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Breaking Through the Stall: How Shadow Work Will Propel Your Personal and Professional Growth Forward

Breaking Through the Stall: How Shadow Work Will Propel Your Personal and Professional Growth Forward

In the fast-paced life, it's not uncommon to occasionally hit a plateau. You might find yourself stuck in a rut, unable to advance despite your best efforts. Often, the root cause of this stagnation lies not in external circumstances but in the unexamined corners of your psyche— aka your shadow self.

The shadow self, a concept introduced by Carl Jung, encompasses the unconscious parts of your personality that you repress or deny—traits, emotions, and behaviors that you find undesirable or socially unacceptable. Jung described the shadow as the “thing a person has no wish to be.”  It is the dark side of our personality, the side we might prefer to ignore or disown. Yet, acknowledging and integrating this shadow is crucial to achieving psychological wholeness—what Jung referred to as individuation. These hidden aspects manifest as negative thinking patterns, self-sabotaging behaviors, or unproductive habits that impede both personal and professional growth.  There is no avoiding this, it’s how we function as humans, so the best thing to do is embrace this as a truth and do your work to face and integrate your shadow.

The consequences of an unintegrated shadow can be profound and may show up in your life as:

A.     Poor Decision-Making

This can show up in your personal and professional life.  Examples are:

  • You may decide to ignore budget realities and overspend. 

  • You may acknowledge that an old friend is toxic and a bad influence, and yet you continue to spend time with that person regretting it each time. 

  • You may take a job that pays less but allows you to stay in the same city, instead of taking a risk and moving your family to a new part of the country for a job that is bigger and pays exponentially more. 

Unacknowledged fears or biases can cloud judgment, leading to poor decisions.

B.      Conflict in Relationships

Unresolved internal conflicts will spill over into the patterns that emerge in our relationships, at home and work, causing friction and misunderstandings.  The relationships with people we interact with regularly (your boss, co-workers, spouse, siblings, children, parents, best friend, etc.) will usually immediately or eventually reflect the patterns that both individuals’ shadows are presenting situationally if one or both have not done shadow work. 

Examples are:

  • If you fear vulnerability and intimacy, you may push your partner away when things start to get too serious, causing tension and conflict in the relationship.

  • If you hold unresolved anger, you may lash out at your partner, sibling, child, or coworker in moments of frustration, leading to arguments and discord in the relationship.

  • If you have a tendency to be controlling and domineering, you may struggle to compromise and communicate effectively creating ongoing power struggles and conflict.

  • If you tend to hide true feelings and emotions you will most likely avoid or struggle to express yourself authentically, leading to misunderstandings and unresolved issues.

  • A person with unresolved trauma or past hurts will project pain into present relationships, often with a boss or lover, who may say or do something similar to your parent, causing them to react defensively and creating a cycle of conflict in the relationship.

C.      Burnout and Stress

Consistently suppressing parts of yourself can lead to emotional exhaustion, physical symptoms that are or mimic disease, and chronic stress.  This may manifest as:

  • Unexplainable headaches

  • Chronic stiff neck and/or shoulder pain

  • Digestive disturbances

  • Sleep problems

  • Panic attacks

When your internal “knowing” tells you that change is necessary (quit the job, end a relationship) but you avoid taking action, your body will tell you regardless of what your mind and ego avoid.  


The Value of Shadow Work

Shadow Work is the process of bringing these hidden aspects of yourself into the light, understanding them, and integrating them into your conscious self. By doing so, you can unlock greater self-awareness, emotional resilience, and professional efficacy.

The benefits of this kind of personal “work” include:

  1. Greater Self-Awareness: Understanding our shadow helps us see ourselves more clearly, including our motivations, fears, and desires.

  2. Emotional & Physical Well-being: Integrating the shadow can lead to emotional healing and release repressed emotions.

  3. Improved Relationships: As we understand our shadows, we become more empathetic and understanding towards others, leading to healthier relationships.

  4. More Productive Work Habits & Flow:  When your “dark side” is in control, you are less prone to gossip, being annoyed, avoidance, and poor judgment and decision-making. The opposite is a life that is filled with ease, unbothered by the things others are doing and saying, with a focus on productivity and a neutrality that is freeing.

  5. Unlock Hidden Potential: Often, the shadow contains suppressed talents and creativity, which can be unleashed through this process.

Engaging with the shadow self can be daunting. It requires courage to face the parts of ourselves we’ve long ignored or denied. However, several books can guide you through this process, providing practical advice and reassurance:

 “Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche” by Robert A. Johnson

This is a succinct and accessible introduction to the concept of the shadow. Johnson, a Jungian analyst, breaks down complex psychological ideas into relatable insights and practical advice. This book is perfect for beginners in shadow work, offering clear explanations and actionable steps without overwhelming the reader.

 “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams” by Debbie Ford

This classic book delves deeper into the nuances of shadow work, offering a compassionate and empowering approach to embracing your shadow self. Ford’s empathetic writing and practical exercises make this book an invaluable resource for anyone ready to delve deeper into their shadow.

"Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature" Compiled and Edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams

This is a collection of essays by leading psychologists, therapists, and spiritual teachers that delve into the complexities of the shadow self. It offers diverse perspectives on shadow work, exploring how embracing and integrating the shadow can lead to profound personal transformation.

Embracing the shadow and doing the necessary work to face and integrate it can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

Join me for Deep Work Fast on Tuesday at 3:00 PM PT on Facebook and LinkedIn LIVE. Additionally, become a member of our free AVVI Membership to access tools and resources designed to support your personal and professional growth.


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