Whilst this idea of exploring your shadow seems to be the current buzz term, it was first bought into modern day by Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It is not some deep secret part of yourself per say, it is the parts of ourselves that we don’t like or that we choose to repress. This is often done during childhood, which is why we aren’t always conscious of the fact we have repressed or hidden these parts. But they are still a part of you, of your personality, of your make up. Just because you don’t want to see them doesn’t mean they are not there.
The Shadow – removing the ‘woo-woo’
By calling it shadow work or exploring your shadow, I believe it puts it into the ‘woo-woo’ category and immediately blocks people to the concept. When we explore our shadow we are performing self-reflection and self-examination. It allows us to better understand ourselves and through that understanding comes acceptance. When we are accepting of ourselves we can influence our mental health in positive ways and have healthier relationships.
A key part of developing your shadow is repression. Repression of parts of you that don’t feel safe to express. This could be certain behaviours or ways of behaving / responding to events in your life. Repression is different to suppression. Repression is the unconscious blocking of emotions, memories, thoughts from your conscious mind. We do this to survive. Suppression is the conscious or deliberate blocking of painful or wanted thoughts, we are deliberately trying to forget. When we repress behaviours we are also repressing emotions.
It is part of the Cognitive Behavioural Triangle:
behaviour reinforces thoughts -> thoughts create emotions -> emotions create behaviour.
If we are repressing the behaviour we are not acknowledging the emotions that would be creating those behaviours.
Those emotions are not given a chance to be processed. Emotions don’t just disappear. They can show up in your body as physical or psychological symptoms.
The emotions we are most likely to repress are those that feel sticky and uncomfortable. These include
And this circles back to our childhood. These emotions are generally considered ‘negative’ and are often repressed because there was a time in our lives we may have heard something like “Calm down”, “Don’t be sad”, “Boys don’t cry”, “Your so emotional”, from those we loved and looked up too. The result – you link these emotions as bad, you don’t acknowledge them and you don’t express them. You subconscious repress them. You put them in your shadow.
The Nutrition Link
The link to Nutrition, to how I treat clients, is in the physical and psychological manifestation of the repressed emotions. That is not to say that every client I see and treat has repressed emotions that have physically manifested. But I do see it a lot. By the time a person seeks out a Nutritionist they have often tried a more conventional approach with no luck, so their symptoms and/or their condition has become chronic. These are the clients that are told time and time again there is nothing wrong with them. It is here there are often physical manifestations of repressed emotions.
The symptoms I often see from repressed emotions are
- Sleep problems
- Hormonal imbalances
- Digestive problems, particularly IBS and constipation
- Muscle pain
- Blood sugar dysregulation
Symptoms such as these need support from a dietary perspective. There are nutrients the body needs to ensure they are able to work optimally. But we can give the body everything it needs and the problems can still persist. This is where I will take hold of my clients hand (metaphorically or literally speaking) and take a candle to start softly and gently exploring the shadow. To find out what behaviours, what emotions they have repressed and work with them to begin to express in healthy, sustainable ways.
Because no one sits down and smashes a whole packet of biscuits thinking they are going to feel great after….
If you would like support and guidance to heal your symptoms at the root cause, to begin to learn the unique language of your body and express yourself in all your shiny goodness, please head to the Work With Me page. I would truly be honoured to guide you through becoming your healthiest shiniest self.