quality of close social relationships was actually the best victor of health and happiness. So not only it’s important to consider the health of our bodies but we need to consider the health of our communities.

5. Environmental Health

Environmental Health is the field of science that studies how the environment influences human health and disease. “Environment,” in this context, means things in the natural environment like air, water, and soil, and also all the physical, chemical, biological, and social features of our surroundings.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, The social environment encompasses lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, socioeconomic status, and other societal influences that may affect health.

We need to be aware of the impact of changing the environment of our health, how it can be influenced, and what can cause the complex diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome within malaria, TV, AIDS, etc. and how our environment influenced to contract these diseases.

6. Spiritual Health

Spiritual health refers to possessing, meaning, and purpose in life; having a clear set of beliefs and living in accordance with your morals, values, and ethics. Essentially it means understanding and having a clear definition of what is right and wrong and living according to this understanding.

The National Wellness Institute says spiritual wellness follows the following tenets:

  • It is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant.
  • It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.

Many factors play a part in defining spirituality – religious faith, beliefs, values, ethics, principles, and morals. Some gain spirituality by growing in their personal relationships with others, or through being at peace with nature. Spirituality allows us to find the inner calm and peace needed to get through whatever life brings, no matter what one’s beliefs are or where they may be on your spiritual journey.

The human spirit is the most neglected aspect of our selves. Just as we exercise to condition our bodies, a healthy spirit is nurtured by purposeful practice. The spirit is the aspect of ourselves that can carry us through anything. If we take care of our spirit, we will be able to experience a sense of peace and purpose even when life deals us a severe blow. A strong spirit helps us to survive and thrive with grace, even in the face of difficulty.

We should take care of our spirit to experience a sense of peace and purpose even when life deals with some difficulty. A strong spirit only helps us to survive and thrive with grace.

Additional 4 Types of Health

In addition to the types of health mentioned in the previous lines, and which are part of the WHO definition, there are also 4 different types of Health, such as Family Health, Sexual Health and Reproductive Health, Occupational Health, and Public Health.

1. Family Health

Family health is a working instrument, with a comprehensive approach, on promotion and prevention, to train the entire health team that intervenes in families with difficulties of various kinds: risk factors, crises, and conflicts.

Human beings acquire many habits in the family that largely determine our health, and therefore our well-being. Therefore, it is very important that, in addition to taking care of yourself by applying all the measures that, you also take care of the little ones, instilling healthy habits in them that will help them have a better quality of life.

Besides, you must know the specific indications, as well as the medical check-ups that should be carried out based on age, sex, or in specific periods such as pregnancy.

Please remember, good family health positively affects its members.

2. Sexual Health and Reproductive Health

Sexual health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not just the absence of disease, dysfunction or disability. For sexual health to be achieved and maintained, the sexual rights of all people must be respected, protected, and fully exercised”.

For its part, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has defined sexual health as “the experience of the permanent process of achieving physical, psychological, and sociocultural well-being related to sexuality.”

Sexuality is a central aspect of the human being throughout his life and includes sex, gender identities, and roles, sexual orientation or preference, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy, and reproduction.

Sexual and reproductive health is the ability to enjoy a satisfying sex life without the risk of childbearing, and the freedom to decide to do so or not to do so. Reproductive rights are based on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to freely and responsibly decide the number of children, the spacing of births and the interval between them, to have the information and the means to do so; and the right to achieve the highest level of sexual and reproductive health.

For this, 2 communication strategies and materials have been developed that will allow positioning the importance of sexual and reproductive health.

(I) Double Protection

It provides information on ways to protect yourself from a sexually transmitted disease including HIV / AIDS and at the same time avoid an unplanned pregnancy, without preventing full sexuality.

(II) Family Planning

It informs about methods and tools that allow planning the family and living an adequate sexual and reproductive health. Sexuality is a central aspect of the human being throughout his life. For sexual health to be achieved and maintained, the sexual rights of all people must be respected. Indeed, to achieve this, the WHO assures that a “positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relations is required, as well as the possibility of having pleasant and safe sexual relations, free from coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

3. Occupational Health

The occupational health is a multidisciplinary entity that is focused on achieving the most complete state of physical, mental, and social workers in performing work.

The occupational health encompasses various areas, focusing mainly on prevention and control of occupational hazards, reduce diseases and accidents associated with any job, aspects that more and more people are aware of its importance.

An example is the growing interest of company leaders in strengthening a corporate culture focused on improving occupational health through the creation of healthy workspaces.

According to figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO), approximately more than 2 million people die each year from diseases and accidents at work.

In addition, more than 200 million cases of professional ailments are registered per year. Likewise, non-communicable diseases in the office also directly or indirectly cause each country to lose up to 6% of its GDP. That is why occupational health should be a priority and an aspect that all companies and the State must guarantee.

Therefore, we could say that occupational health is the “set of activities whose objective is the promotion and maintenance of the highest possible degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers, promoting the adaptation of work to the person and the person at your work”.

4. Public Health

The public health is a non – clinical specialty-focused medicine in the promotion, prevention, and intervention of health from a multidisciplinary and collective perspective, whether at the community, regional, national or international level, i.e., not centered on the individual, but in the collective.

In this sense, its functions are mainly the management, surveillance, and improvement of the health level in the population, as well as the prevention, control, and eradication of diseases.

In addition, it is responsible for developing public policies, guaranteeing access, and the right to the health system, creating educational programs, administration of services, and research. Even tasks related to environmental sanitation, food quality control, among other things, maybe part of their competencies.

Due to the breadth of its functions, multiple disciplines oriented to the administration of the health system converge in public health, such as medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, nursing, biology, pedagogy, social and behavioral psychology, work social, sociology, statistics, etc.

The public health can be administered by an organized community, by a government agency, or an international one. Normally, each country has its corresponding Ministry of Health or Secretariat of Health, which is the State agency responsible for ensuring the health conditions of the population.

Similarly, there are international organizations, such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) or the World Health Organization (WHO), created to manage prevention and health care policies at supranational levels.

Final Thoughts

We all have the right to understand our health. We are often intimidated, embarrassed, and afraid when we are patient. But from this writing, I wanted to equip and inform all of you so that we regain control over our body, health, and well-being.

From the overall discussion, we can understand, without knowledge concerning health, and the types of health, it will be difficult for us to find out who we are, what our health condition is, and what should we do to improve our overall health.

References:

  1. https://shcs.ucdavis.edu
  2. https://study.com
  3. https://books.google.com.
  4. https://www.urbandictionary.com
  5. https://kidsenvirohealth.nlm.nih.gov
  6. https://www.unh.edu
  7. https://www.who.int

The Mind Body Spirit Connection.

What is the mind body spirit connection?

The mind body spirit connection describes the three always-entwined aspects of oneself. The physical, mental, and spiritual combine to make us who we wholly are.  We speak of body, mind, and spirit as separate parts or aspects of ourselves, but this is more for convenience sake and having a frame of reference. The mind is not separate from the body any more than a toe or a liver is separate from the body.

The mind body spirit connection is a wondrous thing. When you understand, support, and tap into its power, you access the three pillars of holistic healing and are better able to manifest your true desires. It inspires and informs your experiences.

Ancient people understood that a healthy mind helps create a healthy body and a healthy body is important if you want a healthy mind.

Even when it appears that only the body, or part of the body, needs healing, the cause may trace back to the mind or spirit. When that is the case, healing the mind promotes healing of the body.  Likewise, a dis-ease in the body can cause disruptions in the mind. These understandings have shaped modern day mind body medicine as well. For example, medical researchers know that mental stress is a contributing cause behind the majority of diseases.

But there is more to it.

For thousands of years, ancient people also believed that each living being is a connected part of ‘all that is’ in the web of life.  You could no more separate a sentient being from the whole of creation than you could separate mind from body or spirit. To strengthen and reinforce this understanding, they took part in elaborate rituals to make the mind and spirit work to heal the body. 

In the East, practices such as chi gong, tai chi, and yoga developed as practices to reinforce the mind, body, spirit connection.

Examples of the Mind Body Spirit Connection

Next time you feel stressed, notice your physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.  What are you saying to yourself? What emotions are you experiencing? What sensations is your body experiencing? You may have sweaty hands, narrowed vision, and a faster heartbeat. Your mind may be racing, feeling panicked, or angry. Your prayers, if you can pray them, may be furtive and self-focused. Meditation? Forget about it. However, when you feel peaceful and expansive in your mind, your body is relaxed, you can breathe. You may feel connected to your intuition, to ‘all that is’ and the divine. You may feel inspired to offer gratitude, praise, to sing and dance.

Here are a few more examples:

  • Consider when you hurt a part of your body or get sick. Your whole being is affected. The pain in a stubbed toe radiates through your entire body. It is difficult to think of anything else.
  • Consider what happens when you hear really good news. You feel excited, your body feels supercharged with energy.
  • Notice how a baby’s whole being moves and responds with every nuance of emotion and physical sensation.

Mind Body Dualism

In the Middle Ages, beliefs about the mind-body-spirit connection began to shift. 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes popularized the notion that the mind and body are separate entities. His theory of mind body dualism gained a following, thus influencing religious theology and medicine. Our conventional allopathic medical model of treating parts instead of the whole person developed out of this philosophy. 

Despite this erroneous teaching, language continued to reflect the innate knowledge people have of their mind body spirit connection.

You have probably heard or used expressions like these:

  • “He has a broken spirit” 
  • “I knew it in my gut” 
  • “I feel it in my soul.” 
  • “I was so scared/excited my hair stood on end.
  • “My heart is bursting with love” or “breaking with grief”.
  • “I’m so nervous I have butterflies in my stomach.”

Before learning to mask their feelings, children demonstrate how the body and mind integrate in perfect synergy. You can watch how quickly their emotions ebb and flow by what their bodies are doing. Shrieking screams, tears, red face and flailing arms and legs clearly express feelings of anger and isolation. Sparkling eyes, full rosy cheeks, cackling laughter, and clapping hands express their delight.

Is the Mind Over the Body?

It is a well-known fact that our minds create our bodies. The nonconscious parts of the brain govern automatic biological processes without need of the thinking mind. As we introduce emotions into the mix, the brain produces chemicals which go into the body and affect its functioning. For example: stressful thoughts cause a rise in cortisol, which prepares the body for flight or fight at the expense of immunity and healing. Positive thoughts cause a rise in feel-good chemicals that induce relaxation and healing. 

The thinking conscious mind can cause voluntary responses. You decide to hold your breath, you temporarily stop breathing. You decide to raise your arm, the signal is sent to the muscles and it goes up. 

Experts once believed that the mind was just another name for your brain. (Some still do.) But research is showing that your mind is in your body and even around your body. 

Although your brain exerts a powerful influence over your body, there is much more to the mind-body connection than a master-slave relationship. The belief that mind powers and levels of consciousness belong to the brain alone is a belief of the past. 

Human intelligence involves much more than the cognitive intelligence of the brain. Not only does the brain communicate with the body, parts of the body communicates with the brain. And so do the microbes living inside us. Each affects the other on a continual basis.

Cells and the Mind Body Spirit Connection

Cell biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD likens cells to miniature people.  Since they have the same systems and receptors as skin, they perceive their environment and the community of cells at large. Their environment is affected by nutrients, toxins, and the perceptions of the individual. This means that our beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings affect our biology for better or worse.  These factors influence how genes express themselves more than the DNA. It is not a matter of nature versus nurture, but nurture over nature. 

Cells are constantly communicating with each other via photons of light in the layer of the human energy field right outside the body. They receive information from the brain and energy field and respond accordingly. When we experience an emotion, our cells experience the same emotion through energy vibrations and changes in body chemistry. Each cell in the body functions independently and as a member of the community that makes up your body.

The heart-brain connection

Your heart has thousands of its own neurons that initiate communication with the brain via the vagus nerve and vice versa.

In mammals, both brain and heart are involved in receiving, decoding and processing intuitive information. However, it appears that the heart receives this information first. Unlike Westerners who place great importance on thinking and learning via the brain, some indigenous cultures teach youngsters to perceive and think with their hearts. Only when they are older do they learn to access information with their brains as well. 

Did you know that your heart has a much larger electro-magnetic field than your brain? The following heart intelligence video explains how coherence, the unity or alignment of the heart with the brain, elicits a peaceful state that positively affects you and others. 

Scientists have also found brain-like structures in other systems throughout the body. The gut is sometimes called the second brain. Researchers have also discovered that the billions of microbes residing in the gut and throughout the body may exert the greatest influence over us of all. They impact the workings of the body and communicate directly with the brain. 

The Spirit or Soul

Whether we have an aspect of ourselves called ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ and whether or not that ‘soul’ connects to a Consciousness beyond ourselves is hotly debated.

It has been a long-held belief among humans that we have a soul, a spark of the Divine within us. This spark connects us to ‘all that is’. It is our true nature, our higher nature. This nature is vibrationally higher than the self-serving, yet necessary, ego. It is our authentic nature of Love. Through our spirits we forgive, show compassion, evolve as individuals, and feel the call to live our life’s purposes.

A popular theory is that your personal local mind is connected to a universal mind. The local mind is over the body and the nonlocal mind is beyond personal consciousness. It is the infinite, nature, the universe. We are all subject to its laws.

There are many names for universal mind and the scope attributed to it. Some call it God. Others call it Nature or the Universe, the Field, or Infinite Intelligence. It is believed that this is the realm of all knowledge and our connection to ‘all that is’. 

We can feel the Oneness of the Field and tap into its wisdom at the superconscious level of mind. 

Manifesting with the Mind Body Spirit Connection

We have much to learn about harnessing the powerful potential of the mind body spirit connection for accessing intuition, healing ourselves, and manifesting our heart desires. 

The mind-body works in mysterious, often unpredictable, ways. People who have experienced spontaneous healing know that healing can and does happen without any conscious effort on our part.  This is called the placebo effect. The same holds true of people who believed they are cursed. Through the power of the nocebo effect, they might act like zombies, writhe in pain, or be scared to death from a suggestion and the subconscious belief in its power.

Researchers are working hard to solve these mysteries. In addition to exploring the benefits of heart-brain coherence, recent scientific discoveries on the ever-changing quality of the brain have led to a lot of research on how to rewire the brain for healing, achieving goals, becoming more compassionate, and so on.

Tapping Into Your Mind-body Connection

Individuals and metaphysical practitioners use techniques to access the wisdom of the mind, body, spirit connection. How successful and accurate these methods are varies with skill, the ability to relax and achieve coherence, belief systems, being detached from outcome, and perhaps elements we are not yet aware of. 

Several subconscious mind power techniques are popular tools for deprogramming and shifting outdated patterns and limiting beliefs. They offer new suggestions to your mind, neutralize the charge of troubling emotions so that mental, spiritual, and physical energy can be freed up. Together with mental rehearsal to practice new ways of being and taking action, the brain and body have the energy, circuitry, and experience needed to create a healthier, happier future. 

Examples of mind-body manifestation techniques include:

  • visualization
  • affirmations
  • hypnosis
  • emotional release techniques
  • meditation

Some people use muscle testing or pendulums as a way to access the wisdom of the subconscious for information about anything from which remedies and techniques are best to which foods are harmful, and so on.

Summary of the Mind Body Spirit Connection

We have much to learn about how the mind, body, and spirit are one, as well as how we are connected to the greater whole. 

Although your brain exerts a powerful influence over your body, there is much more to the mind-body connection than a master-slave relationship. The belief that mind powers and levels of consciousness belong to the brain alone is a belief of the past. 

The mind body spirit connection is more than just an abstraction or a way to get what you want. It is who you are as a wondrous whole being. When you see yourself as a whole being instead of conglomerate of parts, the philosophy of holistic healing and health make perfect sense. The need to support and care for your whole self becomes as obvious as the need to feed, clothe and wash your body. When you love and care for mind, body and spirit, your whole self will benefit. Others benefit as well. 

Shadow Work.

All of us carry demons within.

Sometimes we catch fleeting glimpses of them, sometimes we witness them in full frontal chaos. But for the most part, we ignore and bury their existence either out of fear, guilt or pure shame.

However, as tempting as it is to suppress our demons, discovering and owning them is a vital part of our spiritual journey.

As authors and psychotherapists Steve Wolf and Connie Zweig note:

Beneath the social mask we wear every day, we have a hidden shadow side: an impulsive, wounded, sad, or isolated part that we generally try to ignore.  The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality, and acknowledging it can be a pathway to healing and an authentic life.

In other words, the Shadow isn’t just the centrally wounded part of us, but it also provides a path towards a more authentic and fulfilling life. In order to heal and grow on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level, we need to practice Shadow Work.

Shadow Work is a practice that helps us to become whole again. It works on the premise that you must 100% OWN your Shadow, rather than avoiding or repressing it, to experience deep healing.

This daunting and often frightening task is a requirement of every person. But you don’t have to go at it alone.

In this long and detailed guide, I will offer you a helping hand. Having studied and worked with the Shadow for years, I’ll share with you some of the best tools, insights, and advice that I have gathered thus far.

Please note: Shadow Work exercises should not be undertaken if you struggle with low self-esteem. Exploring your demons will likely make you feel a million times worse about yourself and may spiral into self-hatred (especially if you’re going through the Dark Night of the Soul). Before doing Shadow Work, I strongly and emphatically encourage you to work on cultivating Self-Love. Shadow Work should only be undertaken by those who have healthy and stable self-worth and a friendly relationship with themselves.

Why Focusing Only on the Light is a Form of Escapism

For most of my life, I’ve grown up firmly believing that the only thing worthy of guiding me was “light” and “love.”

Whether through the family environment I was raised in, or the cultural myths I was brought up clinging to, I once believed that all you really needed to do in life to be happy was to focus on everything beautiful, positive, and spiritually feel-good. I’m sure you were raised believing a similar story as well. It’s a sort of “Recipe for Well-Being” dictated by our culture.

But a few years ago, after battling ongoing mental health issues, I realized something shocking:

I was wrong.

Not just wrong, but completely and utterly off the mark. Focusing only on “love and light” will not heal your wounds on a deep level.

In fact, I’ve learned through a lot of deep inner work, that not only is focusing solely on the “light side of life” one side of the equation, but it is actually a form of spiritually bypassing your deeper, darker problems that, let me assure you, are basically guaranteed to exist.

It’s very easy and comfortable to focus only on the light side of life. So many people in today’s world follow this path. And while it might provide some temporary emotional support, it doesn’t reach to the depths of your being: it doesn’t transform you at a core level. Instead, it leaves you superficially hanging onto warm and fuzzy platitudes which sound nice, but don’t enact any real change.

What DOES touch the very depths of your being, however, is exploring your Shadow.

What is the Human Shadow?

What is the human Shadow? In short, the Shadow is our dark side; our lost and forgotten disowned self. Your Shadow is the place within you that contains all of your secrets, repressed feelings, primitive impulses, and parts deemed “unacceptable,” shameful, “sinful” or even “evil.”

This hidden place lurking within your unconscious mind also contains suppressed and rejected emotions such as rage, jealousy, hatred, greed, deceitfulness, and selfishness.

So where did the Shadow Self idea originate? The concept was originally coined and explored by Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung. In Jung’s own words:

Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.

When the human Shadow is shunned, it tends to undermine and sabotage our lives. Addictions, low self-esteem, mental illness, chronic illnesses, and various neuroses are all attributed to the Shadow Self.

When our Shadows are suppressed or repressed in the unconscious long enough, they can even overtake our entire lives and cause psychosis or extreme forms of behavior like cheating on one’s partner or physically harming others. Intoxicants such as alcohol and drugs also have a tendency to unleash the Shadow.

Thankfully, there is a way to explore the Shadow and prevent it from devouring our existence, and that is called Shadow Work.

What is Shadow Work?

Shadow Work is the process of exploring your inner darkness or “Shadow Self.” As mentioned previously, your Shadow Self is part of your unconscious mind and contains everything you feel ashamed of thinking and feeling, as well as every impulse, repressed idea, desire, fear and perversion that for one reason or another, you have “locked away” consciously or unconsciously. Often this is done as a way of keeping yourself tame, likable, and “civilized” in the eyes of others.

Shadow Work is the attempt to uncover everything that we have hidden and every part of us that has been disowned and rejected within our Shadow Selves. Why? Because without exploring what is hidden within, we remain burdened with problems such as anger, guilt, shame, disgust, and grief.

All throughout the history of humanity, Shadow Work has played a powerful yet mysterious role in helping us discover what is at the root of our individual and collective mental illness, physical dis-ease, and even insanity resulting in crimes of all kinds.

Traditionally, Shadow Work fell in the realm of the Shamans, or medicine people, as well as the priests and priestesses of the archaic periods of history. These days, Shadow Work falls more commonly in the realms of psychotherapy, with psychologists, psychiatrists, spiritual guides, and therapists showing the way.

Do We All Have a Shadow Self?

Yes, we ALL have a Shadow Self.

As uncomfortable as it may sound, there is a dark side within every human being. Why is this the case? The reason why all human beings have a shadow is due to the way we were raised as human beings, often referred to as our ‘conditioning.’ 

“But I’m a good person! I don’t have a ‘shadow’ side,” you might be thinking. Well, the reality is that yes, you might be a good person. In fact, you might be the most generous, loving, and selfless person in the entire world. You might feed the hungry, save puppies, and donate half of your salary to the poor. But that doesn’t exclude you from having a Shadow. There are no exceptions here. The nature of being human is to possess both a light and a dark side, and we need to embrace that.

Sometimes, when people hear that they have a Shadow side (or when it is pointed out), there is a lot of denial. We have been taught to perceive ourselves in a very two-dimensional and limited way. We have been taught that only criminals, murderers, and thieves have a Shadow side. This black and white thinking is one of the major causes of our suffering.

If the thought of having a Shadow side disturbs you, take a moment to consider whether you have developed an idealized and unrealistic sense of self. Signs of an idealized or unrealistic sense of self include attitudes such as:

  • “I’m not like those people, I’m better.”
  • “I have never strayed.”
  • “God is proud of me.”
  • “Criminals and wrongdoers aren’t human.”
  • “Everyone sees how good I am (even so, I have to remind them).”
  • “I’m a role model.”
  • “I should be validated and applauded for my good deeds.”
  • “I don’t have bad thoughts, so why do others?”

Such perceptions about ourselves are unrealistic, unhealthy, and basically delusional. The only way to find inner peace, happiness, authentic love, self-fulfillment, and Illumination is to explore our Shadows.

How is Our Shadow Side Formed?

Your Shadow side was formed in childhood and is both (a) a product of natural ego development, and (b) a product of conditioning or socialization. Socialization is the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.

When we are born, we’re full of vast, innocent, wide-eyed potential. As time goes on, we learn more and more to become a certain type of person. Slowly, due to our circumstances and preferences, we begin to adopt certain character traits and reject others.

For example, if we’re born into a family that shows little interpersonal warmth, we will develop personality traits that make us self-sufficient and perhaps standoffish or mind-oriented. If we’re born into a family that rewards compliance and shuns rebellion, we will learn that being submissive works, and thus adopt that as part of our ego structure.

As authors and Jungian therapists Steve Price and David Haynes write:

But, as we develop our ego personality, we also do something else at the same time. What has happened to all those parts of our original potential that we didn’t develop? They won’t just cease to exist: they will still be there, as potential or as partly developed, then rejected, personality attributes, and they will live on in the unconscious as an alternative to the waking ego. So, by the very act of creating a specifically delineated ego personality, we have also created its opposite in the unconscious. This is the shadow. Everyone has one.

As we can see, developing the Shadow Self is a natural part of development.

But you also formed a Shadow due to social conditioning, i.e., your parents, family members, teachers, friends, religion, and society at large all contributed to the repression of some parts of you.

How?

Well here’s the thing: polite society operates under certain rules. In other words, certain behaviors and characteristics are approved of, while others are shunned.

Take anger for example. Anger is an emotion that is commonly punished while growing up. Throwing tantrums, swearing, and destroying things was frowned upon by our parents and teachers. Therefore, many of us learned that expressing anger was not “OK.” Instead of being taught healthy ways to express our anger, we were punished sometimes physically (with smacks or being grounded), and often emotionally (withdrawal of love and affection).

There are countless behaviors, emotions, and beliefs that are rejected in society, and thus, are rejected by ourselves. In order to fit in, be accepted, approved, and loved, we learned to act a certain way. We adopted a role that would ensure our mental, emotional, and physical survival.

But at the same time, wearing a mask has consequences. What happened to all the authentic, wild, socially taboo or challenging parts of ourselves? They were locked in the Shadow.

What happens as we grow up?

Through time, we learn to both enjoy, and despise, our socially-approved egos because, on the one hand, they make us feel good and “lovable,” but on the other hand, they feel phony and inhibited.

Therapist Steve Wolf has a perfect analogy that describes this process:

Each of us is like Dorian Grey. We seek to present a beautiful, innocent face to the world; a kind, courteous demeanor; a youthful, intelligent image. And so, unknowingly but inevitably, we push away those qualities that do not fit the image, that do not enhance our self-esteem and make us stand proud but, instead, bring us shame and make us feel small. We shove into the dark cavern of the unconscious those feelings that make us uneasy — hatred, rage, jealousy, greed, competition, lust, shame — and those behaviours that are deemed wrong by the culture — addiction, laziness, aggression, dependency — thereby creating what could be called shadow content. Like Dorian’s painting, these qualities ultimately take on a life of their own, forming and invisible twin that lives just behind our life, or just beside it …

But while the Shadow Self may be portrayed as our “evil twin,” it is not entirely full of “bad” stuff. There is actually gold or goodness to be found within the Shadow.

What is the Golden Shadow?

Jung once stated that “the shadow is ninety percent pure gold.” What this means is that there are many beautiful gifts offered to us by our Shadow side if we take the time to look. For example, so much of our creative potential is submerged within our darkness because we were taught when little to reject it.

Not everything within our Shadow is doom and gloom. In fact, the Shadow contains some of our most powerful gifts and talents, such as our artistic, sexual, competitive, innovative, and even intuitive aptitudes.

The ‘Golden Shadow’ also presents us with the opportunity for tremendous psychological and spiritual growth. By doing Shadow Work, we learn that every single emotion and wound that we possess has a gift to share with us. Even the most obnoxious, “ugly,” or shameful parts of ourselves provide a path back to Oneness.

Such is the power of the Shadow – it is both a terrifying journey, but it is ultimately a path to Spiritual Enlightenment or Illumination. Every spiritual path needs Shadow Work in order to prevent the issues from happening that we’ll explore next.

What Happens When You Reject Your Shadow?

When shadow-work is neglected, the soul feels dry, brittle, like an empty vessel. 

S. Wolf

Rejecting, suppressing, denying, or disowning your Shadow, whether consciously or unconsciously, is harmful and dangerous.

The thing about the Shadow Self is that it seeks to be known. It yearns to be understood, explored, and integrated. It craves to be held in awareness. The longer the Shadow stays buried and locked in its jail cell deep within the unconscious, the more it will find opportunities to make you aware of its existence.

Both religion and modern spirituality have a tendency to focus on the “love and light” aspects of spiritual growth to their own doom. This over-emphasis on the fluffy, transcendental, and feel-good elements of a spiritual awakening results in shallowness and phobia of whatever is too real, earthy, or dark.

Spiritually bypassing one’s inner darkness results in a whole range of serious issues. Some of the most common and reoccurring Shadow issues that appear in the spiritual/religious community include pedophilia among priests, financial manipulation of followers among gurus, and of course, megalomania, narcissism, and God complexes among spiritual teachers.

Other issues that arise when we reject our Shadow side can include:

  • Hypocrisy (believing and supporting one thing, but doing the other)
  • Lies and self-deceit (both towards oneself and others)
  • Uncontrollable bursts of rage/anger
  • Emotional and mental manipulation of others
  • Greed and addictions
  • Phobias and obsessive compulsions
  • Racist, sexist, homophobic, and other offensive behavior
  • Intense anxiety
  • Chronic psychosomatic illness
  • Depression (which can turn into suicidal tendencies)
  • Sexual perversion
  • Narcissistically inflated ego
  • Chaotic relationships with others
  • Self-loathing
  • Self-absorption
  • Self-sabotage

… and many others. This is by no means a comprehensive list (and there are likely many other issues out there). As we’ll learn next, one of the greatest ways we reject our Shadows is through psychological projection.

The Shadow and Projection (a Dangerous Mix)

One of the biggest forms of Shadow rejection is something called projection. Projection is a term that refers to seeing things in others that are actually within ourselves.

When we pair projection and the Shadow Self together, we have a dangerous mix.

Why?

Because as psychotherapist Robert A. Johnson writes:

We generally seek to punish that which reminds us most uncomfortable about the part of ourselves that we have not come to terms with, and we often ‘see’ these disowned qualities in the world around us.

There are many different ways we ‘punish’ those who are mirrors of our Shadow qualities.

We may criticize, reject, hate, dehumanize, or even in extreme cases, physically or psychologically seek to destroy those on whom we project our Shadows (e.g., think of countries who go at war with the “enemies”).

None of us are innocent in this area. We have ALL projected parts of our rejected Shadow Selves onto others. In fact, Shadow projection is a major cause of relationship dysfunction and break down.

If we are seeking to bring peace, love, and meaning to our lives, we absolutely MUST reclaim these projections. Through Shadow Work, we can explore exactly what we have disowned.

12 Benefits of Shadow Work

Firstly, I want to say that I have the highest respect for Shadow Work. It is the single most important path I’ve taken to uncover my core wounds, core beliefs, traumas, and projections.

I have also observed how Shadow Work has helped to create profound clarity, understanding, harmony, acceptance, release, and inner peace in the lives of others. It is truly deep work that makes changes on the Soul level, targeting the very roots of our issues, not just the superficial symptoms.

There is SO much to be gained from making Shadow Work a part of your life and daily routine. Here are some of the most commonly experienced benefits:

  1. Deeper love and acceptance of yourself
  2. Better relationships with others, including your partner and children
  3. More confidence to be your authentic self
  4. More mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity
  5. Increased compassion and understanding for others, particularly those you dislike
  6. Enhanced creativity
  7. Discovery of hidden gifts and talents
  8. Deepened understanding of your passions and ultimate life purpose
  9. Improved physical and mental health
  10. More courage to face the unknown and truly live life
  11. Access to your Soul or Higher Self
  12. A feeling of Wholeness

It’s important to remember that there are no quick fixes in Shadow Work, so these life-changing benefits don’t just happen overnight. But with persistence, they will eventually emerge and bless your life.

7 Tips For Approaching Shadow Work

Before you begin Shadow Work, it’s important for you to assess whether you’re ready to embark on this journey. Not everyone is prepared for this deep work, and that’s fine. We’re all at different stages. So pay attention to the following questions and try to answer them honestly:

**Have you practiced self-love yet?** If not, Shadow Work will be too overwhelming for you. I have starred this bullet point because it is essential for you to consider. Shadow Work should not be attempted by those who have poor self-worth or struggle with self-loathing. In other words: if you struggle with severely low self-esteem, please do not attempt Shadow Work. I emphatically warn you against doing this. Why? If you struggle with extremely poor self-worth, exploring your Shadows will likely make you feel ten times worse about yourself. Before you walk this path, you absolutely must establish a strong and healthy self-image. No, you don’t have to think that you’re God’s gift to the world, but having generally “good” self-worth is important. Try taking this self-esteem test to explore whether you’re ready (but first, don’t forget to finish this article!).

Are you prepared to make time? Shadow Work is not a lukewarm practice. You’re either all in or all out. Yes, it’s crucial to take a break from this work from time to time. But Shadow Work requires dedication, self-discipline, and persistence. Are you willing to intentionally carve out time each day to dedicate to it? Even just ten minutes a day is a good start.

Are you looking to be validated or to find the truth? As you probably know by now, Shadow Work isn’t about making you feel special. It isn’t like typical spiritual paths which are focused on the feel-good. No, Shadow Work can be brutal and extremely confronting. This is a path for truth seekers, not those who are seeking to be validated.

Seek to enter a calm and neutral space. It’s important to try and relax when doing Shadow Work. Stress and judgmental or critical attitudes will inhibit the process. So please try to incorporate a calming meditation or mindfulness technique into whatever you do.

Understand that you are not your thoughts. It’s essential for you to realize that you are not your thoughts for Shadow Work to be healing and liberating. Only from your calm and quiet inner Center (also known as your Soul) can you truly be aware of your Shadow aspects. By holding them in awareness, you will see them clearly for what they are, and realize that they ultimately don’t define you; they are simply rising and falling mental phenomena.

Practice self-compassion. It is of paramount importance to incorporate compassion and self-acceptance into your Shadow Work practice. Without showing love and understanding to yourself, it’s almost guaranteed that your Shadow Work will backfire and make you feel terrible. So focus on generating self-love and compassion, and you will be able to release any shame and embrace your humanity.

Record everything you find. Keep a written journal or personal diary in which you write down (or even draw) your discoveries. Recording your dreams, observations, and self-analysis will help you to learn and grow more effectively. You’ll also be able to keep track of your process and make important connections. 

How to Practice Shadow Work

There are many Shadow Work techniques and exercises out there.

In the guide below, I will provide a few to help you start off.

1. Pay attention to your emotional reactions

In this practice, you’ll learn that what you give power to has power over you. Let me explain:

One Shadow Work practice I enjoy a great deal is paying attention to everything that shocks, disturbs, and secretly thrills me. Essentially, this practice is about finding out what I’ve given power to in my life unconsciously, because:

what we place importance in – whether good or bad – says a lot about us.

The reality is that what we react to or what makes us angry and distressed, reveals extremely important information about ourselves.

For example, by following where my “demons” have taken me – whether in social media, family circles, workspaces, and public places – I have discovered two important things about myself. The first one is that I have an issue with control; I hate feeling vulnerable, powerless, and weak . . . it quite simply scares the living hell out of me.

A part of me wants to feel unworthy because that is what I’ve developed a habit of feeling since childhood (e.g., “You’re a sinner,” “It’s your fault Jesus was crucified,” etc.) and therefore, that is what I secretly feel comfortable with feeling: unworthy. So my mind nit-picks anything I might have done “wrong,” and I’m left with the feeling of being “bad.”

Thanks to this practice of paying attention to my emotional reactions, I’ve welcomed more compassion, mindfulness, and forgiveness into my life.

Paying attention to your emotional reactions can help you to discover exactly how your core wounds are affecting you on a daily basis.

How to Pay Attention to Your Emotional Reactions

To effectively pay attention to your emotional reactions (I call it “following the trail of your inner demons”), you first need to cultivate:

1. Self-awareness

Without being conscious of what you’re doing, thinking, feeling and saying, you won’t progress very far. Journaling is a wonderful way to cultivate more self-awareness.

If, however, you’re fairly certain that you’re self-aware (or enough to start the process), you will then need to:

2. Adopt an open mindset

Have the courage and willingness to observe everything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and ask “why?” What do I mean by everything that makes you feel “uncomfortable”? By this, I mean that, whatever riles, shocks, infuriates, disturbs, grosses out, or terrifies you, you must pay attention to. Closely.

Likely, you’ll discover surprising patterns emerging in your life. For example, you might be outraged or embarrassed every time sex appears in a TV show or movie you like (possibly revealing sexual repression or mistaken beliefs about sex that you’ve adopted throughout life).

Or you might be terrified of seeing death or dead people (possibly revealing your resistance to the nature of life or a childhood trauma). Or you might be disgusted by alternative political, sexual, and spiritual lifestyles (possibly revealing your hidden desire to do the same or even an inner bigoted side).

There are so many possibilities out there, and I encourage you to go slowly, take your time, and one by one pick through what you place importance in.

The moment you emotionally react to something is the moment you have given that thing power over you. This practice of open awareness helps you to regain perspective, understanding, and access to your Shadow.

2. Artistically Express Your Shadow Self

Art is the highest form of self-expression and it’s also a great way to allow your Shadow to manifest itself.  Psychologists often use art therapy as a way to help patients explore their inner selves.

Start by allowing yourself to feel (or draw on any existing) “dark” emotions. Choose an art medium that calls to you such as pen and pencil, watercolor, crayon, acrylic paint, scrapbooking, sculpting, etc. and draw what you feel.

You don’t need to consider yourself an “artist” to benefit from this activity. You don’t even need to plan what you’ll create. Just let your hands, pen, pencil, or paintbrush do the talking. The more spontaneous, the better.

Artistic expression can reveal a lot about your obscure darker half. Psychologist Carl Jung (who conceptualized the Shadow Self idea) was famous for using mandalas in his therapy sessions.

3. Start a Project

The act of creation can be intensely frustrating and can give birth to some of your darker elements such as impatience, anger, blood-thirsty competitiveness, and self-doubt. At the same time, starting a project also allows you to experience feelings of fulfillment and joy.

If you don’t already have a personal project that you’re undertaking (such as building something, writing a book, composing music, mastering a new skill), find something you would love to start doing.

Using self-awareness and self-exploration during the process of creation, you will be able to reap deeper insights into your darkness. Ask yourself questions like, “What am I feeling and why?” Notice the strong emotions that arise during the act of creation, both good and bad. You’ll likely be surprised by what you find!

4. Write a Story or Keep a Shadow Journal

Write a story where you project your Shadow elements onto the characters – this is a wonderful way to learn more about your inner darkness! 

If stories aren’t your thing, keeping a journal or diary every day can shine a light on the darker elements of your nature. Reading through your dark thoughts and emotions can help you to recover the balance you need in life by accepting both light and dark emotions within you.

5. Explore Your Shadow Archetypes

We all have different varieties of Shadows within us, also called Shadow Archetypes. These archetypes are sometimes defined as:

  • The Sorcerer
  • The Dictator
  • The Victim
  • The Shadow Witch
  • The Addict
  • The Idiot
  • The Trickster
  • The Destroyer
  • The Slave
  • The Shadow Mother
  • The Hag
  • The Hermit

Here are my thirteen classifications which are based on my own self-observations and analysis of others:

1.  The Egotistical Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: arrogance, egocentricity, pompousness, inconsiderateness, self-indulgence, narcissism, excessive pride.

2.  The Neurotic Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: paranoia, obsessiveness, suspiciousness, finicky/demanding/compulsive behavior.

3.  The Untrustworthy Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: secretive, impulsive, frivolous, irresponsible, deceitful, unreliable.

4.  The Emotionally Unstable Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: moody, melodramatic, weepy, overemotional, impulsive, changeable.

5.  The Controlling Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: suspicious, jealous, possessive, bossy, obsessive.

6.  The Cynical Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: negative, overcritical, patronizing, resentful, cantankerous.

7.  The Wrathful Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: ruthless, vengeful, bitchy, quick-tempered, quarrelsome.

8.  The Intolerant Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: uptight, rigid, racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, obstinate, uncompromising, inflexible, narrow-minded.

9.  The Glib Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: superficial, cunning, inconsistent, sly, crafty.

10.  The Cold Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: emotionally detached, distant, indifferent, uncaring, unexcited.

11.  The Perverted Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: masochistic, depraved, sadistic, vulgar, libidinous.

12.  The Cowardly Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: weak-willed, passive, timid, fearful, untrustworthy.

13.  The Immature Shadow

Defined by the following qualities: puerile, childish, illogical, superficial, vacuous.

Keep in mind that the above Shadow Archetypes are by no means exhaustive. I’m sure that there are many others out there which I have missed. But you are free to use this breakdown to help you explore your own Shadows.

You’re also welcome to add to this list or create your own Shadow Archetypes, which I highly encourage. For example, you might possess a judgmental and dogmatic Shadow who you call “The Nun,” or a sexually deviant Shadow who you call “The Deviant.” Play around with some words and labels, and see what suits your Shadows the best

6. Have an Inner Conversation

Also known as “Inner Dialogue,” or as Carl Jung phrased it, “Active Imagination,” having a conversation with your Shadow is an easy way to learn from it.

I understand if you might feel a twinge of skepticism towards this practice right now. After all, we’re taught that “only crazy people talk to themselves.” But inner dialogue is regularly used in psychotherapy as a way to help people communicate with the various subpersonalities that they have – and we all possess various faces and sides of our egos.

One easy way to practice inner dialogue is to sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and tune into the present moment. Then, think of a question you would like to ask your Shadow, and silently speak it within your mind. Wait a few moments and see if you ‘hear’ or ‘see’ an answer. Record anything that arises and reflect on it.

It’s also possible to carry on a conversation with your Shadow using this method. Just ensure that you have an open mindset. In other words, don’t try to control what is being said, just let it flow naturally. You’ll likely be in awe of the answers you receive!

Visualization is another helpful way of engaging in inner dialogue. I recommend bringing to mind images of dark forests, caves, holes in the ground, or the ocean as these all represent the unconscious mind. Always ensure that you enter and exit your visualization in the same manner, e.g., if you’re walking down a path, make sure you walk back up the path. Or if you open a particular door, make sure you open the same door when returning back to normal consciousness. This practice will help to draw you effortlessly in and out of visualizations.

7. Use the Mirror Technique

As we’ve learned, projection is a technique used by the ego to help us avoid the Shadow parts within that we’ve disowned (knowingly or unknowingly). However, we don’t only project the deeper and darker aspects of ourselves onto others, we also project our light and positive attributes as well.

For example, you may be attracted to another person who displays fierce self-assertiveness, not realizing that this is a quality that you secretly long to reunite with inside yourself.

Another common example (this time negative) is judgmentalism. How many times have you heard someone say “he/she is so judgmental!” Ironically, the very person saying this doesn’t realize that calling another person ‘judgmental’ is actually pronouncing a judgment against them and revealing their own judgmental nature!

The Mirror Technique is the process of uncovering our projections. To practice this technique, we must adopt a mindful and honest approach toward the world. We need to be prepared to “look in the mirror” and own that which we have disowned!

Another helpful mindset that we can adopt is that other people are our mirrors. In other words, we can understand that those around us serve as the perfect canvas onto which we project all of our unconscious desires and fears.

To start this practice, examine your thoughts and feelings about those you come in contact with. Pay attention to moments when you’re emotionally triggered and ask yourself, “What might I be projecting?”

Remember that it’s also possible to project our qualities onto another person who really does possess those same qualities. Psychologists sometimes refer to this as “projecting onto reality.” For example, we might project our rage onto another person who is, in fact, a rage-filled person. Or we might project our jealousy onto another who genuinely is jealous.

Ask yourself, “What is mine, what is theirs, and what is both of ours?” Not every triggering situation reveals a projection, but more often than not, they do. Also look for things you love and adore about others, and uncover the hidden projections there.

The Mirror Technique will help you to shed a lot of light onto Shadow qualities that you have rejected, suppressed, repressed, or disowned.

Shadow Work Q&A

Here are some commonly asked questions about Shadow Work:

What is shadow work?

Shadow Work is the psychological and spiritual practice of exploring our dark side or the ‘shadowy’ part of our nature. We all possess a place within us that contains our secrets, repressed feelings, shameful memories, impulses, and parts that are deemed “unacceptable” and “ugly.” This is our dark side or shadow self – and it is often symbolized as a monster, devil, or ferocious wild animal.

How to do shadow work?

There are many ways to practice shadow work. Some of the most powerful and effective techniques include journaling, artistically expressing your dark side (also known as art therapy), using a mirror to connect with this part of you (mirror work), guided meditations, exploring your projections, and examining your shadow archetypes.

What is the spiritual shadow?

There is light and darkness within all areas of life, and spirituality is not exempt. The spiritual shadow is what occurs when we fall into the traps of spiritual materialism – a phenomenon where we use spirituality to boost our egos and become arrogant, self-absorbed, and even narcissistic. The spiritual ego arises out of spiritual materialism.

Own Your Shadow and You Will Own Your Life

If you’re looking for serious, deep, authentic, and long-lived healing in your life, Shadow Work is the perfect pathway to experiencing profound inner transformation.

Remember that what you internalize is almost always externalized in one form or another.

Own your shadow and you will own your life.