Integrate the Shadow: 3 crucial steps to change

Shadow work is about seeing the repressed aspects of our personality. It sees the things we advert our eyes from.

But how do we integrate those parts of ourselves?

In this article, I will be sharing the steps you need to take to integrate your shadow aspects. I have seen these techniques work with hundreds of people in workshops and group calls on. It can be genuinely life-changing when you are willing to accept your Shadow and integrate it. 

What is the Shadow:

The Shadow is essentially the parts of the psyche that you don’t want to consciously recognize since they’re often unpleasant, such as basic urges/motivations/desires that the conscious mind deems ‘unacceptable.’ Bringing consciousness to these aspects is a critical part of being complete.

The Shadow is the parts of you that you repress.

This work is about recognizing those urges and parts of your personality you push down. You can integrate these aspects by bringing awareness and taking a few steps to bring them back to the light.

Artwork by Cage

Examples of Integrating the Shadow

It can be helpful to have examples of what the Shadow is and how to integrate it.

A good example is something that you are refusing to come to terms with. Such as a gay man that is in denial of their attraction. That attraction is being pushed into the Shadow.

When the man recognizes that part of himself and “comes out” as gay, he has integrated that repressed aspect of his identity.

Another example would be someone that is always putting themselves down. They have lots of dreams but never take any steps and instead sit in misery. Their Shadow could be the fear of success, being seen by others, and being happy. 

When they recognize how they are self-sabotaging their true desires and start actively pursuing them, they integrate their Shadow. 

That’s why people say you’re never done integrating the Shadow.

It’s an ongoing process because it’s a new bit of your Shadow to incorporate every time you repress anything.

Three Steps to Integrate Your Shadow

How to integrate the Shadow can seem like a daunting task. There are usually deep reasons why you are suppressing aspects of your identity, and it takes a lot of courage to change that.

So to start, I want to honor your courage in looking at your Shadow and doing this work. 

That is a HUGE step in your growth.

After doing this work for over a decade, I have seen three distinct steps you have to take to integrate the Shadow.

Step 1: Recognizing your Shadow

This might seem obvious, “The first step is to see you have a problem,” but it’s one of the hardest. 

Recognizing, realizing, and defining your shadow traits is a crucial first step.

To do this work, you have to be honest with yourself.

You will have to take the time to reflect on what brings up fear in you, what you are hiding from, and what you’re not willing to see in yourself. 

I am meditating on this a few times a week and constantly finding new ways to suppress myself. A lot of it comes from my religious (Mormon) upbringing. Some of it is also what culture has told me is unacceptable, so I pushed it away.

What helps me is keeping an ongoing Shadow journal where I write down whatever gold I have found. It helps me solidify the shadows I discover, and years down the line I can look back and see how much I have grown. 

Step 2: Rebuild your identity

Now that you can recognize your Shadow, you have to undergo the long process of changing the core of your identity.

You do this by stripping away the deeply rooted negative emotions around your Shadow. (e.g., shame – “I’m a bad person for being like this”).

You have to face the Shadow and totally accept it without grief, fear, anger, or shame.

An example would be trying to release shame around your sexuality. It might be that you are gay, have an unconventional kink, or have shame around your body. Whatever it is, it’s about recognizing that shame/guilt.

Then slowly accept your sexuality. Find ways that you appreciate and affirm it. 

When that new awareness is part of your entire body and psyche, you’ve fully integrated the Shadow.

During this step, it can be beneficial to work with a therapist. They can help you be accountable for the process and give guidance along the way.

At the very least, you shouldn’t do this alone.

Reach out to trusted friends and family.

By speaking of your Shadow, you also begin to integrate it. 

Step 3: Take your Time and Repeat

Then doing this work, it’s essential that you take your time. Give yourself space and know that this is a lifelong process. No reason to rush; just show up and do the work. 

This is an ever-evolving process.

Once you integrate one Shadow, another one will come to the surface.

We are also continually evolving. With new desires, hobbies, and shifts in your identity, you will have to face unexpected shadow aspects. 

Knowing it is always happening can help you remember to take it easy.

Don’t be hard on yourself and take your time.

Video On Integrating the Shadow

I also wanted to share this video as a great resource to understand your Shadow. It can help you see your Shadow and ways of Integrating it:

In Conclusion:

We all have a shadow. There is always something repressed and changing in us. 

Shadow work is about recognizing the repressed aspects of your identity and bringing it to awareness, where you can then integrate it. 

As Carl Jung once said:

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole.”
― C.G. Jung

There is a lot to be gained by integrating the Shadow. It can help you move past the guilt that is holding you back.

Every time I find a new shadow aspect and begin the process of integrating it, it’s like a vast amount of energy is released. It’s like I expel so much mental energy and emotions, hiding that part of my identity. Once I recognize it and accept it, there is a sense of profound freedom.

That is why I keep doing this work. With every step on the journey, I feel more myself, more freedom in who I am, and create a better world around me.

I hope this article was helpful for you along your journey, and I hope you can find that same level of freedom.

I also have other articles on working with the Shadow that you might find useful:

Isaac Cotec
Isaac Cotec
Creator of HeroRise, Isaac Cotec has dedicated his life to empowering others through art and creativity. He is a scholar of the subconscious and has studied the power of symbolism to help create enduring change.

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