Shadow work is a term that is frequently used in various spiritual traditions, including pagan and witch communities.
But what is it really?
First let’s start off with what it’s not.
You’ll occasionally see some people state that shadow work is about “getting in touch with your dark side”, which sounds like it’s trying to turn you into a Sith Lord like Darth Vader or confront your inner mass murderer or something. That’s not it.
Nor is it about trying to turn yourself into a being of pure love, positivity, and light. If anything, that would be spiritual bypassing and a total avoidance of doing actual shadow work altogether. You shouldn’t be burying negative emotions and thoughts or treating them as things to be avoided.
In addition, it’s not about shaming people as “beings of darkness” or whatever. No one is accusing you of being Anakin Skywalker. But truth be told, he and the entire Jedi Council could’ve stood to have done a TON of shadow work–however that’s a whole other blog post rant.
Shadow work is about dealing with your shortcomings and working on them
This sounds a LOT simpler than it is. The reality is that we are all deeply flawed people with our own personal baggage. Shadow work is about confronting that personal baggage and working on unpacking, putting away, or throwing it out entirely.
I’m not going to lie, it’s challenging and painful as hell. If you have mental health issues such as PTSD, it’s especially painful as you will have to deal with your triggers head on. I speak from personal experience here. However it’s a good way to heal from trauma and handle personal growth.
You don’t need to be traumatized in order to need to do it. You just need to be human with your own baggage to unpack–which means literally EVERYONE. Personal development is essential in all instances and areas of life.
And once again, it’s not about shame or blame. It’s about taking on the responsibility of dealing with your issues.
It needs to be done regardless of your degree or grade level, and/or years of experience
It does not matter whether or not you are a Neophyte, a Third Degree, an Adeptus Minor, or even an Ipissimus. It’s not even remotely relevant how many years of experience you have been involved in any spiritual tradition. Being a priest or priestess does not exempt you from needing to do it. If anything, the further you go the more of it you need to do.
You will always have baggage to unpack, issues to confront, and stuff to deal with. This is all part of being human.
It’s also best that you tackle this on your own and at your own pace versus be dragged kicking and screaming if you dedicate yourself to a particular deity, especially on some level of priesthood. If you think it’s painful on your own, imagine a being who is Decidedly Not Human shoving you into the deep end in order to get you to the state you need to be in to be an adequate tool for the job.
This is how people break. I don’t recommend it. Do the thing NOW, on your own, before you get shoved into the deep end. And if you’re already in that state of being dragged there, please do yourself a favor and don’t fight it. Do the work. And keep on doing it.
It doesn’t even have to be a deity who could potentially drag you into doing this either. What could force you into doing shadow work could be a traumatic or life changing event. Or something drastic that clues you into something being wrong such as explosive breakups with friends and/or relationships. Any and all of these things could occur.
I regret to inform you all that shadow work is an ongoing process and does not ever stop
Being in touch with yourself is crucial. Working on your issues is super critical.
And no, it will never end. It is a lifelong process. I can’t promise that it will get any easier, but I can guarantee that it is super rewarding. And while it won’t get easier, things in your life WILL get easier as a result of doing it. This includes everything from your magical efficacy to your personal relationships.
Including the relationship you have with yourself, which is essential.
It’s never too soon to start. As for too late? That’s when you find yourself taking your issues out on others and losing good people in your life as a result. And you don’t always get second chances.