Shadow Work- Doing Your Side Work in the Dark

Therapy has a bit of a misnomer in people’s minds. We tend to go to therapists and psychologists looking for “cures.” That’s how it works with other health fields, right? If I have a toothache and go to the dentist, I expect the dentist to drill, clean, fill, or whatever else is needed so that I no longer have a toothache at the end.

Therapists don’t work like that though. There is no “curing” mental illness. Instead, care and therapy is directed toward pathology- figuring out how and why a person becomes ill- and managing it to make the experience of that illness less disruptive to daily life. Medication and psychopharmacology is one option where the illness is severe enough that the pathology indicates a chemical imbalance in the brain. “Talk therapy,” what most of us think of when it comes to sitting down with a psychologist, is more like giving people the tools they need in order to piece together their own problems.

Therapists act more like a trail guide than a doctor, giving us the tools and advice we need to face our challenges- but we still need to face them ourselves. Carl Jung called two parts of this practice “Light” and “Shadow work-” and just like skipping Leg Day at the gym, you don’t want to skip on the Shadow work.

But the shadow is merely somewhat inferior, primitive, unadapted, and  awkward; not wholly bad. It even contains childish or primitive qualities  which would in a way vitalize and embellish human existence, but
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