Shadow, shadow self, shadow beliefs… maybe you came across those words many times. In context, you may have encountered them under other more “poetic” form, such as the “skeletons in your closet” 🙂
Shadow beliefs are unconscious limiting beliefs, that are at the root of all our behaviors, choices, self perception and more! They limit our array of possibilities even for the rational choices. Also, they influence how we perceive ourselves and restrain our expression towards others – our personality. And all that while we are being unaware that something else inside of us is “pulling the strings”.
Wow! That is something that really hit me, the first time I was ready to deal with this information. The first time I encountered the term “shadow” it was as early as 19 years old, but I did not recognize the value it brings. Simply, it was not yet the right time. Can you recall something similar in your experience? Something that was so close and accessible to you all the times but you just gave it zero attention? Well, if you have read until here, then IT IS the time to seek in more about yourself. Read further for some of the best resources I found until now.
So how do those unconscious beliefs get to pull the strings in our lives? Simple. They are programs that have been taught to us from an early age. Our parents, our teachers, older siblings, society in general – imprint in us “the rules” to follow for the rest of our lives.
For example – check if any of those apply to your life experience: you have to go to school, get good grades so you can get a job to have a good life. You have to behave nice at school so that mommy and daddy give you their love and affection. You have to get good grades so that your teachers/professors respect you and appreciate you. And now come the really powerful ones: you have to sacrifice for your family in order to be a good parent/spouse; you have to put everybody else’s needs before your own, so that you deserve their love… ouch! Those last two are my own and they brought rivers of tears when I put them into words.
Now I want to share with you how I started to deal with the shadow. I will not lie, most of the times you don’t solve it just by snapping the fingers. It’s essential that you understand it is there and that is just the beginning. Here is where the inner work starts. In literature, across time, an expression has become popular to explain the period we go through to disempower the shadow. Maybe you’ve come across the term “dark night of the soul”. You may feel lonely, hurtful, maybe depressing but it is a part of life you have to go through. Yes you can choose to escape it, but it is only temporarily. Life will continue to bring forth to you the same challenge on and on, until you have no choice but to face you own shadow.
It took me about ten years to understand why I had recurring problems on the same theme: working to exhaustion – up to the point where I had panic attacks, a harsh episode of about 4 months with daily crisis. I got over them with an enormous amount of inner work that took me 18 months; then several years later I developed a chronic fatigue – I still hadn’t learned the lesson: that I am worthy of receiving a compensation for my work, and appreciation from others by doing my job the best way I can. I felt that giving my best during the working hours wasn’t enough. I was overdoing it. Again, it took a lot of work to actually have a healthy relationship with my work.
Two of the best resources I encountered that offer tools to deal with the shadow self are offered by Debbie Ford and Nancy Levin. It’s amazing how much soul each one of them put in their work and how transformational it can be if you approach it with an open mind when its’ time has come.
Debbie Ford (1955-2013) was an American self help author, teacher, lecturer and coach. Her work is extensively covering the field of personal transformation and the human psyche. In my experience so far, her book “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” is one of the deepest, most honest and inner exposing works I have found on the topic. Going through her book, in silence and with an open mind can bring miracles into your life, while you allow yourself to discover why you do what you do. The main idea throughout the book is to face your weaknesses, not deny them, not try to hide them. You may find that these aspects of you that you get to perceive as a weaknesses have a “present” for you. The shadow self tries to give you something in order to protect you.
Like with all the top resources for self development, I recommend you to have both the audiobook and the ebook or paper book. Debbie Ford uses meditations which are very effective if you are in a silent environment – try going outdoor, in a park or in you garden if you have one. Her voice is very soothing but also firm, in a way. My impression was you can actually feel how compelling it is to start healing your shadow, in her voice.
Also, what is useful in this work is that she offers exercises that require you to write down the things you find about yourself. This is very useful, because you are in a deeper state of relaxation, in a trance. And the exercise is even more effective when you go through your notes maybe two or three weeks later. Then, when what you noted down tells you even more about yourself. You find how your shadow belief affects many areas of your life, sabotaging you when you need to make the best decisions to serve you.
I recommend making this a gift to yourself, along with 2 hours a weeks, when you have quality time with yourself and go through this book. You can even find the first chapter for free online, so you can try for yourself the true value of this book.
The second resource I would recommend on shadow work is developed by Nancy Levin. I also mentioned Nancy Levin’s work in the post about worthiness. I’ve mentioned her in many recommendations because she really has incredibly powerful content! Nancy Levin is an author, speaker and a certified integrative coach; I was amazed that in her book, Worthy, she takes you through a very in-depth session with yourself. The exercises are carefully chosen, exploring every slice of the elephant, to say it so. The shadow self has many facets. You may not be aware of all when you start exploring. My surprise at what came out while going through the exercises she proposed was immense! I was thinking: “oh, wow! That’s it! I finally got to the end of this!” only to discover in the next exercise that there was more!
I’m so excited about this material, “Worthy” because it was the most effective I have tried on the subject of shadow self. Period. Why? Because it also has stories, the author wrote it pouring her soul out in a sensitive way AND it has practical exercises at every chapter. So you can actually solve your own issues, not just read about other people’s shadow belief. I have both the book and the audiobook, and I run them in parallel.
What I find even more valuable is that the book is primarily aimed at our perception about deserving wealth. Yes, the money issues! But money is just one expression of the way we receive compensation for our contribution. Very closely linked is our need for appreciation, praise, recognition and love. And the exercises help you uncover truths about all of those mingled in your life path until now.
As I come across other resources I love, I’ll update this post. Until then, try it for yourself and tell me how it worked for you. What else have you tried in working on your shadow self?
All the best!