This post is for you if you…
- want to engage in shadow work but are scared of the emotions
- are looking for an easy and actionable process to deal with intense emotions
- desire to see growth in a short period of time
The Purpose of this Post
I am no stranger to emotion. As your typical Cancerian, I am intensely passionate and feel things deeply, often retreating into my shell to avoid the ferocity. Because of this, at times I feel as if I have to deal with a one two punch when I work with my shadow: acknowledging it exists in tense moments and riding the wave of emotion so powerful I feel as if I might die.
a person born under the sign of Cancer.
“a Cancerian can be highly emotional and moody”
As a result, I have adopted a process that works so well to not only accept what I feel but also allow the feelings to flow through me and release that I wanted to share it with you. The purpose of my post is to take away one of the biggest obstacles for you when working with your shadow: an inability to process major emotions.
Shadow Self: What is it and Do You Have One?
Short answer is yes, you have a shadow self. We all do. Your shadow is the part of you that you are ashamed of and refuse to acknowledge so you stuff them into the deep, dark corners of your being.
Shadow Work: What is it and Why it’s Important
Our shadows are part of us whether we like it or not. Most of us who want to play in the spiritual space of experiencing our best life are willing to do what it takes to live aligned with our purpose. In order to do that, you have to start with yourself first before you can take what you have learned to anyone else. The shadows you have ignored your entire life hold life changing gifts for you. Shadow work is the process of uncovering what you keep hidden and discovering the golden nugget of freedom it possesses. Your wounds contain medicine for others and undergoing the process of healing them unleashes your magic.
What is an Emotion?
Emotion, in its most general definition, is a neural impulse that moves an organism to action, prompting automatic reactive behavior that has been adapted through evolution as a survival mechanism to meet a survival need.
An emotion is simply energy. Nothing else. Your reaction to this energy is what gives it power and intensifies the feeling. The Law of Attraction states that energy flows where your attention goes. In other words, you attract what you focus on. When an emotion is triggered by a thought, the way you respond determines the final outcome of how that emotion is experienced.
Let me give you an example. Imagine you are on your back, floating in the ocean, calm and relaxed. Suddenly, a wave comes and lifts you up. This is when you have a choice: remain calm and allow the wave to carry you back down or panic and fight the wave causing it to pull you under. Emotions are like waves in the ocean. You know they are coming and you can’t avoid them. It’s how you choose to face them that determines what happens next.
I find it interesting to know that emotions are essentially benign. It’s the resistance to the emotion that causes chaos. Understanding this important fact can help you immensely as you work with your shadow because the resistance you feel offers clues as to when your shadow shows up.
Shadow Work Emotions
It’s a guarantee that if you choose to engage in shadow work, you will stir up some massive emotions that have been hidden for a long time. Expect this to happen and prepare yourself to work through them. It is so important to know how to release these stuck emotions you have stored in your body for years so you can move forward with your growth. Not only are repressed emotions that have not been dealt with toxic for your overall health and wellbeing, you can never fully get to living the life you desire if you don’t process them effectively.
Related Reading: How to Know if Your Shadow Work is Working
4 Step Process for Working with Your Emotions
Now that you understand how your choice when faced with an emotion impacts you, let’s talk about the actionable steps you can take to help you choose wisely.
First up is recognizing when you are caught up in the wave of emotion. This sounds easy enough, but the real key is to catch it at the base of the wave, not the apex. Once you are at the top thrashing around, it’s too late.
- Pay attention to your body. When you are calm, notice how you are in your natural and relaxed state. How does your tongue lay in your mouth? Are your shoulders loose? Is there a general feeling of comfort? Get a baseline of how you feel in this state so you can learn to recognize how your body alerts you to stress.
- When an emotion does overwhelm you, step back and take notice of how your body reacts now. Do you notice any tense areas in your muscles or tightness in your chest? Are your shoulders rounded and around your ears? Your body is amazing and as you learn how to read it, you will notice changes in your demeanor even before you realize you are about to be hit head on with an emotion.
Name the Emotion
Now that you know you are experiencing an emotional response, it’s time to get specific. Doing so brings this emotion into the light instead of shoving it back down into the darkness. When you name it, it takes the power to overwhelm you away and allows you to analyze it from an inquisitive perspective.
- When you feel the emotion, stop what you are doing and pay attention.
- Breathe. I find the most effective way to prevent myself from spiraling out of control is to breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, then repeat.
- Observe what you are feeling. Look at it like a scientist would study something, without judgement but with interest. Simply watch and take note of what is happening to you. Write down in your journal specifics of what you are experiencing.
- Give your feelings a name. Here are some common emotions: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, anxiety, hatred, contempt, shame, embarrassment, annoyance, loneliness, guilt, apathy, despair, confusion, grief
- Remember that emotion is only energy. Don’t participate in emotional avoidance because it is easier. You are not your emotion so a change in wording will work wonders. Instead of saying “I am angry” say “I feel angry”. By doing this, you don’t allow your emotions to define who you are. You simply are in the middle of experiencing a feeling of anger, you are not an angry person by nature.
As I mentioned earlier, resistance to an emotion is really the problem, not the emotion itself. Learning to recognize this resistance as your shadow is an important part of this process and once you get good at it, will propel your growth forward.
- The first clue to see you are resisting is to feel it in your body. For me, resistance shows up as a tightness in my chest and a feeling like I am fighting with myself. I have come to understand that the tightness is my ego who doesn’t want to admit my beliefs are wrong so it fights with my higher self who is simultaneously telling me the way forward.
- Know how to separate your own ego from your higher self. How does ego show up for you? Can you hear the other, quieter voice in your head? I don’t think I have to tell you which one to listen to.
- Move! When I am feeling particularly resistant, I turn to intense exercise. It helps move the stuck energy out of my body and provides almost instant relief. Find something that helps you move your stuck energy: punch a pillow, dance, scream, turn on heavy metal music.
Celebrate Your Growth
Often overlooked, celebrating improvements and achievements you have made is essential to this process. Honoring your success builds self-confidence, self-belief and self-love and motivates you to continue moving forward. Commemorating your growth also gives you the gift of reminding you how far you have come when you feel stuck and wonder if this is worth your effort.
- Keep a journal as you learn how to work through this process. After each emotion you work with, note your final thoughts and feelings.
- Determine how you will celebrate small steps. This doesn’t have to be massive or cost a dime. Find something that feels good to you. A lot of times I will simply go outside to walk my dog and feel the good feelings course through my body from simply being outdoors after a tough emotional session.
- Repeat this as often as you need to. It is so important to build a loving relationship with yourself and finding reasons to praise your success will move you closer to that goal.
Final Thoughts on Shadow Work Emotions
As with everything, practice makes this process get easier and easier. Release the need for perfection and be gentle with yourself as you take on this work. I tend to find that intentional and conscious practice when facing your emotions brings about change quicker than you may expect which is another reason to keep a journal. Don’t be surprised if by following these steps, you notice a significant change in a week or two.
Now I want to hear from you! Did this help you process your own shadow work emotions? What have you experienced?
Proud introvert, intuitive entrepreneur, and spiritual activist. On a mission to embolden my fellow introverts to quietly change the world.