Shadow Integration and Healing

Why is it so hard to be spontaneous and authentic and be our essential self  There may be a big distortion between what you believe your true nature is and who you truly are.  Making the choice to live in an authentic life and allow who you really are to show up will bring you in direct contact with your shadow.

Part of the explanation lies in how we identify ourselves with beliefs and ideas that are quite different from the limitless reality of the world.  Many have come to identify who they are and what defines them through this distorted filter.


The shadow lives in our unconscious and is where we place all parts of ourselves that we cannot accept.  Often develops in early childhood and belongs to all facets of ourselves that we’ve rejected.  Can be qualities, needs, abilities, feelings that have been denied, disowned and pushed out of conscious awareness.  Shadow parts are a result of trauma and come out of confusion or terror.

Unable to make sense of it you fragment or split in trying to deal with the threat.  Fragmenting occurs when the child tries to deal with the rejection, criticism, shame and emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Jung introduced the theory of the shadow in which we inherently possess a light and dark part within our personality.  It is natural to hide our weaknesses and problems from others. It’s human nature to deny the existence of our unwanted and disliked aspects.

The Shadow is the Seat of our Creativity

Within it lies everything there is about us and our potential to live in an expansive way.  Basically any trait or quality that was consistently rejected or suppressed by our caregivers we reject as well in order to maintain our connection with them.

Projection is a defense mechanism where we unconsciously transfer our own thoughts and feelings to someone else.  Unable to see it you project onto another judging or admiring the quality in them

Unconsciously rejecting people believing they’re rejecting you.  Abandoning others before they abandon you.  It could stem from childhood where you felt rejected by your parents so you learnt to reject others before you could be rejected.

It’s a feeling, attitude, or behaviour that is ours, but we unconsciously dislike, and experience it as someone else’s to protect our ego.

We think of these repressed parts as the violent, selfish, and entitled aspects of our self but can include creativity, courage, wisdom, and receiving love and kindness.  Remember you can’t see anything in someone else that you don’t already possess.  All that you admire or idealize in another are held within you.


The shadow is never the problem.  The problem is our failure to acknowledge and assimilate it.  Facing our shadow or disowned self can come as an unwelcome encounter.

We have defenses in place to reject the idea of the shadow.  We discover that denying certain qualities does not make them magically disappear.  We can’t use an affirmation to make the shadow vanish.

You never approach the shadow self with the goal of destroying it.  It is an important and valuable aspect of who you are.


The shadow includes aspects you’re ashamed of and hide.  These parts can be immature and primitive.

You become angry over something trivial, feel despair over minor mistakes, and detest somebody who has the unacceptable trait that you’re refusing to see in yourself.  Resistance has to be overcome.  Wanting to eliminate negative qualities so that you can be good is a problem.

You’re made up of dark and light and need both to be balanced and to live a good life.  Whatever we see in someone else that triggers a reaction is a reflection of something inside us that needs to be owned.  The shadow gains power each time we deny its existence.  It grows each time we dwell on negative feelings.  It wants to control your life.

Working with the Shadow

Start noticing when you blow things out of proportion.  Observe judgments and charges that come up in response to others, these can be a reflection of those aspects that you’re denying.

Upset when your friend gets a promotion?  Is their success threatening?  Frustrated waiting in a long line at a store?  Could it be entitlement surfacing?

Look at those characteristics you admire in others.  Who do you look up to?  It will give you clues. The people you hold in high esteem also represent qualities you have disowned.

Once you look at your hidden shadow feelings, they lose their power over you.  You’ve freed your energy and life force. Where you place your awareness has become conscious and is no longer hidden. You no longer repress the shadow aspects and are able to live a conscious, authentic life.

Development Steps

Letter Writing Exercise   

One letter to someone you have an intense reaction to who you dislike, judge.  It can be family, colleague, friend, or a public figure.  Describe what you don’t like about them and why you dislike them.  (e.g., I don’t like the way you need to always be in control, or how you talk down to people or how aggressive you are)

The second letter to someone you admire.  Write everything that you love and admire (e.g., I love how adventurous you are, your creativity, your empathy for others)

Then read the letters aloud in front of a mirror as if they are addressed to you.  Substituting every you for I.  You might even want to discuss this with a friend.  Having someone witness can allow you to see even deeper into your own shadow tendencies.  You could reciprocate for your friend.


Take a few moments of stillness.  Follow the breath in and the breath out and place your focus on your heart chakra.

Hold an aspiration of offering up the qualities you’ve discovered both the dark and the light.

Ask “May all imbalances be balanced and any confusion be illuminated.  May the dark and light sides be balanced and may I use the gifts hidden in shadow for the benefit of all sentient beings.”

Then sit quietly for a few minutes.


Karen works internationally with people and businesses interested in psychological and spiritual growth and interested in transforming their lives and organizations. 

Karen Johnson, SEP Cht | 416.732.2661

Metaphysical Shamanic Healer | Somatic Trauma Healing  |  Energy Medicine Healer

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