At the most basic level, the definition of Shadow Work as Jung presents it, is the process by which we dig down into our self to find and identify the root components of the parts of our experience which we reject, repress or deny. The purpose of this is to know who we really are and to release and free ourselves from that which holds us in negative patterns, beliefs or states we wish to change.
Many do this through counselling with psychotherapists and psychologists for the most part these days. These professionals use many of the methods and ideologies that Jung taught. They employ traditional locations and usually group talk therapy sessions, and sometimes one on one sessions.
A few people resort to spiritual counsellors who vary widely and are not standardized. Some who have a shamanistic background genuinely may use forms of Jung's writings, but they do not always know anything about Jung or use the same language. They use the methods by which they healed themselves of their own trauma, as I explained earlier in the series. I have known a rare few tarot readers who use a bit of it to help people, more spiritual readers who do, and some good priests or pastors of traditional religions who employ some of the concepts, though they think of it more as searching the conscience for sins and confessing than the way Jung saw it. It is rare to find, though.
Barring people who are in a state of psychosis or who have mental health issues, most people can do this for themselves. It does require learning how to discipline your mind enough to quiet it and settle down enough to look inward. It requires introspection. You need to settle into meditation and allow things to arise in your mind's eye and let them go until one arises which you may want to run down to find out the why of it. Why does that hurt? Why does it seem to keep happening to me? To do this for yourself requires you be utterly honest about it. "People just do not understand me" is not the answer you are looking for. The answer is more likely to be "I have a difficulty communicating what I mean to say, a lot of the time".
We actually are the captain of our own ship. This is true despite the fact we too often let others take the wheel, then blame them for the trip.
The biggest key for me was meditating, accepting some hurtful things as possibly quite true about myself until I went deeper and found some of the source points in my early years for some of these feelings or ideas.
It is a failure to reach that level and see that a lot of the trash we carry around is from our childhood, things said by our parents, our siblings, our friends at school and blame them for the effects throughout our lives. By the end of my process, I was sobered by how easily we can harm others through things we do not take seriously at all with our mouths or the things we communicate as jokes or in discussions. Most of my damage was caused by people who no way had any idea they were hurting me that badly. I wondered how many I had hurt. It was humbling to me and I found forgiving these people and hoping for the same to come easily. We have a lot of faults, all of us.
The ones who were the real problem were the ones who had no care for me at all, and the abuse was for their own gratification. Hard to say if it was willful, as that sort of person has zero empathy for others, or is such a gaping pit of self-indulgent need they see the rest of us as somehow owing them to fill that hole they run around with. I took a while to learn how to forgive this sort, especially those in my life who persist in the bad behavior. I forgave to free myself from further manipulation and to release the accumulated past hurt of it. If I feel a pang now, I deal with it right then and do not allow it to sink into the shadowy places. This is their own karma, their own doing, their own issue. I do not want it to be mine in any way. To forgive does not mean you condone it in any way. It means you have grown enough to know it is bad behavior and you do not deserve it, and you reject it for you.
It is your ship, this life you live, and the more you can learn to rid it of the rats in your mind and heart, and refuse to allow others to affect your course in ways you do not agree with, the better you will do in life. Learning through your shadows where you are weak, where you are strong, and why opens the door to realizing you are a pretty tough cookie, a pretty decent being, with potential and faults, but also pretty great details you have learned as a result of the very things that have hurt you. Maybe the biggest person needing you to forgive is your self, for those fails and fears and flaws. Most of them you come by honestly. You have to judge yourself by what you knew then, when it happened, and learn how terribly human you are, and it is ok. This world is chock full of others who are as faulted and terribly human, too. We are all on the same lake for now, in our little boats, trying to sort out how to sail and not sink.
Journaling works better for some, to start sorting things out and finding out what is inside them. I have used this when an issue is really charged with emotion or self pity for me. Writing it out honestly helps me to get it more into third person and see it for what it is - sometimes valid, a lot of the time a pity party needing me to smack myself upside the head and get over myself.
I have been asked if it is possible to do the work well enough as to become totally clear inside our self, free of all shadows. Some claim to be in this state. It is theoretically possible. I am not sure if one who is actively living on the streets dealing with humanity could stay that way without diligent self maintenance, but, maybe it is possible.
I am a street "priest" and I aim to be as clear as I can be and keep an eye on it and press onward. It has taken me years and I still gain insights into my self. I find it interesting, a good tool in life, but not something I obsess about. I am a lot clearer than I was. I very rarely am surprised by sudden emotions stemming from down there. I know myself well, good and bad. I like me well enough. I love myself in the higher sense. That is the goal at the most simplistic level.
It is outside the scope of my blog to try to teach methods for meditation, or to do intensive counselling for people. Google "shadow work", educate yourself, avoid gurus in it, learn more about this excellent tool for taking more control over your mind and emotions and getting to know what makes YOU tick. It can be as valuable as the effort you put into it for you.
That is about it
I write to serve.