Psychedelics and Shadow Work
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
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How many times have you complained about the same situations in your life, wishing they were different? How many times did you find yourself replaying the same relationship drama with a different partner? I know I have. It was easy to ignore my own flaws and place the blame on them. After all, they were nasty people; I made poor choices; it was just my bad luck that shitty things happen to me.
It wasn’t until I learned about the concept of the Shadow that things started to look different. I started to realize that what I was putting out there reflected back at me. I was disowning and projecting parts of myself onto others around me, keeping the pain of my own imperfections at bay.
When talking about the shadow self, Carl Jung said that “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” That was exactly how I felt. I was convinced that I was meant to only find people that weren’t great for me - I believed it to be destined.
Let’s Define the Shadow
Carl Jung was one of the first to discuss the concept of psychological archetypes, and how they are reflected in one’s conscious and unconscious. He describes archetypes as universal, inborn models of people, behaviors, or personalities that play a role in influencing human behavior. Jung believed that we are born carrying these archetypes within us as much as we were born with our other instinctive impulses.
The shadow self resides mostly in our unconscious mind, and in our blind spots. This part is the unknown, dark side of our personality. Everything we deny in ourselves and what we perceive as inferior becomes a part of it. It contains everything that does not fit into our idea of who we think we are or who we think we should be, in order to be accepted and loved. The shadow is the denied side of our personality that consists mostly of our primitive impulses not accepted in our society, like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power.
How the Shadow Manifests in Our Lives
Problems arise when our wounds are triggered, and the shadow takes over in the driver’s seat. We may find ourselves saying or doing things we later regret. When we do not own our shadows, we can really hurt our relationships with others.
Like everyone else, I have my own shadows. But I was tired of acting the same way, yet expecting different results in my relationships. I decided to pay attention to my blind spots and listened to people's complaints about me. Where I was not proud of my behavior, I reflected on how I felt or showed up in those situations. Working through this darkness brought me to the realization that one of my deepest, darkest shadows is envy and jealousy.
It all started in infancy when I felt I lost the love and attention of a parent when a perfect, better baby joined our family: my sister. The feelings of jealousy were strong, but expressing them made me a “bad” kid. So I denied them, feeling disappointed in myself when I felt jealousy. I was better than that, I couldn't feel such ugly feelings, especially if I wanted to get the love I was craving.
But the pain stayed. The pain of always being second, never being good enough, of not being the only one. This rippled into all my friendships and relationships, making me moody or mean. It wasn’t pleasant being around me when I was acting out.
Can Psychedelics Help?
One of the most powerful things about psychedelics is their ability to bring to the forefront the blind spots we have. When microdosing psilocybin mushrooms, we can access a state of increased emotional awareness more easily. In doing so, it is able to bring us into a direct encounter with the shadow.
When used with intention, psychedelics can help us address long-present psycho-spiritual blockages. During my microdosing practice, the increased awareness helped me map for myself situations and triggers, as well as the physical sensations and emotions associated with them. That awareness created a distance between me and my feelings, allowing me to just observe them. The microdosing practice also helped me be more present and enjoy the flow of an activity. This comes in handy when your shadow comes up.
However, another component that really helped was the insight I gained from my macrodose journeys. During those experiences, I discovered my love and curiosity for the divine expressed in all human experiences and beings. This became an anchor I could connect with every time I felt my jealousy creeping in. I could go back to that feeling whenever I had a shadow-attack.
This “macro-micro conjunction” helped me navigate and integrate the jealousy/envy within me whenever it came up.
Navigating a Shadow-Attack
A shadow-attack always blindsides you. It creeps in when you think you are vigilant or having fun, but by the time you become aware of it, your world has darkened and you start acting out. I learned to work through a shadow-attack and not let it control my behavior in two ways. Here’s some context around my own shadow-attacks and what normally triggers them.
I get jealous/envious when I think the love, adoration, and attention from my favorite person are threatened by someone else that appears to be better than me in some ways. It’s a fast, usually unconscious, emotional flashback to the core wound from my childhood. In this situation, I give away my power for self-love to someone else.
The moment I acknowledge that I am giving too much power to my significant other by wanting all their love and attention for myself, I can break the cycle. I remind myself that I am worthy of love, and go back to the times when my significant other was not in my life, yet I was able to give myself all the love and validation I needed.
Just going back to that self-sufficiency mindset helps me recenter and be in the present moment. I ground myself in the flow of whatever activity I am doing at the time. One of the benefits of microdosing is the ease with which you get into a flow state. Practicing that during my microdosing days was like strengthening a muscle, a muscle that could be used to fight my shadow-attacks.
Something else that happens in a shadow-attack is objectification. Whenever someone appears to be a threat, I start to see him/her as being the source of my pain or an enemy, not as another person. Humanizing them and remembering that they too are flesh and blood, with deep desires, hopes, and fears - just like me - brings me back to my love for people and the human experience. This deep love and curiosity discovered during my macrodose journeys become the focus instead.
In the past, this cycle has repeated in all my relationships, but working through my shadow has allowed me to break the chains, heal the trauma, and live from a higher place.
Why Should Anyone Do the Work?
Getting rid of your shadow is not the point, nor is it something you can do. When you stand in the light of life, you will always cast a shadow! However, seeing it for what it is and integrating it allows us to discover new sides of ourselves. With this, we can go deeper into knowing ourselves and put a stop to the traumatic treadmill we’ve been running on our whole lives. It gives us permission to step into a new life. Only by going through the chaos and the turmoil can we evolve and emerge anew.
Jung C. Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche
Jung C. Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious
Ana Maria Badila's professional background and education are in Special Education and Psychology. Her love of human psychology and personal development brought her deep into exploring and healing her core wounds and tapping into her creativity. She found a lot of answers in plant medicine practices.
As a result of this synthesis, she went on to develop Microdosing Guru and Odin, the journal for anyone who is microdosing psychedelics.
Do you have any questions on microdosing? Ask Ana directly! Send us your questions in the comments or via email, and Ana will respond to a few in her next article.