There's a lot of talk about love and light in the spiritual world, but to feel that love and light, we need to heal the deepest parts of ourselves, the parts we may consider undesirable. By doing shadow work, we move into our authentic, loving true Selves, the part of us that truly knows and is of the light.

The shadow is a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung, and it refers to our deepest wounds. The wounds that have us believing we're flawed, unlovable, and undeserving.

These wounds are often created during childhood and can sometimes develop later in life. Perhaps you were bullied or experienced traumatic life events that created wounds. Other times, these wounds are cultural/familial. They develop from prevailing societal beliefs, such as the way money is tied to self-worth. And lastly, they can be from the deepest of places – ancestral. These are beliefs that are passed down through one’s ancestral line through DNA, epigenetically.

When left unnoticed and unattended, these wounds continue to fester, leading us to live from this place of unhealth and deficiency. Doing shadow work allows us live from a place of wholeness and expansion. We stop interpreting interactions from the lens of the wounded self. We understand that most things in life are not about us, but about the people who are acting unconsciously from their own unhealed wounds.

The shadow, by nature, is subconscious, and identifying it can be tricky. It's such an integral part of our psyche that it can be difficult to notice. We actually believe that our unhealthy thoughts are true!

Because these beliefs are so ingrained within our minds, this also makes healing them a bit challenging. The first step is to become aware of ongoing patterns in your life. Do you consistently encounter the same problems or experience recurring thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are negative? These patterns help to highlight the shadow.

Common shadow beliefs include:

  • I am not good enough.
  • I am not lovable.
  • I am flawed.
  • I am unworthy.
  • My feelings are not valid.
  • I must take care of everyone around me (because I was never nurtured as a child).
  • I am not normal.

Once aware that you’re falling into the same negative pattern, then you can find ways to let it go, by first asking yourself:

What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this? Then stop, breathe and wait for answers. They may not come right away, and that's okay. Sometimes answers need time and space to arise. Don't force answers because they might be the wrong ones, ones from your ego and not the soul. Soul work happens on its own timeline, not a human timeline. So be patient and know that in time, the answers will come.

Once you become aware of shadow beliefs that are keeping you from living in your highest good, you can consciously change your behavior and, in doing so, change your life. Each discomfort becomes an opportunity to investigate more fully, to learn more about yourself, and heal on an increasingly deep level.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.