What is shadow work? and how can observing our dreams help us with this therapy process and deep inner healing? Read on to find out!
There has been a massive health movement this past decade. I’m not talking about eating healthier or exercising, although this has been happening as well. Just as importantly, many of us have been focusing on improving our mental health.
We’ve been doing this by addressing personal past traumas, generational traumas, adjusting daily mental habits and practising living in the now with mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breath work, journaling and much more.
I always say Dream Journaling is just as beneficial, sometimes even more so than regular journaling. One of the reasons is because Dream Journaling greatly assists with Shadow Work.
What is Shadow Work?
‘Shadow Work’ was a term coined by the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, who became the founder of analytical psychology, and whose work is still relevant and highly regarded today.
The Shadow Self refers to the aspects of ourselves that have been suppressed into our unconscious mind. These aspects can be emotions, desires, aspirations, ideas, instincts, impulses, weaknesses, perversions and embarrassing fears.
Commonly, most of these aspects are negative, however, some of them can also be positive. Both are suppressed either due to one’s own anxieties, low self-esteem and the pressures of society and/or religious beliefs telling us they are inappropriate or unacceptable.
Examples of what can be Suppressed
A couple examples of the positive things we might suppress are: suppressing joyous emotions about a job promotion because we noticed a work colleague was jealous. Another is to suppress the desire to explore a fashion style which would better express who we truly are because we fear it would be seen as too weird and unacceptable by others.
Unfortunately, it’s quite common to suppress our emotions and experiences related to traumatic events due to the fear of being judged or shamed, insufficient support, or being too overwhelmed to deal with it at the time.
Why it’s important to connect with our Shadow Selves
All that we deny ourselves, hide away and suppress, make up our Shadow Self. Like the dark side of the moon, it is a part of the moon, and it wouldn’t be a whole moon without it. Our Shadow Self is a part of us and shadow work is the process of acknowledging the Shadow Self, accepting and healing what is there so we can acknowledge and love our WHOLE selves. This then enables us to live life in line with our true selves and our true desires to live a much fuller and joyful life. We also get to unlock our untapped potential and creativity which is no small thing.
The Benefits of Shadow Work
When left unhealed, the suppressed aspects which make up our Shadow Selves affect our behaviour, biases, decisions, reactions and emotions, particularly in those moments when we react or respond to things in a seemingly irrational or inappropriate way for reasons we’re not entirely aware of. These reactions are referred to as triggered reactions. The beginning of a healing journey is to identify these triggers and to learn what suppressed aspect, or inner wound is causing this trigger.
Shadow Work and Dreams
Recording and analysing our dreams is a means of connecting with our unconscious and our Shadow Self. We often have dreams which can help us identify the underlying causes of triggered responses. This process is literally bringing information from the dark unconscious into the light of consciousness so we can heal it, accept it, love it, integrate it and be more whole.
You may need assistance with the analysis of your dream, as Gail Godwin said, “Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language”.
Neuroscience has found the most active part of the brain during REM sleep is the association cortex and the secondary visual system which are responsible for generating internal imagery. This discovery explains why interpretive approaches to understanding dreams can be successful.
Dreams are expressions of a different kind of intelligence whose natural language consists primarily of image, metaphor, and allegory. Procuring the assistance of someone, such as myself, who has studied and has experience in understanding the language of dreams, can assist you in gaining a far deeper insight into what the dream is trying to convey.
Do I need to journal every dream?
It’s important to note, not all dreams contain expressions from the Shadow Self. There are many different types of dreams and they come to us when they are relevant and the information is needed.
When we are regularly recording our dreams we increase our dream recall and our chances of recording the important information sent from our Shadow Self.
If you haven’t done Dream Journaling before, check out this post for all the information you’ll need to get started.
Do keep a dream journal? Have you embarked on a shadow work journey? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.