In a Facebook group for The Work of Byron Katie, someone asked for recommendations for how to do shadow work. For me, the most obvious answer is to do The Work! It’s a direct and powerful approach to working with projections in general and the shadow in particular.
In The Work we….
(a) Project out on someone or something else, and do so with pettiness and without much if any filter. (This is the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.)
(b) Examine what happens when we believe the thought(s). In this process, we also get a more detailed sense of what we see in the other. (Step three in TW.)
(c) Turn the initial thought around in several different ways. This includes finding in ourselves what we see in the other, with several specific and genuine examples. (Turnarounds.)
The process helps us (a) project without holding back, (b) examine this projection, and (c) find what we see in the other (also) in ourselves.
Each step helps make the process gentler and together they make it easier to find in ourselves what we see in the other, recognize it, own it, and – often – experience relief from (finally) finding it in ourselves.
After a while, after doing this process many times, it also becomes easier to do this spontaneously in daily life. The inquiry lives in us.
What is the shadow? It’s whatever qualities and characteristics in us we deny, reject, or overlook, and see more in others (and the world in general) than in ourselves. It’s whatever doesn’t fit the image we have of ourselves or want to have of ourselves. It’s whatever it’s easier for us to recognize in others than in ourselves.
It’s often what we and our culture sees as undesirable, although – depending on our image of ourselves – it can also be qualities our culture generally see as desirable qualities. (In some cases, our own gentleness, kindness, wisdom and so on may become our shadow.)
As we work on our own shadow, the ideas of desirable and undesirable tend to soften and are recognized as our own ideas and culturally created. Even the apparently undesirable qualities and characteristics have something of value in them. By recognizing them in ourselves we become more whole and real human beings. We have a far greater repertoire. We learn to relate to these parts of us in a more conscious way and make use of these parts of us in a more conscious and constructive way. And we realize – in a more visceral sense – that we are all in the same boat.
What I see in you is also in me. And – if you are like me – what you see in me is also in you.
And that’s perhaps more important than holding onto rigid ideas of me as inherently better or worse than you.
- The Work of Byron Katie as shadow work
- project (JYN) -> examine -> find in oneself (TAs)
- direct and powerful projections + shadow work
Each approach to projection and shadow work has its own flavor and offer something a little different. And yet, if I had to recommend one approach, it would be The Work. It’s the most direct and powerful approach to working with projections and the shadow I have found so far.
As we work on our own shadow, the ideas of desirable and undesirable tend to soften and are recognized as our own ideas and culturally created. Even the apparently undesirable qualities and characteristics have something of value in them, and by recognizing them in ourselves we also become more whole and real human beings and we see that we are all in the same boat.
And that’s perhaps more important than holding onto rigid ideas of desirable and undesirable, and ideas of me as different from you on the desirable/undesirable scale.