Hi there, Carolyn Elliott, founder of WITCH magazine here.
After decades of non-stop “positive thinking” focus in mainstream spiritual discourse, few people understand how doing shadow work (i.e., consciously integrating the darker side of our souls) can radically improve your manifestation results.
And by manifestation results I mean your ability to generate tangible “wealth” in all forms – satisfying relationships, work that you love, healthy habits, a secure foundation in life – and yes, fancy possessions and experiences that you enjoy.
Let’s now take a close look at the way that shadow integration work can make it possible for you to shift the circumstances of your life for the way-better, all without a single affirmation or Vision Board.
1. Shadow work changes your fate.
“Until you make the unconscious, conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it Fate” – said Carl Jung, the pioneering Swiss depth psychologist.
In simple terms, your shadow is your unconscious.
(Jung sometimes referred to the unconscious as having a whole cast of characters including the anima, animus, senex, etc. – but at other times he just referred to the whole unconscious as “the shadow” – because it’s the shadow is the BIG part of you that just isn’t in the light of your conscious ego awareness – it’s unconscious.)
Your shadow is all the very taboo desires, emotions, and attitudes that you reject as being “so not you” and so you push them out of your normal awareness.
For example: Desire drama and scarcity? That’s so not me!
I want peace and wealth! Obviously!
… yet those denied and disowned desires for drama and scarcity still exist in most of us, and they’re beautiful and legitimate desires in their way —
…. but since we’ve shamed them as “not at all part of me! no way! yuck!” they go straight to the unconscious shadow where they gain strength and creative ability to shape our lives.
So the clincher is this: until you make your taboo desires, emotions, and attitudes conscious – they will operate below your normal awareness – unconsciously – and from there, they’ll subtly influence all of your choices in life, and thus all of the treatment that you receive from life – your “fate.”
Think about it: don’t we all have a friend who always seems to end up in a relationship with a new person who turns out to be exactly like her awful ex? And maybe her awful ex is exactly like her awful father?
This friend of ours isn’t on a conscious mission to find someone awful to date – she’s probably intending to call in “true love” to her life. She might be doing affirmations every day in front of the mirror like “I now have a wonderful partner!” …
… but those affirmations do no good at all because she has an unconscious, taboo desire for awfulness which is far more powerful than any lame affirmation.
And that unconscious, taboo desire is subtly controlling her choices and thus dictating her fate.
The only way for this friend to stop the cycle of choosing awful partners would be for her to become aware of and totally own her taboo desire for awfulness — and the only way she would ever let herself become aware of that taboo desire would be if she stopped shaming it.
Ceasing to shame our taboo desires is a tall order. Most human beings won’t do it. It’s hard. And that’s why most humans will continue to get what they always got – why all their “manifesting” efforts go sour.
The good news is: if you’re among the small percentage of people who is willing to do the humbling work of owning up to your previously-unconscious, taboo desires – you can change your fate dramatically.
2. Shadow work leads you to see yourself as already-fulfilled in a genuine, not-fake way.
Imagine that this hypothetical friend of ours summoned the courage to see that it was no accident that she kept getting into relationships with awful dudes who resembled her mean father.
Let’s imagine that she became willing to see that somewhere within her, she had a highly-taboo, highly-charged desire to experience that awfulness.
And let’s further imagine that she decided she was going to stop shaming that desire, to get on the side of that shadow desire and celebrate it – simply because it was a part of her, and all of our parts deserve radical celebration and acceptance.
Well, at that moment our friend would have a flash of revelation: she would realize that she wasn’t a helpless, miserable being dealt a cruel hand by life — instead, she would see that her current relationship, with all its awfulness, was perfectly fulfilling her shadow desire for awfulness!
In that moment, our hypothetical friend would experience herself as a fulfilled person, whose deepest desire was being totally and graciously met.
Ironically, her new identity as a fulfilled person would no longer be a “vibrational match” (to use Law of Attraction speak) to her awful relationship…
…and she would likely very easily find the strength to walk away from that awful relationship – and go on to create a genuinely new relationship that reflected “fulfillment” instead of “awfulness.”
See how this works?
With the power of shadow integration work, our friend has made a genuine leap in her identity. Through unflinching honesty, she’s realized at a fundamental level that her deep desire is already fulfilled – she doesn’t have to “pretend” that she’s a fulfilled and happy person.
When she stops shaming and instead celebrates her long-standing, already-existing taboo shadow desires, she profoundly realizes that she is a fulfilled and happy person.
Which then gives her the energy and strength to create a new pattern. She has succeeded in making her unconscious desire conscious, so it no longer rules her fate.
3. Shadow work makes the nature of desire clear.
It’s common in Law of Attraction circles for people to talk about the way that desire creates reality, but often it seems that we get the opposite of what we desire, doesn’t it?
Here’s what the Law of Attraction folks often don’t explain quite clearly enough: desire does create reality, but your unconscious desires (the ones you don’t yet fully know that you have!) have much more creative power and electricity behind them than your often weak-sauce conscious desires.
Think about it: you might have a conscious desire to wake at dawn and do yoga and subsist on green smoothies — but maybe you hit “snooze” till ten and wake up and have a chocolate croissant for breakfast.
Why? Your unconscious desire – for “being naughty” perhaps – is way more powerful than your conscious desire for virtuous behavior.
As you may have noticed, shaming the part of you who wants to “be naughty” will get you exactly nowhere. It’ll only cause you to further disidentify with that desire, driving it further into your shadow, where it has more strength.
I suggest that the way to get the power of your desire for “naughtiness” to lose strength is to begin by celebrating it, approving of it, and enjoying it. That way the desire becomes conscious – and thus loses its “oooooomph.”
4. Shadow work helps you to stop feeling “at the mercy of cruel fate.”
Once you do this kind of shadow work for a long time and get very good at recognizing where your taboo unconscious desires are at work…
… you gradually start to see how just about every circumstance in your life that you “don’t like” — is actually passionately loved by a previously-unconscious part of you.
And once you really grok this – well, it’s impossible to see yourself as at the mercy of terrible forces beyond your control.
Instead, you begin to realize exactly how powerful you actually are – and with this comes a deep sense of confidence and peace.
5. Shadow work perfects your bullshit detector.
After you’ve spent a long time getting cozy with how much a shadowy part of you adores your own “negative” patterns and situations…
… it’s a lot harder for you to get pulled into the “poor me” stories that folks use to manipulate.
This doesn’t mean you’ll stop being a generous and compassionate person – it just means you’ll have a much clearer insight into the shadow desire dynamics of everyone around you.
So you’ll be better able to help people to get in touch with their strength rather than enabling their weakness.
6. Shadow work gives you access to power you didn’t know you had.
Think about all the energy that you might currently pour into resisting and feeling sorry for yourself about certain situations in your life.
What if that energy was totally liberated and directed towards creating beauty?
Well, that’s what shadow work can do for you. It puts you in touch with a level of pure power that was previously unknown, unconscious to you. And so you have way more energy, clarity, and inspiration.
7. Shadow work liberates your sexual energy.
All magic is sex magic.
Even if your act of manifestation doesn’t involve actual physical sex or masturbation, it still involves the electric energy of sex which is life energy, “the forces that through the green fuse drives the flower” – as the poet Dylan Thomas said.
When you get into shadow work, you start to realize that it’s possible not only to celebrate and approve of your previously-unconscious, previously-shamed taboo desires…
… but to get off on them.
And when you do this, your sexual energy, and therefore your energy for magical manifestation, goes through the roof.
8. Shadow work alchemizes fear.
Everything you think you’re afraid of – the scariest things in life – including death – I promise you, some hidden part of your being desires those scary things…
…. just because those scary things are part of the range of experience and our human souls happen to be curious about all experiences, not just the safe and wholesome ones.
When you realize this, gradually you’re no longer able to be as afraid as you used to be.
You realize that even the worst things that could happen to you would actually be fulfilling to some part of your shadow…
… and you see that even the emotion of fear itself is pretty darn entertaining and pleasurable in a weird way, like the kind of pleasure that comes from a scary movie or tv show.
Once your fear entertains you more than it scares you, you’ve become remarkably free. Plus, those “scary things” in your field of possibility are no longer being energized by fear (read: desire) … and are then less likely to show up.
9. Shadow work increases your ability to receive.
Think about this: every “good” thing in life has a downside to it.
A new career with lots of money, a wonderful new partner – can all expose you to envy.
If you’re afraid of the sensation of being envied, it’s likely that you’ll block yourself from receiving those “good” things.
The more you do shadow work and get comfy with how much secret fun you have with envy yourself, the more you’re ok with experiencing the sensation of being envied by others…
… so you won’t keep yourself small any longer out of fear of offending someone else. You’ll let yourself receive a lot more.
10. Shadow work removes your denial.
“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt,” my mother likes to say. And it’s so true. Denial – downplaying or hiding something that’s going badly in our lives because we can’t face up to the reality of it – is a common human game.
The more you do shadow work, though, the more you don’t need denial.
You don’t need denial because you’ve become big enough to give non-shaming love to everything that shows up in yourself and in other people.
This means: you can face and handle the reality of life. And ultimately, that’s what all magic and manifestation is: intimacy with reality.
If this essay resonates with you and you’d like to learn more about shadow integration work, I invite you to join our WITCH email list using the forms on this site so we can stay in touch.
image: Alice and the Madhatter – Lasercut shadow puppets by IsabellasArt