What does spiritual shadow work mean and why is it important for spiritual seekers to be aware of this darkness on the path. In the view of this writer far too few spiritual seekers are made aware of the challenge on the path that is the need for the integration of the shadow.

If you search of spiritual groups on Facebook related to becoming a Lightworker there are a huge number. If however, you search for groups related to integration of the personal and spiritual shadow there are all too few.

Everyone has a shadow side. The family you are born into has a shadow side.  The nation you are born into has a shadow side. For many of us most of our energy goes into keeping a tight lid on those emotional aspects of our lives that we have learned are not acceptable.

Without the integration of those shadow aspects of ourselves that we disapprove of deny or suppress we keep in place the blocks to the realisation of our fullness potential both personally and trans-personally.

Spiritual Shadow Work Menu

This will be a fairly lengthy article, but I hope that it will be of value and invite you to explore this issue of personal and spiritual shadow work that many who begin the spiritual journey and continue the spiritual journey remain unaware off.

What is Shadow Work?

what is shadow work

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost – The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri

On the spiritual journey many of us will lose our way.  In the middle of the journey of my life I came to myself within the dark wood of alcoholism.

On the spiritual journey there is much written about how to become a Lightworker and much less on how to become one who works with what the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung called “the shadow self.”

In simple terms the shadow self is that aspect of ourselves that we disapprove of and hide from both ourselves and others.

We all have a shadow side.  Our nation has a shadow side, and the human collective has a shadow side.

In The Gospel of St Thomas the master Jesus refers to the need to integrate those unacknowledged aspects of ourselves when he said

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. – Gospel of Thomas, verse 70

How the Shadow is Formed

how the shadow is formed

You must suffer me to go my own dark way – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

Having a shadow self is a part of the journey of being human. We have all to some degree gone over to the dark side. (Star Wars movie)

This was a necessary part of our ability to survive what was a traumatic part of our upbringing when everyone of us made the unconscious choice between attachment and authenticity.

One of the best teachers about how the shadow self gets formed is Hungarian-Canadian physician and author Gabor Mate.

I recommend you take the time to listen to his short YouTube video on the issue of attachment versus authenticity.  This is information that everyone on the journey of spiritual integration would benefit from listening to.


The first need is for attachment.  Attachment is contact, connection and love. Without that the human child does not survive. Any mammalian child or alien child will not survive. As soon as you get past the level of reptiles, the reptile is hatched, the mother is long gone by then and the reptile infant either lives or dies but there is no attachment to a parenting figure.

Let’s begin by saying that the shadow self is not bad.  When you begin to work with the shadow self you are inviting the experience of feeling uncomfortable.

How the Shadow is Maintained

how the shadow is maintained

The truth is that there is no such thing as a negative emotion. – Colin Tipping

Let’s begin by saying that the shadow self is not bad.  When you begin to work with the shadow self you are inviting the experience of feeling uncomfortable. This is a necessary part of integration.

Having listened to the video on Attachment versus Authenticity above which shares with you how the personal shadow is created let’s now look at the different ways in which this personal shadow is maintained.

The integration of the shadow involves the willingness to integrate feelings that are in some way denied or blocked.

Your task is not to search for Love but to remove all the blocks to its realisation – Rumi.

In the video below featuring the author Colin Tipping (Radical Forgiveness – A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to Heal Relationships, Let Go of Anger and Blame, Find Peace in Any Situation).

The Scream – Edvard Munch

This understanding of how many of us deal with our emotional energy should be part of every school curriculum.

If this were part of our learning what it is to be human, we would both individually and collectively be better able to integrate those aspects of ourselves that we feel unacceptable, but which need integration.

Here are the 10 ways in which we maintain the shadow energies within ourselves.

  1. Denial.
  2.  Suppression.
  3. Repression.
  4. Rationalization.
  5. Amouring.
  6. Spiritual Bypassing.
  7. Positive Thinking – Denial
  8. Humour/Jokes
  9. Co-dependence.
  10. Addiction.

Given the length of time I have been on the spiritual journey (50+ years) I have engaged in most all of the above practices to avoid the experience of integrating the personal shadow.

I recommend that you listen to this YouTube video by Colin Tipping as it will educate you on how the shadow is maintained.

What is Personal Shadow Work?

personal shadow work

Pandora’s Box – John William Waterhouse – 1898

Personal shadow work is where you consciously focus on the integration of the separate sense of the personal self.

This is essentially a journey of psychological and emotional integration.

In art and mythology this journey of integrating the shadow is symbolised by the opening of Pandora’s box.

In relation to the path of Chakra Yoga this is the integration of the lower three chakras related to security, relationship, and personal power.

  1. Root Chakra – Security
  2. Sacral Chakra – Feelings.
  3. Solar Plexus Chakra – Personal Power

The quote by the mystical Islamic poet Rumi recognizes that the work of yoga and self-realisation as the work of removing blocks to the flow of the Divine through you that is the real source of healing.

Your task is not to seek for Love but to remove all the blocks to its realisation – Rumi

The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart spoke of this healing power when he said: –

When the higher flows into the lower the lower is transformed by the higher – Miester Eckhart – Christian mystic 1260-1328.