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  • Lynn Schaeffer


Updated: May 2, 2022

So... What does it mean when we say we’re doing the inner work? Does it mean we’re pulling up the rug and sweeping underneath it? Does it mean we’re opening the closet and addressing those skeletons? Does it mean we’re pulling back the curtains and letting the sun shine into the dark corners? Yes, yes and yes! And yes, I also realize that most people have some trepidation or even fear around doing this work, but the inner work (some call it shadow work as these are things we typically don’t’ want to acknowledge, think about, or let others see) is so very important. Inner work is the core and foundation of any spiritual path and attaining true happiness! Without going within, we’re basically wasting our time. There can be no purging, healing, transformation, or awakening without doing the inner work. It's the way we create the changes we say we want in our lives, as well as the true legacy of light and love we’ll share with others. When we commit to inner work, we’re turning our pain into power like a true spiritual alchemist because the inner work complements, empowers and enriches everything we do in life! What could be better than healing, evolving, finding true joy and freedom, stepping into our power, living in harmony with others, and sending beautiful ripples of change out into all of existence?

Where Our Shadow Comes From

The formation of our shadow self begins in early childhood as soon as we have the ability to cognize and intuit emotional responses. Our subconscious mind stores all of this input as reference points for how we’ll act in the future when faced with similar situations. It’s almost impossible to avoid having a shadow! As a child, we haven’t developed our emotional intelligence, yet. We can’t process events in the same way as an adult. Hence, our negative experiences become our mental programming- and get this… all experiences were interpreted from a child’s mind. As adults, we might logically know our reactions don’t make sense, but those core records are considered to be our instructions for staying safe and from them came meanings and limiting beliefs about self, life, relationships, others! *until we change them, that is!

In essence, the shadow is a response to our basic human needs that have gone unmet, creating an emotional trauma that must be repaired. As a result, any fundamental lack we experience manifests as learned responses and negative behavioral patterns in our lives. We might see these as flaws, but they’re really just subtle programs trying to protect us, and are most prevalent when the pain we’ve been subjected to hasn't had a proper chance to be expressed or processed – either because we weren’t emotionally equipped to handle it or didn’t feel safe to do so at the time.

There's no escaping our shadow, but then again, there really is no need to escape from it either. It’s not something to be feared or embarrassed about; it's just a part of ourselves that requires our nurturing compassion as we rewire our subconscious minds. There are gifts within our shadows… we just need to find them! *See Benefits of Working with Your Shadow (below)

Shifting our Shadow

In sessions, we uncover hidden feelings, memories, thoughts, beliefs, prejudices, wounds, shadows, and other mental/emotional conditions that influence our ability to transform and feel whole at a core level. And yes, this can feel uncomfortable, but it’s typically moved through fairly fast and the results will benefit us so much! By doing our inner work, we’ll be able to move past fears, limitations, addictions, depressions, loneliness, and the feelings of unworthiness in any situation. We’ll be able to claim our peace and create our happiness!

29 Signs Inner Work Would Benefit You

1. Feeling lost and/or uninspired in life

2. Not knowing who you are anymore

3. Feeling lonely and like an outsider looking in on the world

4. Frequent fights with others

5. People-pleasing

6. Feeling unconfident

7. Low self-esteem

8. Thoughts are mostly negative and/or self-critical

9. Feeling unmotivated and “flat”

10. Going through a Dark Night of the Soul (or spiritual crisis)

11. Chronic health issues

12. Not sleeping well

13. Not feeling or feeling safe to express emotions

14. Feeling a sense of hopelessness or emptiness

15. Feeling like you’re letting others down/not living up to expectations

16. Having bouts of intense anger or sadness

17. Believing you are powerless and the world is against you

18. Struggling to trust others (or yourself)

19. Repeating the same mistakes or patterns

20. Attracting unhealthy people into your life

21. Self-destructive and self-sabotaging

22. A strong drive towards addiction (drugs, food, work, gambling, alcohol, sex, etc)

23. Getting triggered by people, personalities, or experiences

24. Struggling with high levels of anxiety or panic

25. Wanting to be alone most of the time /feeling unsafe/ unsure around others

26. Needing someone to be there with you (trying to escape yourself)

27. Not finding much joy, happiness or humor in life

28. The same type situation or person shows up in your life a lot

29. Frequent avoidance of people/places/doing things

The more signs we relate to, the more we need to do the inner work because all of the negative beliefs and muck that go along with them weighs us down, keeps us circling in loops, and blocks us from creating the things we want in life. If we suppress our shadow selves, we’re not learning to work through our issues and become better human beings, we’re simply allowing our certain traits to fester and grow. This can be exhausting and can cause mental health issues like depression and anxiety or physical illness as we wrestle with the parts of ourselves we don’t enjoy (Our bodies speak what we're not acknowledging). Some people even learn to resent or hate these parts of themselves, which impacts mindset and self-esteem, and can even affect our interactions with others, how we treat others and ourselves.

Many of us are not aware of the connection between our roadblocks and the shadow – or even some aspects of it, until we actually uncover it when working with someone. We can become stuck in a cycle of reactionary behaviors based on what we experienced in early childhood and even feel completely justified by our reactions. Unchecked, these can create a victimized sense of self, which can be hard to acknowledge and even harder to shake, we start saying things like, "this is just me."

Benefits of Working with Our Shadow

The quality of life we enjoy ultimately rests on healing our inner self or shadow. It’s a foundational part of any spiritual journey. It’s sometimes uncomfortable work; we’re placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability, but what comes from addressing these parts of ourselves can be more than beautiful! You come to know yourself on a profound level and accept & LOVE yourself and others, unconditionally. You don’t just transform yourself, but your entire world. You'll discover:

1. Improved Relationships (And Interpersonal Skills)

Our relationships (including the one with ourselves) will be the first area we’ll notice improvements. The more we engage with the shadow and listen to its needs, the less we’ll experience its constant negative chatter. We’ll be at peace and bring more heart-based awareness to our interactions. Also, as we develop a greater understanding of our own needs, we’ll be able to empathize more with other’s challenges. The mental blockages that were holding us back will become more obvious. We’ll be able to extend ourselves in a more non-judgmental way.

2. Real Progress (In All Areas of Life)

As we learn to quiet the mind, we’ll find there is more room for free-thinking. The more consistently we work with the shadow, the more clarity we’ll bring to all our endeavors. We’ll enter into a flow-state of being able to say and do all the right things when required.

3. Feeling More Adventurous

We’ll no longer be someone who’s afraid to take chances and put themselves out there. The sense of unworthiness or any limiting thoughts of how we may be perceived or judged will be gone. New opportunities’ will come into our lives at an astonishing rate.

4. Naturally More Confident

In the past, we may have turned to vices that brought out the confidence in us. It could have been drinking or dressing up in nice clothes, getting fit, and these might have worked. But only in the short-term as they are behaviors that compensate for our internal feelings of lack. When we go through the process of integrating the shadow, we create real, long-lasting changes. We no longer need crutches to lean on. There's an unshakeable confidence that comes from healing our emotional trauma and in return, we rediscover a true sense of personal power.

5. More Energy

It should come as no surprise that carrying around a lifetime’s worth of baggage will have an effect on our energy levels. Experiencing a state of lethargy is one of the main symptoms of depression, and the weight our shadow brings can be just as immobilizing. When we do finally let go of everything we’ve been repressing, the release can be truly freeing. It won’t happen overnight, but the more we work on ourselves, the more we’ll see our stamina and joy for living increase.

6. Increased Creativity (And Mental Acuity)

Creativity is an inherently mental process. We might ultimately express ourselves physically, but it all begins with a thought. And the more of that mental energy we’re able to free up within the conscious self, the more we can bring our creative talents to the fore. When we’re speaking encouraging and uplifting things to ourselves and believing them, life is unlimited!

Fooling Ourselves with Spiritual Bypassing

Many of us have heard of The Law of Attraction, and even tried making it work in their lives, but then discover it doesn't seem to be working. This is because our beliefs and proofs held in the subconscious mind run our lives. We don't get what we want, we get what we believe and are resonating. Spiritual bypassing is a "tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks". The term was introduced in the mid 1980s by John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist. We avoid our unresolved pasts, using language & practices to bypass the healing work. If someone feels anger, fear, or hurt, or is triggered but shakes it off by thinking happy thoughts, reciting affirmations, praying or using other coping mechanisms, those painful aspects aren't changed, they're just ignored (this can be fine in the heat of the moment to cool down, as long as we go back to investigate our thoughts, triggers, etc. later).

When someone tells us “no negative vibes or bad moods allowed, only happy and positive vibes welcome here,” that's not healthy... it’s avoidance. As spiritual beings, it’s important to acknowledge all the aspects we carry, instead of shoving them in the closet where they aren't healed or changed. While spiritual bypassing can be a very tempting path, we'll come to discover what we hold within showing up in our lives (or our bodies) until we feel and heal. If you had some of those signs above, ask, “What am I feeling and where do I feel this in my body? What does it remind me of? When did I first feel this way?” Then go back to those times and clear them using our process. (*If you need help with this, please reach out!)

By meeting our shadow, we can learn more about the person we truly are underneath it all. For me, learning how to notice my shadow traits, understand them, work through them, forgive and then rewire and flip the proofs I find has been amazing for my mindset, my health, my relationships and my life! It keeps getting better and I feel more confident and at peace knowing when I uncover areas that need my attention, I'll know how to address them.

Loving self-care is listening to our unwanted parts and patterns and learning how to process them so we have more self-awareness, acceptance, and self-love. It’s when we truly feel these things we can create our beautiful minds and lives! We’ll start seeing wonderful things show up for us, body, mind & spirit. What we bring to ourselves, we bring to the world! I'm wishing you so much freedom and love!

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