The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 6 of 6: Shadow

The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 6 of 6: Shadow

The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 6 of 6: Shadow

If you missed the previous posts in this series you can see the last one of them here:The Importance of an Integral Life Practice pt 5 of 6: Spirit

The Shadow module helps to integrate our unconscious thoughts and emotions into conscious awareness. They clean up the basement of the mind, those parts that we have disowned, buried or projected onto others. Often these are unacceptable parts of ourselves that we have deemed unacceptable or unlovable. Sometimes they are very positive aspects of ourselves that we don't feel worthy of, or willing to own.

Both your lower and higher self can be hiding in the shadows. Shadow work helps you to befriend them both so that you can be more healthy and whole, giving you more free energy for development.

When we try to repress or attempt to deny some troubling aspect of ourselves, it tends to show up in another way.
Often what we feel we lack we will see around us – 'It's not me that is angry, its you!' Then we completely disown it, so it only appears as our reactivity to certain things or even to physical symptoms. So it goes from a 1st person I, to a 2nd person you, finally to a 3rd person it. This is one of the biggest giveaways that the shadow is being triggered, that we are lacking or incapable of doing or being the thing of rejection 'IT is not me, IT is someone or something else.' with the IT being nothing more than a disowned part of our own story. 

It can be very hard to be honest about these aspects as they genuinely are unconscious, hence why they have become shadow elements for us. But it takes a great deal of energy to maintain this barrier between us and our shadow and we will go to extra-ordinary lengths to deny it in ourselves, even to the point of being violent to create a clear protest of how much that thing is not us.

But this is also the second telling marker that something has a shadow element to it, how much we are being affected by it as opposed to just being informed about it. For example if someone is behaving childishly, how do you respond to it? Does it simply inform you that they are being childish or does it get you annoyed that they are being childish? When someone is being selfish, do you simply note their selfish behavior or do you go to lengths to tell people how selfish that person has been and how there is no way you would be like that? If someone is an inspiring public speaker or a very creative writer, do you comment and praise them for their work, or do you feel really powerfully moved and inspired by how wonderful they are and amazing their work is? 

Well if your response to any situation tends to be the latter, especially if you feel that you lack whatever positive or negative quality or emotion is being observed, then it is likely that is a part of your own repressed and disowned shadow. 

This can come as quite a revelation when we start to identify shadow elements around us and does take a degree of courage to be able to be that honest with ourselves and others about these things. We have repressed them for (what seems to us at the time) good reason. That is because we fear that if we possess and embody those qualities, then we will face rejection and abandonment.

From some source, often a parent, those qualities whether they be positive or negative, or those emotions, whether they seem positive or negative, have been brought to our attention at an earlier stage in our lives as being undesirable. And of course if you them have that quality or express that emotion, then you by default are undesirable or unlovable. So what do we do, we carefully observe these meta-messages that are expressed on the value of such things and we will actively, although often subconsciously repress and disown these parts of ourselves and pretend that that is not us at all.

We are however only denying part of what makes us the beautiful individuals we truly are and making our whole true self fractured and disabled. Because we can't do anything with those parts of ourselves because they are unacknowledged. So they just become a burden that we carry around, being triggered by those people and situations that mirror that quality in us. It is pretty exhausting.

It, whatever it is, is always hiding from our awareness as it is disguised as the other.

There are many more aspects to the shadow self, much of which can be experienced on the training courses I offer on Reclaiming Your Shadow.

There are also many ways of working with the Shadow, these include Gestalt Therapy, Dream work, Art and Music Therapy, Cognitive Therapy and Psychoanalysis to name but a few. IN ILP though, the main gold star practice is something called the 3-2-1 process.

The 3-2-1 reverses this series of projections so we can re-integrate the other as self. When we suspect that something bothering us is an instance of shadow, we can use the 3-2-1 process to help.
We simply Face It.... Talk to It...... and Be It
This often alleviates the problem and at least brings it to our awareness for future work. But I have found in practice that it will improve the feeling around most situations that we suspect as shadow. The real bonus being that you can use it without needing a therapist to be there with you, so you can respond the moment a shadow element is triggered rather than wait until your next session. Also with a little practice and clear understanding of the format, you can do this in as little as one minute and start reaping the benefits of that reintegration straight away.

A free version of this process can be found here in my resources section.

So what elements and actions become Shadow for you? I would love to hear your comments about what you have discovered of your own shadow. If you would like to know more then please pose your questions or come on one of my shadow workshops. And remember that new shadow elements can continue to appear, its not all just about straightening our aspects of our past. Any situation you are in where a quality you have is expressed by another as being undesirable can trigger the repression of a new shadow element. This is why it forms part of the core ILP framework as you need to keep on being with it.

So there you have it, the four core modules of Integral Life Practice. I hope that it inspires you to begin to put your own self practice into a different and more encompassing framework and helps you to identify where the holes in your own practice are. Genuinely I'd love to know how many of you are doing shadow work as a regular part of your own practice.

As  treat I have connected you here to two parts of a film with Ken talking about the importance of ILP:

Integral Life Practice pt 1 of 2

Integral Life Practice pt 2 of 2

You may also be interested to read these other articles by me:

Emotional Allergy: The Shadow self we are repulsed by

Are we avoiding the dark emotions of the heart? Pt1 The Meridian Perspective

Are we avoiding the dark emotions of the heart? Pt 2 The Chakra Perspective

So what about all the other areas of your life, surely there is not just these four aspects to work on? What about work, relationships, education etc. Well they are covered in ILP but they are considered as auxiliary modules. That is you add them in once you have got the core module practice into a healthy routine so that you are checking into some part of it every day and you will have checked in to all four core aspects at least several times a week. From there you can spend some time adding bits of the auxiliary practices in as and when it feels right to.

You can take a look at the chart to see what those options are:

Integral life practice chart ben calder


So have fun, get practicing, get your self into integral, life gets better and easier when you combine those aspects in whatever way you can. And as you can see from the chart there are lots of options.

Once again I would like to acknowledge that much of the material for this series of posts has been drawn from the development of Integral Life Practice carried out by Ken Wilber and Terry Pattern and you can find more of their direct work at and you can also find more useful snippets on

I hope you have enjoyed this series and found its content useful. I would love to hear your feedback in the comments and would love for you to share this with interested parties.

Many thanks

Be Well

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