How to Identify Your Shadow Emotions (and Why You Should)

At some point in our childhood, we learn that living in society means controlling certain emotions. We suppress, in particular, emotions that we consider “negative” – fear, anger, jealousy, selfishness – for a number of reasons, not least because we consider them shameful. Whatever may have been suppressed these negative emotions, they still exist, creating what Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called the “shadow self” complete “shadow of emotion.”

What do “shadow emotions” tell us about our life?

While we may not like our shadow emotions, it is important to recognize and acknowledge them as they often contain important information about our life. As Claire Nicogossian, clinical psychologist and author of Moms, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy and Confidence in the Chaos of Motherhood , recently wrote in an article for MindBodyGreen , “Emotional experiences show us that we have to pay attention in our lives, within ourselves. in our relationship or in our experience. “

This includes emotions that we consider to be positive, such as joy, happiness, and gratitude, but it also includes emotions that we consider negative, such as fear, shame, guilt, and anger.

As Nikoghosyan notes in his article , emotions are neither good nor bad, but rather data about our life and experience. It is important to pay attention to them in order to understand what we need.

How to understand your shadow emotions

Reflecting on our shadow emotions is sometimes called “shadow work.” As Daniel Massey, a licensed family and marriage therapist and owner / founder of the Wellness Collective , told Self earlier this year, “Working with shadows is all about the subconscious, which is made up of things that we suppress and hide from ourselves.”

When it comes to understanding our shadow emotions, Nikoghosyan writes that if they are “left unattended and unmanaged, they become louder and more intense until we are forced to deal with our emotional experiences.”

Shadow work is about really exploring and labeling your emotional experiences. This includes defining how you are feeling in a way that goes deeper into the details. For example, if you feel grief, what does grief look like? Is your grief related to a particular event, or is it mixed with other things that have happened to you in the past? What is the cause of your grief and why?

After you have identified and labeled your emotions, it is important to take time for your thoughts surrounding those emotions. If your main emotion is grief over loss, how do you feel about that loss? Do you blame yourself for not getting stronger? Are you in doubt about the validity of your emotions? Are you obsessing over how this loss compares to similar losses you’ve had in the past? Are you feeling anxious or insecure? Or are you mad at the loss?

These are all feelings that can cause feelings of shame or guilt, so our instinct may be to suppress them. However, refraining from judging our shadow emotions in order to better understand them is critical to our own good.

As Nikoghosyan points out , if our shadow emotions “are ignored and not controlled, they become louder and more intense until we are forced to deal with our emotional experiences.”

In other words, our shadow emotions are simply what they are. As important as it is to understand them, we do not need to act on them, and they do not define us.

Benefits of shadow work

Ultimately, identifying your shadow emotions is a way to understand yourself that can improve your life in several ways. One of the benefits is being able to tap into your intuition , as this requires listening to all your thoughts and emotions, good and bad. In addition, we can only confront and deal with the emotions we are willing to face.

Another advantage of shadow work is that sometimes the emotions and thoughts we think are shameful are actually not . This is especially true for people who struggle with low self-esteem and may suppress thoughts and emotions that are actually good. Shadow work is a way to regain some of your gifts and develop a healthy sense of self along the way.


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