by Catherine Liggett
Imagine being so intimate with yourself that you feel whole and fulfilled, whether you’re alone or with others.
The world no longer triggers or irritates you. You live fully liberated as your unique, authentic, and powerful self.
This is the magic of shadow work.
As a practitioner and teacher of shadow work, I notice that many people have heard of this mysterious, vaguely sinister-sounding process, but have no idea how to actually use it.
The philosophical grandfather of shadow work, Carl Jung, lived in the ivory tower of Germanic abstractions, and providing simple, practical guidelines just wasn’t his thing.
The good news is that we have a beautiful opportunity to create practices of our own.
Enter my soul purpose, and the topic of this article: To teach simple, straightforward shadow work techniques that will change your reality from the inside out, create more intimacy with yourself than you could possibly imagine, and unleash your own unique magic.
Our shadow refers to the aspects of ourselves that our caregivers did not deem “good” when we were children.
We unconsciously disowned these vital parts from our identities to gain approval and thus survive as dependent beings.
Every single human being has a shadow, because all of us had caregivers. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be alive.
Opposite the shadow is our ego, which is who we think we should be, and how we want others to see us.
The ego is our internalized “good girl / boy” whereas the shadow is the “bad girl / boy.” We need the ego in order to survive as social creatures.
The tragedy of the inevitable process of shadow-making is that we also disown parts of ourselves that were simply not validated by our caregivers, such as our genius, wild talents, intuitive gifts, and so much more.
The shadow is where our magic is. It’s where the aspects of us have fled that are the most unique, the most powerful, and thus the most precious.
We are all here on this planet to live as our fullest, most radically authentic selves, and shadow work is the path to discovering what that truly means.
It’s going deep into the dark gold mine to find your brilliance.
What you find will astonish you.
This brings us to the tools themselves. What follows are original methods I’ve developed, inspired by my own healing journey of nearly twenty years.
I call these methods “Explore,” “Expand,” and “Encounter.”
My view of shadow work assumes a few things about reality:
Everything you encounter is a mirror of you.
In other words, we create our realities every moment of the day, and what we see, feel, and sense around us is a continuous projection of our internal landscape, both conscious and unconscious- mostly unconscious.
It also assumes that everything in the universe conspires for your wholeness.
This means that challenging experiences are often “wake up calls” that something that is unconscious needs integrating in your conscious psyche.
That’s what shadow work is all about.
So, use these methods when you feel an emotion that seems to take you over, when you notice that you’re obsessed or repulsed by someone or something, or you want to explore the root cause of an emotional, behavioral, relational, or even physical challenge.
A good way to practice these on your own is to record yourself slowly reading the instructions below, with lots of pauses built in, so you can relax into the process and be guided by your own voice, instead of having to look up every few seconds to read the next steps.
For the deepest experience, use these tools in order, as they naturally build on one another. Or, you can use any one on its own.
Just make sure you settle yourself in a private, quiet location for at least 20 minutes before diving in.
Close your eyes, and take a few breaths deep into your body. Allow whatever you are exploring to be vividly alive in your imagination (AKA your “I-magic”).
If it is a person, see them across from you.
If it is a situation, see yourself as if you’re living it.
As you breathe, pay attention to your emotions, and your body. Gently ask yourself the following questions, and allow answers to intuitively arise:
- What are the feelings or bodily sensations that arise? There could be one, or many. Name what you can.
- Do these feelings have color(s), texture(s), shape(s) or image(s)?
- Are these feelings located in your body? If so, where?
After you’ve completed this exploration, you have a feeling signature. We will follow this feeling signature into the next step.
Visualize the feeling signature intensifying with the breath, like you’re blowing on embers of a fire to add power to the feeling.
Feel it intensifying with each breath, and allow it.
Notice resistance in the body, and do your best to soften it.
Apply the “Explore” steps to any resistance you experience.
Visualize the feelings taking up even more space- expanding beyond your body, filling the room, the city, and beyond, until the end to expansion feels natural. You might even see them going out into space.
3) Encounter (Dialoging)
Imagine yourself as a sovereign queen or king, or perhaps as your
Higher Self. Feel yourself strong and standing tall, knowing that nothing can hurt you. Breathe into this strength.
Allow the feeling signature from steps 1-2 to become a figure or a face with whom you can dialogue. However it shows up as a first impression is perfect.
From your position of sovereignty, ask the feeling figure to say whatever it needs to say. For example, “You may speak whatever you need to say now.”
Notice how the feeling figure responds. It may talk, or behave in a certain way.
Allow it to do or be however it shows up. This is the most important step. You must continue to allow whatever happens, including violence.
Know that it cannot harm anyone, including you. It must express itself to its fullest, potentially most violent potential.
Whatever happens, say “What else?” very neutrally (This may continue for a long time.)
Tell it, “You belong” or “You belong to this kingdom.” Notice how it responds. Say it multiple times, until it seems to accept it.
From a compassionate place, ask it, “What do you need from me?” See what it says or does in response.
From your position of invincible sovereignty, imagine yourself meeting its needs however it says.
Continue until this process feels closed to you.
These tools are powerful magic. With practice, they will become second nature as you move through life noticing your internal responses, and seeing them as portals to the deepest healing imaginable.
The more you practice them, the more peace you’ll find within yourself, and in your life.
What used to trigger and annoy you just won’t have the same impact anymore, because you’ve dug deep into the roots of your reactions.
And because you’re free from your reactions, you’ll be free to discover and grow your magic.
You’ll begin to discover who you really are, apart from your reactive existence.
Furthermore, those who own their shadows are the safest people in the world, as well as the most authentic and magical.
All judgment and violence in the world comes from the unconscious projection of shadow material onto others.
The more we explore and accept the disowned aspects of ourselves, the more we discover true peace and compassion.
More than anything, our world today needs people who are willing to own their shadows, and unleash this profound magic on the planet.
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About the Author:
Catherine Liggett is a Shadow Worker, channel, and guide. She offers private shadow work sessions both online and in person in the Seattle area, and teaches the popular Shadow Work 101 live online course. Catherine speaks and gives workshops regionally, and has a thriving private practice. You can connect with her and learn more about shadow work via Catherine’s website, catherineliggett.com, her YouTube channel, and her Facebook page.
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