Shadow Work

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Anais Nin

What Is Shadow Work?

Shadow Work® is a personal growth process which brings your hidden powers out of the shadow and into the light. We all have these hidden powers within us. But we don’t always allow ourselves to use them. We have all been hurt, and we have learned to hide parts of ourselves so we don’t get hurt again.

Shadow Work is a way to explore the inner landscape and discover the gold that is hiding in the shadows. It is a way to become more and more who we really are. Shadow Work is a way to face the hurt, the fear, the anger, and learn how to live more fully. Most of all, it is a way to love ourselves for the journeys we have chosen.

As a friend, colleague, and someone who has worked directly with Junie as a client, I can say without any hesitation that she is a master at what she does.  I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice for over 12 years.  I have rarely met a teacher and healer as skilled, grounded, empowering and thorough as June Moon.  Her depth of understanding Shadow Work and her compassion and skills as a leader make her a safe and transformational guide.  I am eternally grateful for the work I have done with Junie, and I refer clients to her with complete confidence that they will have a healing, life-changing experience. Shadow Work gave me quick access to feelings inside me that no one else had been able to help me to feel.  Wow – it was truly remarkable and gave me great momentum on my healing path.


What Is A Shadow?

The term “shadow” was first used by Carl G. Jung to describe the repressed or denied part of the Self. Robert Bly popularized this idea in A Little Book on the Human Shadow. Bly says that we were each born into a “360-degree personality.” As infants we expressed the full breadth of our human nature, without editing or censoring.

As we grew up, however, we learned that certain slices of our 360-degree pie were unacceptable to the people around us. Maybe we were shamed for crying or punished for being angry. Maybe we were ridiculed for wanting attention or acting proud of ourselves. So, we learned to repress those slices of our pie; the ones that got us hurt. According to Bly, it was as if we threw these unacceptable qualities over our shoulder into a bag, which we’ve been dragging around behind us ever since.

In Shadow Work, we define “shadows” as all the parts of ourselves we have stuffed into the bag. These may be “positive” parts or “negative” parts. Our shadows are all those parts we have split off, repressed or denied — the parts of ourselves we are afraid to show.

We believe it is proper and useful to have a shadow bag, and to keep some shadows in the bag. But when the weight of the bag slows us down and prevents us from being who we really want to be, it is time to open it up. It is time to find a safe place to look into the bag, examine its contents, and see what needs to come back out.

At first I was “afraid” of the co-gender group, but now after, it is a part I really liked about it. The safety of the container was perfect, the energy created by this circle was….(no words) Awesome. It will help me immensely. Joy eluded me before- it was unattainable. This weekend allowed me the space, the forum, the process to be in JOY!!! Yeah.

– Julie Light

How Do I Recognize My Shadows?

You can identify your shadows by looking at what you project onto others. When you deny a trait in yourself, you tend to be very aware of that trait in other people. In the twelve-step tradition, they say, “If you spot it, you got it.” This means that you are most aware of those traits in others which reflect your own shadows. You may react irrationally to one of these traits in someone else, becoming unduly annoyed and blowing things all out of proportion.

You can also notice the traits which you admire the most in others. Who do you look up to? Who are your idols? We often project our golden shadows onto others, and get stars in our eyes, because these people represent the qualities we have disavowed in ourselves out of a false sense of modesty. You could say that we paint other people with our shadows, for better and for worse.

Another way to spot your shadows is to look for things you find yourself doing by accident. No matter how hard you try to keep your bag sealed, your shadows may leak out in a way that seems beyond your control. For example, you may promise yourself that you’re going to spend more time with your family, when you actually spend more time at work. You may find yourself jumping into a questionable relationship, when you know that this person isn’t right for you. You may ignore your own rules about eating, smoking or drinking. When you repeat a pattern of behavior involuntarily, it is a sign that your shadow is running the show.

The shadow workshop was an amazing unfolding. Your journeys, knowledge and passion for healing bridged my past and today in a way I could never have imagined. It was my next step! The archetypes are becoming real energy tools. I am processing what I don’t even know if that makes any sense. One last thing…I am so grateful for all the other women in the circle. Their incredible presence and full participation made it possible for me to feel safe and for the first time allow others to witness my feelings and theirs in such a vulnerable way which was pretty unbelievable. There is an energetic shift that I can’t begin to describe. I’m so happy to have been part of the circle.

– Thank you Donna Wine

Why Would I Do Shadow Work?

We believe that the core of every shadow contains a nugget of strength and power. Your shadows are like a gold mine of creative, useful energy. However, you may find that when a shadow has been in the bag for some time, it becomes crusty and a little smelly. When you decide to open the bag and examine some of the material hidden in there, you’ll want to be in a safe place. Your everyday life might not be the best arena for breaking in a new shadow. For example, you might not want to start expressing your repressed grief when you are at work. You might not want to experiment with your anger in your relationship. Your shadows can mess up your life; that’s why you put them in the bag in the first place.

Shadow Work creates a place in your life to let things out of the bag slowly, choice-fully and safely. In Shadow Work you can experiment in a safe environment first, without the fear of real-life consequences.

You might not want to dive into your shadows alone either. Trained facilitators can help you keep it safe and help you break the job down into manageable parts, so you don’t lose your perspective. Shadows can be very seductive. A trained coach can help you remember the overall goals you have chosen for yourself.

The work was significant and will help me to re-shape my behaviors and therefore my life. I liked the safe container we all created.

– Rosemary Szponarski

How Is Shadow Work Done?

You can choose to experience Shadow Work in one of two ways. First, you may choose to attend a Shadow Work Seminar, where you can work in a group with other people who have come to examine their shadows together. Here you can also share the path with others, who will help motivate you with acceptance and encouragement.

You may choose to learn from watching how others process their shadows. When you see others finding the courage hidden within their fear, or the power in their anger, you may be able to apply that learning directly to your own situation.

Or, secondly, you may choose to experience Shadow Work in a coaching context. You may prefer the privacy of working one-on-one with a Certified Shadow Work Coach, where you can be coached over the phone, or choose from sessions lasting from several hours to several days.

Powerful frame work, expertly facilitated that created an airtight container of safety to enable deep work. Seeing the complexity and impact of my family setting in a way that allowed me to release old, useless voices that hold me back gave me freedom, peace and self-nurturing.

– C.R.

I highly recommend the shadow workshop that Mark and June have presented.For me it was a powerful workshop, a “breakthrough experience.”  I consider them both highly skilled shadow workers.  They work well together, and I quickly felt I could trust them in my process.

– John Wallace  8/1/09

Shadow Work® is a registered trademark of Shadow Work Seminars, Inc., Boulder, Colorado. © Copyright 2010-2012 Alyce Barry