The Mechanics of Shadow Work: A How-To Guide

As I’m embarking on this monumental task  of tackling the cultural shadow of the US, I realize that I’m missing a practical guide to how this will work.

Here’s the step by step guide to shadow work:

  1. Face the shadow. Look at, acknowledge and learn about this rejected aspect of self / history. Turn it over in your mind. Sit with it.
  2. Accept the shadow. Be able to say “this is mine”. Own it.
  3. Have empathy for yourself and others
  4. repeat

This is not a one-time process. This is an ongoing unpacking and bringing things out into the light.

My blog posts are aimed at #1 for anyone who is reading them. I’m shining a light in the dank, dark basement of our collective histories and saying “ew.”  I’m going to show where those shadows are seeping into our everyday lives, how they are harming people today.

Your job, lovely reader, is to be strong enough to sit with what I show you. Look into the depths of the darkness and say “Yeah, that’s mine.” Your job sucks. It’s hard. You’re going to have to take ownership of some awful stuff.

Then, together, our collective job is one of empathy. Empathy for the people impacted by this crap. Empathy for ourselves and our own – very natural-  rejection of the shadow.

Oh Yeah? Well, How Do You Know What’s In My Shadow?

Eh, I don’t. Don’t get your underoos out of joint.

I do have a pretty good handle on what’s in our collective USA shadow right now, though.

Key hints for shadow identification (in yourself) that I’m translating to cultural levels:

  • Projection — What do you loathe about other people? Who really rubs you the wrong way?  What is it about that person you can NOT stand?  Those are key points for shadow investigation
  • “Fate” — When something surprises us out of the blue (like Trump winning the election *cough* surprised a lot of liberals *cough*)  it is seen as “fate” – and that is almost always a symptom of something we’ve rejected in ourselves coming up to bite us in the ass.
  • Unacknowledged History — This is actually where I’m starting for the cultural stuff, but it’s not a bad place to look personally either. What things happened that you just ignore? What memories do you invalidate within your own mind?

For the cultural shadow, this is the method I’ve decided to use:  Look at the unacknowledged history of the United States and follow that line into the present. How do we as a nation project our own history onto other countries? How do we show surprise when that aspect of our history comes back as “fate”?

I’m going to get this horribly wrong.

Feel free to tell me how I’ve mangled it. Webpages are editable!

I’ve got to try to squint though my own privilege to do this work, and I’m bound to fail.  I’m not a Jungian analyst, I’m just a student of the field of thought.  I’m not a historian, so I’m killing myself with source material to ensure that I’m getting the basic facts right.

What I am is American, and relatively smart, and really good at seeing how these particular dots connect. What I am is a bringer of hope, and it’s my job as a writer to wrap words around this stuff.

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9 thoughts on “The Mechanics of Shadow Work: A How-To Guide

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