Shadow Integration: The Complete Shadow Work Process in Four Steps
Shadow integration is like the 3-2-1 process in that it involves work with shadows and reowning and integrating these. What makes it distinctive is that it applies some different techniques and does not require connecting a given shadow to a particular person. I’ll explain this more clearly as I outline the steps. The shadow integration process works in the following way:
1. Choose a shadow that you want to work with: I usually go with whichever shadow is coming up most strongly in my mind at the time, but you can also choose ones you notice recurring in your life. The shadow you choose can be any thought-pattern or feeling-pattern at all. Thoughts connected to fear, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, insecurity, clinging, aversion, hatred, anger, sadness, depression, apathy, and other such strong emotions work particularly well.
2. Face it with the method of two-way attention: Focus and direct your attention to both the shadow and the clear, awake space of awareness in which it is arising. Really go into the shadow; don’t resist it or distance yourself from it. Dive into it. Feel it out. Feel it fully. Try to taste its unique flavour. Be present with it and aware of it and how it is affecting you.
3. Interrogate the shadow: Begin the shadow interrogation process. Begin by asking simple, general questions and move on to more precise, detailed questions about the shadow and its various aspects. For example, you can ask any of the following questions: What is this thought/feeling pattern? How does it make me feel? Why does it make me feel that way? Is it based on any assumptions? Why do I think this thought-pattern is true? Why do I hold on to it? Do I have any underlying motivations here that I’m not facing? Am I repressing anything? Why do I resist this shadow? Is it related to an idealized self-image, a way I would like to be or people have told me I should be? How does this thought-pattern affect how I behave, think, feel? Does it limit me in some way? What would life be like if I didn’t hold on to this thought pattern? How did I develop this shadow? Does it have any roots in any of my past experiences or things people have told me? Did I learn this pattern? How? You can ask as many questions as you wish. The answers that come up in your mind can lead to further questions. Approach the questioning organically; let the shadow dictate the questions. Ask as many or as few as you wish in this state in order to attain your objective which is to gain as much and as deep insight into the shadow as you can. When you are doing the shadow interrogation, it may be helpful to write out your questions and answers or to communicate them to another person if you are doing group shadow work.
4. Own it: We tend to deny and project and push our shadows away. But at the end of the shadow work process, what we need to do is the precise opposite of that, namely, own the shadow. Accept it fully as being the truth of your present experience, the reality of what you are living now. As Kelly Sosan Bearer puts it, “Embody the traits … Use 1st-person language ( I, me, mine). This may feel awkward, and it should. The traits you are taking on are the exact traits that you have been denying in yourself. Use statements such as “I am angry,” ”I am jealous,” “I am radiant.” Whatever you are repressing; take it on, accept it and embody it. Fill in the blank with whatever qualities you are working with: “I am__________.” This is truly the integration stage of the shadow integration process. Here, you resolve the gap that the resistance created; you see through the apparent duality.
This is the shadow integration process in a nutshell: (1) choose the shadow, (2) face it with two-way attention, (3) interrogate it, and (4) own it and embody it. The beauty of this process is its power; it works for any shadow, no matter how weak or powerful, how insignificant or important. Shadows are cast by our feelings, thoughts and experiences. They shape our experience. When we resist them, deny them, repress them, and ignore them, we do not escape them; they continue to limit and drive us and make us suffer. Shadow integration is a way of mending the tears in our mental fabric that these repressions and resistances create. It is a way of recovering our fundamental wholeness. It is a way of working through inner conflict into the peace beyond it. It is a way of working through our suffering to a greater sense of joy for our lives. It is, in short, a movement from the painful fragmentation of our inner lives to the wholeness of real, authentic integration.
Read More from Adam Pearson at http://philosophadam.wordpress.com/