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Integrating Your Shadow: Four Best Techniques

Let’s talk about integrating the shadow and my three favourite techniques for doing so. Unfortunately, I find much of the information available regarding the shadow to be limited, naive or oversimplified. So, we’ll look at the subject of the shadow and integrating it from a deep and wide perspective.

I’ve tried four methods to uncover and reown my shadow. Each of them has proved useful and helped me taste the joy and fullness that comes from this process, which can be challenging and messy. It takes great bravery to do this work, and know that you’ll be richly rewarded for it.

Before we look at the four techniques, let’s quickly clarify what I mean by the shadow.

What is the Shadow?

So often I see the shadow defined in a negative way, to wit: “the dark side”, “our hidden desires”, “our hurt inner child”, and so on. While these all give a partial perspective on it, they fail to accurately describe its essence.

To state it in a non-academic way that’s easy to understand and remember, let me give Doshin Roshi’s definition of the shadow: “it’s the you that you can’t see.” That is, the shadow is made up of your personal characteristics, emotions and desires that you’re not aware of and can’t consciously embody. You find them repulsive.

That includes not only what we typically consider negative traits, but positive ones too. It’s more than just our hurt inner child, or the shadows formed at a particular stage in life, or hidden emotions. It’s absolutely everything that exists in our character but that we can’t see. And, rest assured, there’s a lot of it.

This means the shadow is not just one entity, but a collection of entities, a series of unconscious traits. What’s more, each of these unconscious traits is simply the polar opposite of a conscious trait, or a persona, as Jung called it. Every persona (AKA primary self) has a shadow (AKA disowned self); every shadow has a persona. The persona is the personality we adopt to disguise the corresponding shadow. This will be important later.

The opposite of every persona is a shadow.

Doshin Roshi

All right, with that in mind, let’s move on to the techniques for integrating the shadow.

Integrating the Shadow Method 1: Good Old Shadow Work

The most fundamental technique, and the one most suited to formal shadow work, is the 1-2-3 technique from Ken Wilber. The 1, 2 and 3 mean 1st, 2nd, 3rd person, and they’re crucial concepts in Wilber’s formulation of this topic.

Primary selves are in our first-person: we feel identified with them; we feel they are us; we can fully express them with little repression or hesitation. On the other hand, disowned selves are in our second- or third-person: they appear to be outside of us, either directed against us, or directed “out there” with no specific victim. As I’ve said in my Dreams series on YouTube, 3rd-person shadow traits are more extreme and more dissociated than 2nd-person ones.

The process is quite simple, and all this talk of 1st, 2nd and 3rd-person will become clear when you practice it. It helps to sit comfortably in a space where you won’t be disturbed for around 15 minutes. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Choose a quality you want to start integrating. This can be an emotion, a trait, a behaviour, or a blend of them.
  • First, feel the symptoms of the quality OR the result of it in your body. This step is easier if you’ve done meditation or other awareness practices.
  • Next, seek the trait or emotion in your 3rd person. This tends to appear as a vague sense that the trait exists out there, far away from you, as though “out there” in society. Ask it what it wants, and respond as it. You’ll notice little whispers and expressions of that emotion or trait. Go ahead and verbalise them. Repeat this until you feel that you’re more in touch with it.
  • Then go to the 2nd person. We feel the effects of 2nd person qualities as their opposite, as though this emotion or trait were directed right back at us. Ask it questions, and speak as it, to yourself.
  • Keep going with this, and try to feel that there is no quality out there, that it belongs to nobody but you! You are that quality.
  • Now you should be able to express this quality with no distance between it and you. It’s now part of your psyche again.

If you can regularly reach this point during your formal work, you’ll find that in everyday life you’ll slowly be able to embody that trait without it being revolting to you. And you should feel a sense of relief and release.

Integrating the Shadow Method 2: Dreams

Now, I have to say that dreams aren’t the best way to reintegrate per se, unless you can lucid dream, but they are an excellent source of intel. They enable you to find your shadows very directly, with a clarity that is difficult to replicate in everyday life.

In my case, as I worked on integrating my anger, I could see my dreams changing in a very specific way, which showed me that my work was effective. As I say in the video below, I recommend you write down your dreams every morning for a month and look for patterns. This shows you the patterns that exist in your shadow self and help bring to light your most powerful unconscious material.

Lucid dreams are a different story. Remember that in dreams you unconsciously act out your shadows, and that in lucid dreams you are aware that you’re dreaming. By extension, in lucid dreams you are consciously acting out your shadows.

My advice is to allow yourself to express them to their fullest. This is quite easy because your everyday defenses are down, and you know you’re dreaming. There are no repercussions.

For example, if you notice you have repressed anger, in lucid dreams you can try expressing that anger. Go to an empty building and start smashing it up. Get into a fight and start laying into someone. Shout at someone you’re angry with in real life. Remember: there are no repercussions!

I’ve found that the more you express them while lucid, the more they’ll start to feel part of you again, and the more you’ll be able to express them in daily life.

Method 3: See the Persona and Do the Opposite

This method is great for everyday situations, especially when you notice yourself doing the opposite of expressing a shadow trait, or when you feel the symptoms of your shadow traits.

All of our personas hide the opposite trait, which tends to be buried in the subconscious. The persona serves to cover up the shadow and is often inflamed. For example, if we have repressed anger, our persona will be overly nice, sweet, pleasing, and polite. I’m not saying we can’t adopt a mask for our job or social situations, but if this quality is persistent and exaggerated, it’s likely a symptom of repressed anger.

I want you to be very aware of moments when you feel inauthentic. In such moments, it’s likely that this trait is masking the exact opposite, your shadow. You actually feel the opposite way or want to say the exact opposite of what you’re saying, but your behaviour covers it up.

What to do is step into the trait that you aren’t allowing. Express it somehow, in a way that’s not going to cause an issue. Find a balance between the poles of persona and shadow. Start training yourself to be the opposite of who you’ve outwardly been (the persona) so that your hidden, subconscious traits (the shadow) can come out.

Method 4: Psychedelics

For me, I’ve never been so aware of my shadow, and felt so much reintegration, as during my second acid trip. I speak about my experience of this in the video below – check it out!

I sincerely hope these four techniques help you to reintegrate your shadow and feel the freedom and fullness that come from doing so.