Shadow Work


Posted May 20, 2014

Do you have blind spots? Professionally? Interpersonally? Even educationally? Did you know that we have a literal blind spot in our sight? Physically speaking, where the optic nerve recedes from our eyes to our brain, there are no rod or cone photo-receptors. This results in a circular blacked-out spot (literally a blind spot) in our vision. The amazing part is that we accommodate our visual field by filling in the blind spots, and voilà, we think we’re seeing everything (even though we’re actually not). But how do these blind spots affect other domains of life?

There’s a concept called the “shadow,” which essentially functions like a psychological blind spot. These are aspects of our personalities that we don’t want to acknowledge, and as sure as blind spots exist, they’re there. If you don’t think you have any, just ask your friends :). The late Debbie Ford defined the shadow in this way:

 “Our shadow, formed long ago, contains all the parts of ourselves that we have tried to hide or deny, the parts2014_newsletter we believe are not acceptable to our family, friends and, most importantly, ourselves. It is made up of everything that annoys, horrifies or disgusts us about other people or about ourselves. It holds all that we try to hide from those we love and all that we don’t want other people to think about us or find out about us.” —Debbie Ford

But how do you identify shadow aspects? Just look around.  Here’s an example. I have a friend who doesn’t go to doctors. Recently, he fell and twisted his foot; his foot was very likely broken—its black, swollen, and yet he doesn’t go to the doctor. Despite the need he doesn’t go. And importantly for me, why does his not going bug and scare me? Have I not sought out professional evaluation when I needed help?(and I’m talking to you struggling dissertation students too!). For sure, I have been “strong and (unnecessarily) toughed it out” many times in my life.

The point is that where there is more emotion then a situation deserves, the shadow is likely lurking.  Shadow work is about finding your blind spots, and bringing them out of the darkness into the light where they can be addressed. Shadow work can reveal some of our most beautiful, most essential parts. Shadow work often releases energy previously used to hold onto things not working, and unblocks energy used to conceal ourselves from ourselves. This re-channeled energy may be used to succeed at work, spend time with your family and friends, and complete your dissertation.

Be courageous, do the necessary shadow work, look at yourself, and gain the energy that is yours for your life. Professional, interpersonal, and educational satisfaction awaits you.


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