Shadow Behavior: What, where, and how to stop

Sometimes we do things we instantly regret, like snapping at a friend. This might make you ask, “why the heck did I do that?”

Those moments are almost always due to your Shadow coming out in the strangest of ways. In this article, I will be discussing how to recognize the negative shadow behaviors and breaking free of the pattern. 

What Is Shadow Behavior?

Shadow Behaviors are unconscious behaviors that come out unintentionally. Shadow Behaviors are often responses to events or triggers that cause you to act negatively; such as aggression, criticism, or rudeness.

A Shadow Behavior is an automatic reaction.

Ever have a friend ask you to move something, and you snapped back with no reason why? Well, that is a Shadow Behavior that is bubbling up to the surface. 

List of Shadow Behaviors:

Shadow Behaviors are destructive behaviors. They are the kind of thing you are ashamed of after it happens.

List of Shadow Behaviors:

  • Rudeness
  • Bullying
  • Gossiping 
  • criticism
  • Aggressiveness
  • Deceitfulness
  • Laziness
  • Manipulation

The thing about these behaviors is that we ALL do them at some point in our life. The first step of changing your reactions is recognizing the negative behaviors. After that, you can start tracking them down and add a new level of awareness.

Where do Shadow Behaviors Come From?

Shadow Behaviors are automatic responses that jump out before you can even think about it. They often feel beyond your control.

That is because the behaviors are coming from your Shadow… stick with me and let me explain.

Your Shadow is the parts of yourself you are ashamed of and don’t want to admit. They are the repressed parts of your personality—things like your jealousy of others, anger, addictions, and traumas.

Since these parts of yourself are pushed away, they enter into what Carl Jung called the Unconscious. The Unconscious being things that you don’t think about. 

So these parts of yourself will jump out of the unconscious and into action. Making you confused about where they came from. 

Shadow work is about noticing these behaviors and bringing them into the conscious mind or bringing them to light. 

Now they won’t jump out unexpectedly.

Impact of Shadow Behaviors

So these behaviors suck and make you feel bad, but what is their impact?

On a personal level, this can lead you to hurt your relationships, cause rifts in friendships, and lead to lower self-esteem.

But these behaviors can greatly impact your work life. 

study estimates that $6 to $200 billion dollars per year are lost due to negative behavior in the workplace. These losses are due to people quitting, lawsuits, and other problems in the workplace.

On top of that, it’s estimated that these behaviors account for as many as 20% of failed businesses.

Here is a list of the impacts of Shadow Behaviors at home and work:

Individual LevelOrganizational Level
Stress
Isolation
Depression
Anxiety
Loss of self-esteem
Lower productivity
Lower Job Satisfaction
Higher turnover
Disorganization
In-fighting

This begs the question, “How to stop it?”

How to stop Shadow Behavior

To stop Shadow Behavior you have to discover what triggered your reaction, what the root cause of the reaction is, and bring your unconscious behaviors out of the dark and into the light of consciousness. 

This is no simple task, but as we have seen due to shadow behaviors impacts that it’s important. 

1. Recognizing the Trigger

The first step to stopping Shadow Behavior is to recognize what triggered you. 

When you are thinking of a time that a Shadow Behavior popped up, look at this list to try and discover what triggered the reaction.

Internal TriggersExternal Triggers
Memory
Pain
Muscle tension
Drugs/alcohol
Thought pattern
An event (anniversary of something)
An Argument
Holiday or special date
A smell
A specific place
News you heard that day

What you are trying to do is track down what the current moment has to do with past events. Perhaps some emotional wound is still lingering in your mind and something brought it up, causing you to react. 

I catch myself acting out a Shadow Behavior all the time. 

I find it’s helpful for me to try and remember the moment, and when I have some time alone I try and reflect on what happened. Usually, I use writing to let myself explore the situation. Usually some new insight into my shadow surfaces. 

This can be a helpful technique for discovering what triggers the Shadow Behavior. 

2. Exploring the Root Cause

One of the hardest parts is recognizing and remembering a Shadow Behavior. Once you got that down, it makes the rest possible. 

Now that you have recognized the trigger, you can start looking at what is the root cause of the reaction.

I find that journaling and free-style writing to be one of the most effective ways to uncover the “why” behind it all. 

You can check out the article I wrote that has three useful writing prompts for uncovering the shadow. 

This can help you get to the root of things. 

3. Bringing Awareness

After you have explored the Shadow behind the behavior, you are bringing it into your conscious mind. 

This doesn’t mean it’s over. 

You are only going to change your behavior if you are aware of it, and try to catch it before you act out. It will take time and practice. The key here is to be patient. 

Just noticing your behavior patterns will help your conscious mind to begin to change them. It’s a slow process, but it’s how we grow as a person.

In Conclusion:

If you are serious about wanting to change your behavior, then you will want to begin to unlock your Shadow.

Shadow Work is about integrating the repressed aspects of your identity and bringing them closer to your awareness. 

I created HeroRise to be a resource for people exploring their shadows and doing the inner work. The blog on this site has lots of articles on Shadow Work and more coming out all the time. 

I also created the HeroRise Masculine Archetype Deck to help you explore masculinity and its shadows aspects. Check out the deck and grab a copy.

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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