Our shadow self is any part of ourselves that we try to hide or deny because it seems socially or biblically unacceptable.
One definition is that The shadow self is not of itself evil; it just allows you to do evil without recognizing it as evil! Jesus’ phrase for our shadow is “the log in your own eye,” which you instead notice as the “splinter in your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). That is why Jesus is never upset with sinners, but only with people who pretend they are not sinners.
Our shadow is often subconscious, hidden even from our own awareness. For most of us, it takes effort and life-long practice to look for, find, and embrace our shadow.
There are many ways to do shadow or log work–the work of seeing and integrating your typically hidden and often denied self. One of the easiest ways to discover your shadow is to observe your negative reactions to others and what pushes your buttons. Most often, what annoys you in someone else is a trait in yourself that you haven’t acknowledged.
Katie’s Simple Log Work Process
Byron Katie has a simple process to help you own your judgments and turn your focus to the log in your own eye.
Recall a stressful situation that is still fresh in your mind. Return to that time and place in your imagination.
Name your frustration, fear, or disappointment, and the object of this feeling in a simple statement. For example: I am angry with Bill because he never listens to me.
Now ask yourself four questions with an open heart, waiting for your truest answer to arise:
- Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, and what happens when you believe this thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Turn the thought around in three ways: putting yourself in the other’s place, putting the other person in your place, and stating the exact opposite.
- I am angry with myself because I never listen to me.
- Bill is angry with me because I never listen to him.
- Bill does listen to me.
Consider ways in which each “turnaround” might be true in this situation.
This practice brings your vague and nebulous shadow into focus, giving you something tangible to embrace. Do this necessary log work all your life and you’ll discover more and more freedom and greater capacity to love self and others.
Adapted from Byron Katie’s Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and Four Questions and Richard Rohr’s Meditation: Shadow Work.
Posted on July 26, 2016