Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Triumphantly befriending the inner shadow: How and why you ought to free it of repression | Editor's Letter

Coming face to face with the snarling misfit you're not proud of and trying to hide from the world is a gruelling journey, one many subconsciously reject. But unfortunately, repressing our inner shadow (which we all have) can lead to dangerous consequences. The main being that if left unattended, it can manifest into something much trickier to tackle. 

If you're wondering what the fuck is going on, our inner shadow is made up of all the parts we dislike/hate about ourselves. The attributes we tuck under rugs and try only to show when we are alone or around those closest to us. 

While we all have traits we are not proud of, heck, even ashamed of, avoiding confrontation with ourselves is not the answer. Instead, we should integrate our inner shadow. Stare it cold in the face, confront its lies, temptations, and toxic reoccurring patterns that interrupt the daily happiness it so significantly costs.

If ignored, its price tag includes, but is not limited to, self-loathing/poor self-esteem, self-deceit and deceiving others, depression, anxiety, offensive behaviour to others and yourself, unhealthy relationships, self-sabotage, self-absorption, and an inflated sense of ego.

An untamed inner shadow is not fun, but nothing holds you back once it is comforted. If friendly with you, it will fight by your side peacefully.

I write the above to encourage you as I am a walking example of shadow work under construction. Before embarking on the quest to become besties with the Gremlin lurking in every corner, I was consumed daily by cravings to snort substances, drink bleakly, and fuck as if consequences didn't exist. 

Was she easy to become friends with? No, I would have done anything to end her at one point. But in understanding my inner shadow, comforting her, and counselling her, I learned that the pain and temper were a mask for grief and sorrow. The Gremlin just needed a friend, that's all.

And it was being a friend to all of me that tamed the shadow inside this writer. 

It is now two years into my journey with shadow work, and I am; on a journey of sobriety (limiting my alcohol intake); my nose is clean except for the boogers I neglect, my relationships are all thriving, and I spend my days running my businesses and keeping active (mainly mentally speaking playing with hobbies I adore). Other perks included losing six stone and not being mad at myself when I gained a stone back as I'd listened and comforted the binge demon. 

I learnt that the inner shadow is much like our inner child, broken after years of neglect and repression. Thus, the way to fix that is by giving it a voice, providing your shadow life via a lot of self-awareness, guidance (intuition, ask yourself what's best for you to do, always) and courage because it's not going to be easy. Nothing good ever comes without a price. 

Nonetheless, if you put the time and patience into yourself, the benefits speak for themselves; you will eventually come out of the tunnel to be greeted by a more confident you who has accepted every part of yourself. The good, the bad, and the damn ugly. After that, you live freely, with clarity, a prideful perk in your step, and authenticity intact, thriving. 

Does sound cool? Right? Here's how to start practising shadow work for yourself.

Warning: Before embarking on this path, ask yourself if right now is a good time for you to take on such (what can be) a triggering and upsetting journey at first before the going gets good. As that's the harsh yet oddly beautiful truth. As always, the beginning is the hardest it is going to be.

Enjoying this article and intrigued to read more like it? Check out:

- Facing the shit show: What to do about your mental health if you're struggling to talk about it | Editor's Letter

- Let successful & strong women date who they want without judgement | Editor's Letter

- Don't let burn-out be the thing to destroy you after so much hard work | Editor's Letter

Ask yourself what you need

Now, if you are new to having an inner dialogue with yourself, here's how it goes. First, find your avenue where you can understand yourself best. What I mean by this, for example, is for me, I write my feelings down to understand them as it resonates best. For another friend of mine, it's journalling pro and con lists. Another speaks to herself in the mirror as if she would like a friend (I also do when a notebook isn't at hand). For many, it's by journalling or meditating or even thinking on a walk with headphones in. Whatever it is, at first, it will feel somewhat bizarre to speak or write directly to your past/present/future self. Thankfully you have nothing to stress over as only you will read/experience those conversations unless you choose to share with others. So, don't hold back. Get deep. The most important part of this step is asking yourself, "do I need help from a professional such as a therapist?". If you feel you can not tackle your shadow alone, have no shame, I couldn't do it alone and still can't! Therapists can help work through the piles of darkness with you and spot patterns that can then help you break. Sometimes, even if we talk to ourselves, we can't conjure up a solution for a problem we don't see - however, a therapist can.

Get the looking glass out and put it on your shadow

The next step is to get used to recognising when your inner shadow shows up. To do so, monitor when you spot habits popping up that don't make you feel good. Ask yourself, what triggered it? How can you comfort and help how you are feeling? Think of how you would act if a friend's shadow popped up, causing them to feel negative; you'd help relieve their worries, so ease yours. Get used to spotting the signs so, ideally, if you can, you can avoid what triggers. An excellent way to do this is to notice when you're projecting. For example, I used to get really pissed off with other drivers. My anger only caused me an issue. It stunted my concentration and temperament while driving, which is dangerous; accidents happen most in moments of thoughtless anger. So, I got the looking glass out and put a spotlight on what triggered or if I was projecting. When placed under a microscope to see what triggered the rage, it became apparent I was projecting as I only got road rage when I was running late. Suppose on time, I'd drive whilst singing, not a care in the world for what all the plonkers around me are doing (other than keeping a cautious eye out for them), whereas if driving to a destination knowingly late. In that case, I'd be a ball of rage. The solution is always to leave earlier. Don't put yourself in a situation that triggers your shadow if possible. Not always easy to do, but once you start doing kind things for your inner shadow, it becomes addictive, and you want to make those better choices for yourself.

Quit the self-shame

Just quit it. It's incredibly useless. Having an inner shadow is like processing a beating heart; you have to own one; it's 'normal' to be human. Replace shaming yourself with kind words of affirmations. Such as, 'I believe in you', 'I understand you', 'You deserve happiness'. Again, inner dialogue can feel awkward but push through. All the rockstars, athletes and CEOs do it for a significant reason. You'll soon find out why.

Get creative with it

The inner shadow has one adoring trait; it makes for wacky creativity. Art in any form, whether writing, making music, painting etc., helps the inner shadow express itself. In return, you can develop a better understanding of yourself. It will also create masterpieces if you let it out to play.

I hope these tips help, and if they do, I would love to hear all about your journey! You can find me on my Instagram (Here) or Twitter (Here).

Thank you for reading, and I wish you and your inner shadow a marvellous May.

Written by VavaViolet's Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Sophie Blackman.


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