How to Deal With Your Shadow Emotions (and Why We Should)01.11.2021
We learn in childhood that controlling certain emotions is part of living in a society. For a variety of reasons, including shame, we suppress certain emotions, such as fear, anger, jealousy and selfishness. These negative emotions, no matter how suppressed, are still there and create what Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, called a “shadow selves” with “shadow emotions.”
What can “shadow emotions” reveal about our lives?
Even though we might not like our shadow emotions it is important that we recognize them and acknowledge them. They often reveal important information about our lives. Claire Nicogossian is a psychologist and author of Mama, You are Enough: How To Create Calm Joy And Confidence in the Chaos of Motherhood. In an article for MindBodyGreen she wrote, “Emotional experience show us what to pay attention to in ourselves, in our relationships or in our experiences.”
It includes emotions that we consider positive like joy, happiness, and gratitude. But it also includes emotions that we consider to be negative such as shame, guilt and fear.
Nicogossian’s article explains that emotions are not good or bad. They are data points about our lives, and how we experience them. To understand what we need, it is important to pay close attention to these emotions.
How to understand your shadow emotions
Making sense of your shadow emotions, is often called “shadow work”. Danielle Massi is a licensed family and marital therapist and the owner/founder of The Wellness Collective. She explained that “Shadow work” is all about the unconscious mind. This is the stuff we suppress and hide from ourselves.
Nicogossian says that shadow emotions can become more intense and louder if they’re not managed or paid attention to until we have to deal with them.
Shadow work is a process that allows you to take the time to examine and label your emotions. This is about identifying the emotions you feel and analyzing them in detail. What does grief look like, for example? What is the cause of your grief? Is it specific to an event or mixed with other past events? Is there a reason for your grief?
After you have identified your emotions and labeled them, it is important to pay attention to what your thoughts are about these emotions. What are your thoughts about loss and grief? Do you blame yourself for not being stronger than you are? Do you question the truth of your feelings? Do you find yourself comparing this loss to other losses? Do you feel anxious or worried? Are you feeling angry or insecure?
These feelings can all lead to guilt or shame, and we may instinctively try to suppress them. It is important to let go of judgments about shadow emotions, in order for us to understand them better.
Nicogossian points to the fact that our shadow emotions can become louder and more intense if they are not managed or paid attention to. Eventually, we will have to deal with them.
In other words, shadow emotions are exactly what they are. While understanding them is important, we don’t have to act on them.
Shadow work has many benefits
Understanding your shadow emotions can help you understand yourself and improve your life. You can tap into your intuition and get benefits. This is possible because you need to listen to all of your thoughts and emotions. We can only deal with and confront the emotions that we are open to.
Shadow work can also help us see that not all thoughts and emotions we think are shameful. This is especially true for those who struggle with low self-esteem or suppress positive emotions and thoughts. Shadow work can help you reclaim your talents and develop a healthy self-image.