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Last summer, I had the honor of participating in the 5-day shadow work workshop in New York. Shadow work was something I had been doing for a while. Namely, since the book The Tools® found me in 2016 (yes, I deliberately say found me, because I believe it came to me with the deeper purpose of spreading the work of Phil and Barry). Thanks to all of Phil and Barry’s webinars, podcasts, master classes and videos and reading several other books on the topic, I had a pretty clear picture of shadow work according to the Tools® guys. And I practiced my ass off.
However, the workshop with Barry and Kristan (Sargeant) brought so much more depth, and since then, shadow work has become an integral part of my daily routine. Every day I connect with my shadow(s). I wouldn’t know how to live and coach without them anymore and I don’t know how I ever did it. Well, actually I do know, because until I did shadow work, I usually felt like an imposter and never good enough for my job as a coach. It is also very clear to me now why I felt partially closed off from myself for so long.
The connection to your shadows are the missing pieces of the whole puzzle that is you. Without shadow work, you are dependent on the opinion and approval of others, and until you accept your shadow, it will put you in situations where you are triggered. And part x makes it worse, by putting your biggest insecurities (shadows) under a magnifying glass.
Triggers are signals that the shadow is desperate to connect with you. It’s knocking on your door. However, what we often do is keep that door closed. Then we look for other pieces of another puzzle and we try to punch them into our own puzzle. Which, of course, never fits (permanently). Examples include snacking, drinking, scrolling or shopping when we feel bad. Wanting to distract from the unpleasant feeling.
When it comes to feeling whole, something we are all constantly searching for, I don’t think that is possible without integrating your shadow(s). Feeling whole, by the way, is not a constant state either, but always an invitation to consistently practice your shadow work, to feel it as much as possible. We have to do the work. Day in and day out. It is your spiritual fitness. And if we want to stay fit, we have to keep training.
Spirituality is often seen as being light, positive and only good. But there can be no light without darkness, no positivity without negativity and no good without evil. Through the darkness you come to the light. That is true spirituality, facing and connecting with the dark, rejected, evil sides of yourself.
Moreover, you will discover that they make you into a person who truly dares to be himself. All-in: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
“Your first marriage is with your shadow,” as Barry Michels so aptly said in the workshop. So the first relationship you have to maintain is with your shadow. Those words changed my life, which is why I want to share them with you here. I no longer have to seek approval from anyone else except my shadow(s) and the choices I make as a result are, by definition, always the right ones.
There is such a strong bond now, that sometimes they are even a “pain in the ass” with everything they want and ask of me. Examples include when a shadow yells me out of bed early in the morning, making me put a bottle of wine back on the shelf in the supermarket, making me sign up for (and go to) ballet classes (something I haven’t done in 38 years AND it’s so much fun!) and authentically expressing myself with everyone who crosses my path (sometimes getting weird looks: who are you?!).
Shadow work makes you independent of other people’s opinions. When I notice that I am touched by a negative opinion, I know that I am no longer connected to a shadow. By now I have practiced so much that I am extremely alert to it and immediately signal when this is the case, so I immediately reconnect and give her what she needs.
So shadow work is the key to expressing yourself freely, being vulnerable without experiencing a deep-seated fear of rejection. After all, you can only experience this when you reject your self (I). We always look for connection and vulnerability in others, but within ourselves we often put up a wall for fear of judgment. The shadow helps you break through that wall and experience true freedom within yourself. It is the path to true self-love.
And one of the biggest benefits for me: I never feel alone and lonely when I’m with my shadows. We also have a lot of fun together!
Do yourself a big favor: do your shadow work.
Interested in shadowing in the manner of Phil Stutz and Barry Michels? Book a free introductory session here.