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.
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 them (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 self 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.
Twelve 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:
- Deeper love and acceptance of yourself
- Better relationships with others, including your partner and children
- More confidence to be your authentic self
- More mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity
- Increased compassion and understanding for others, particularly those you dislike
- Enhanced creativity
- Discovery of hidden gifts and talents
- Deepened understanding of your passions and ultimate life purpose
- Improved physical and mental health
- More courage to face the unknown and truly live life
- Access to your Soul or Higher Self
- 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.
Seven 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. If you struggle with severely low self-esteem, I do not encourage you to try Shadow Work. In fact, I warn against it. 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 you’re God’s gift to the world, but having average 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 are either all in or all out. Yes, it is important to take a break from it 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 be 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 is 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 is essential for you to realize that you are not your thoughts on Shadow Work to be healing and liberating. Only from your calm and quiet 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 is easy for Shadow Work to 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 draw, your discoveries. Recording your dreams, observations, and 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.