Shadow Work | Learning to Love your Subtle Darkness

"Everyone has a subtle darkness that wraps around them like a soft, velvet cloak. This is your shadow, the part of you that is dark, rich, and fertile…" (Shaheen Miro & Theresa Reed). Learn how embracing your shadow can liberate you from entrenched fears and limiting beliefs, and unlock the key to expressing your full, creative self to the world.

"It is through love, compassion, and acceptance that our shadows come out of the darkness and meet us in the light"
~Spirit Daughter

What is the shadow?

Image credit: @drnicolecoyle via instagram

Psychologist Carl Jung used the term shadow to describe that part of ourselves that we don't like to face, so we tend to avoid or hide it in some way. These are the unacknowledged, unloved, and unhealed parts--We bury these (supposedly) unacceptable parts of ourselves, when in reality the shadow longs to be acknowledged."

In their book, Tarot for Troubled Times, Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed offer a beautiful description of the shadow: "Everyone has a subtle darkness that wraps around them like a soft, velvet cloak. This is your shadow, the part of you that is dark, rich, and fertile…

There is a symbolic parallel between a lunar eclipse (the astrological time when the sun's light is obscured by earth and a shadow falls over the moon), and the revealing of our own shadow selves. This clarity and closeness of our secret, subtle darkness is a blessing, because it gives us the opportunity to lean in, feel, and gradually over time, to heal and unify ourselves and reclaim our inner power.

Where does the shadow come from?

"The shadow is born from a lack of love and welcoming for all of your parts: the perceived good and bad. Perhaps when you were young, you were punished for "being bad." Maybe you hit your sibling in a fit of anger. Or maybe you didn't do your homework because it was boring. In these situations, your parents or teacher might have criticized you, labeled you a brat, or called you lazy. In some cases, you may have received punishment.

Other times, when you "behaved"--for example, by being quiet--you were rewarded and labelled "good". This disapproval/approval cycle, combined with our need to feel secure and loved, is what creates the shadow. All of the "good" parts become the mask we show to the world, while the other "bad" parts get packed away in an internal closet and are rarely revealed outside."

How do I begin to heal?

"Start an inner dialogue with your shadow--Really reach out to your shadow with bravery and curiosity. Accept that she is here reminding you to go deeper, love harder, and flow more gracefully. Gently ask her: Why are you here? Listen for her answer. Take some time and meditate around these questions:

Can you remember a time when you acted out and were punished?
How were feelings handled in your family?
Were you encouraged to express them freely or were you told that certain emotions were not "nice"?
Can you recall a time when you were shut down for expressing your needs?
How did that feel?
What did it feel like when you experienced disapproval from an authority figure? How about when you experienced approval?
Which emotions were considered "bad" in your family? Which emotions were considered "good"?
How do you express anger, fear, depression, or other so-called negative emotions today?
What does your shadow tell you?
Why have you been afraid? Or angry? Or lonely?

Journal your answers and notice what you feel. Be gentle with yourself...It is all part of the excavation process to uncover your inner magic. When you allow yourself to feel what is happening down below in the spaces that you've locked away from the rest of the world, if you can be with yourself in these uncomfortable places, you can untangle the knots, release the resistance, and move into the sacred communion with your light and your shadow."

Practice loving words of affirmation toward yourself (including your shadow). "I trust in you. I believe in you. You are worthy of love. You are enough."

Keep a shadow journal. "I have a safe and practical way to express all sides of myself. I can let out my thoughts, both light and dark, using the written word. I am holding space for my shadow to speak and be expressive, without judgement."

Express your inner shadow artistically. "I allow myself to feel all of my emotions, even if they’re dark. I am not afraid to be spontaneous. I create what my inner self wants to create, no matter what it looks like."

~Adapted from exercises by Maggie Wool,

"Be bold, be brave, and step out there and walk the middle ground. Let your darkness show you something you never knew before. By listening to your shadow, you discover that there is a whole other side of you: the bigger, brighter, and more luminous self, hidden right there in the dark. Act from your center, where light and shadow come together like two great streams flowing into a river."

"Slip into the dance. Take your shadow by the hand. Let the story unravel. You are the creator of your story, not just the character.
If you can be present and honest with yourself, the song will change, the story will shift, and the magic will begin."
~Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed

Tarot for Troubled Times: Confront Your Shadow, Heal Your Self & Transform the World - Miro, Shaheen

Information about shadow work was excerpted and adapted from Tarot for Troubled Times. In this book, Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed show us how working with the shadow--facing it directly, leaning into it rather than away--releases power that can free ourselves from negative mental habits and destructive emotions to find healing ourselves and others. Tarot, as the authors show, offers a rich and subtle path for this profound transformation.

Through this book, you will discover a different approach to tarot, life, and self-empowerment. The authors provide specialty readings and suggested practices for issues such as grief, addiction, depression, fear, anger, divorce, illness, abuse, and oppression, and provide practical suggestions for stepping up as an ally or leader so that you can shape social policies. With a selection of mindful, introspective tarot spreads, you'll learn how the Tarot can help you rewrite your healing story and change your life, and help transform the world.

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