When you first come face-to-face with your Shadow, it brings up deep realizations about yourself that can feel overwhelming. Often, it is not a very fun experience, so you might be wondering, “how long will it last?”
In this article, we will be looking at what you can expect in the long term when doing Shadow Work.
How Long Does Shadow Work Take:
Shadow work is recognizes the repressed feelings, unaccepted parts of ourselves, and our “uncivilized” nature. In general, this work takes a lifetime and is never entirely done. However, it can come in waves and cycles of realization.
Carl Jung put it best in his book “Modern Man in Search of a Soul”.
In other words, because we have light (our conscious mind), we must also always have Shadow (Unconscious mind).
The only time we don’t have a shadow is if we are 100% fully enlightened.
For most people, they live their life without even seeing their Shadow. It can act like an unseen ghost that is causing havoc.
If you seek self-discovery and growth at some point, you will have to come face-to-face with your Shadow.
It’s like opening pandora’s box. Once you see your Shadow, you can not unsee it. The repressed aspects of your psyche come pouring out.
Now the work can begin!
It’s about constantly exploring the unconscious behaviors and bringing them into the conscious mind. Integrating the Shadow is about bringing awareness to the underlying patterns of your identity.
If you want to continue to grow, then the work never ends.
This can sound haunting, but don’t worry. It gets better.
Does Shadow Work get easier over time?
When you first undergo Shadow Work, it can be overwhelming. Integrating the suppressed parts of your unconscious can be a daunting task. But eventually, it gets easier as you practice unraveling your Shadow.
In my journey, the first year was a heroic task.
I was having nightmares as my Shadow surfaced. I began to see my actions in new ways, and it even disrupted some of my friendships.
After that first crisis of identity, I started to get my sea legs.
Now it seems to have a cycle to it.
I will discover a new aspect of my Shadow and then take the time to integrate it. I do this by giving it a space to express its self and try to understand the motives. An excellent example of this would be my article that shares three Shadow Writing Prompts.
Then the waters will calm for a time. Until… once again, a new part of my Shadow emerges into my conscious mind.
Since I have done this process so many times, it’s begun to be a lot easier.
Each time the cycles are smaller. I now catch the wave at the beginning instead of when it’s crashing down on top of me.
When doing Shadow Work, you will go through cycles of realizing something you have been suppressing in your identity, see its ugliness, and hopefully find a way to accept it.
In this way, you will find a healthier way to integrate your Shadow.
When to stop doing shadow work
Just because Shadow Work doesn’t have an end to it (you can always become a better version of yourself), doesn’t mean you have to do it 100% of the time. It’s essential to take breaks and let yourself regroup.
It can become easy to get overwhelmed by Shadow Work. It is not pretty looking at the uncomfortable aspects of the Shadow.
So it is REALLY important that you have patients.
Let yourself integrate your experiences. Don’t push yourself to “get over it” or “become better” overnight.
These things take time.
Here are some signs that you need to take a break:
- Lake of sleep
- Constant nightmares
- Unexpected anger
- Losing friends
- Becoming depressed
- Losing one’s identity
When you are doing Shadow Work, you are facing the darker aspects of your identity. You are also butting up against your ego.
This can be intense work.
If you are having a hard time, it can be beneficial to reach out to a therapist, friend, or mentor. Getting aid can be a lifesaver. You don’t have to do it alone.
Shadow work is a valuable tool for self-realization. It helps us uncover new depths of our being.
The work never ends, but the rewards are also endless.
I am reminded of this powerful quote by Carl Jung:
The Shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the Shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge. – Carl Jung
Each time you face your Shadow, you release an immense amount of energy. Once you accept this part of yourself, you no longer have to spend all the psychic energy pushing it down – freeing your mind of a huge burden.
Keeping that in mind… you don’t have to overdo it.
Take your time when exploring your Shadow and search aid when needed.
It’s a life-long journey, not a sprint.
I know in my own life, Shadow Work will be a constant. I think of it on a weekly basis and try to set aside time to give my Shadow a space to be heard.
By doing this work, I have unlocked so much capacity and mental energy. As hard as it’s been, the benefits have far outweighed the cost.
If you are exploring the Shadow Aspects of your Identity, particularly your masculinity, I highly suggest you check out the HeroRise Masculine Archetype Deck.
I made the deck to give you a tangible way to explore your Shadow through art, symbolism, and self-reflection. Check out the deck.