Shadow work is simple working with the hidden self, your "shadow", and coming to know, understand and intergrate it.
Most people expect working with their shadow to be "hard", "painful", "tough", or whatever. Getting in and digging out all those buried hurts, weaknesses, pains, slights, angers, fears, jealousies and whatnot. Bringing them to the fore, poking at them, see what sets them off, yada, yada...
Except it's more than that.
Shadow work also deals with bringing out the hidden virtues as well. It means finding the strengths that you were taught weren't "appropriate" for your race, gender, religion, culture, or age, digging up the sense of humor buried by a too serious family, or even dredging up a love of words games and puns stomped flat by a world wrapped up in TV.
Ultimately, shadow work is strengthening the areas where we want to improve, not just dredging up the painful stuff. The idea is to integrate the hidden with what is known, to make the weaknesses into strengths by tempering them with other known and hidden components. Sometimes our shadows aren't even all that hidden; they're just not under our control. Some of what you need to do is not so much "find them" as learn to work *with* your own mind, and its shadows, not against it.
Darkwork is a part of shadow work, but only a part.
One person's Light is another person's Darkness. For example, for me, my anger is very much both. A pollyanna type can get badly hurt by not seeing the risks of what he/she is about to do. Like fire, it is a tool or a weapon, can aid or destroy. A lot of emotions are that way, and a lot of what we have hidden from ourselves in our shadows is that way. For pessimists and cynics, optimism, hope, and cheerfulness are shadows too.
Most people are already "in touch" with their light side - they spend most of their life trying to hide their dark under it. But not all of us. When we dig out our dark, we don't get to bury our light and hide. Yeah, it's easier to hide behind a prickly exterior, the dark brooding cynic, but it doesn't always serve our needs well, any more than the perpetual optimist cheerleader of life is well equipped to handle it when things *don't* go well, and they need their anger or their cynicism to protect themselves.
Your light is how you temper your dark, your dark is how you keep your light from blinding you to what is real, or tripping you on rainbows. The balance between them is a good way to get a solid sense for reality, with all of its subtlety an nuances.
Shadow work is as much of a journey of discovery and integration as it is simple unburying of old or "unhealthy" baggage from your past. It is part of truly knowing who you are, and, more importantly, melding it all together from a bunch of pieces and fragments left by nature, nurture and hard won experience. Sometimes that means rediscovering the joy you felt long ago in some simple thing, or taking up an old hobby as a buffer against the stress of day to day life.
When you work with your shadows, everything, and I mean everything, is up for examination and re-evaluation. Even something as "obvious" as why you like a cerrtain type of food can give you hints of how your mind processes things, and what triggers what emotions.
This work by Ravan Asteris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.