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A woman with bangs and sunglasses stands next to a wall. She is wearing a white jean jacket and blue shirt. Her shadow is visible on the wall beside her.

What Are Shadow Emotions?

No one likes experiencing negative emotions, also known as shadow emotions. No one likes to feel sad or angry or upset. By contrast, we love experiencing positive emotions. They make us feel good. They bring us happiness, joy, peace, and harmony.

Who doesn’t like feeling this way?

The problem is, life is not just about experiencing the positives. It is about experiencing the negatives as well.

Your approach to this way of thinking heavily impacts every area of your life.

What Happens When We Do Not Find Balance?

But what happens if we don’t adjust our thinking and let our shadow emotions become our primary emotions?

Let’s use an example. Maybe you want to incorporate more movement in your life, but something is preventing you from exercising throughout the day. Something is likewise pushing you to sit on the couch.

But why is that?

Exercise doesn’t always bring the most pleasant feelings. It can be tough, strenuous and leave us feeling as if we are in pain. No one likes experiencing pain.

By contrast, sitting down is a lot easier.

But there has to be a balance in life.

Where one negative emotion is suppressed, another will simply crop up in its place. You may have avoided the pain of exercise, but now you might have aching joints or feel sluggish. There may be self-loathing, a loss of esteem, and self-rebuke.

At this point, it becomes common to bury the negative emotion, to pretend it isn’t there. But emotions - all emotions - cannot be destroyed. They can only be transformed. This is because emotions are energy.

There may also be a desire to bury the negative emotion with as many positive emotions as possible (this can manifest as simply eating more chocolate bars to get that sense of temporary pleasure). But it sends us down a slippery slope, a web that eventually locks us in and becomes extremely difficult to get out of.

No emotion is there to be buried or avoided. They exist within us for a reason. So let’s dive into what we can do about these negative emotions.

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Why Should I Confront Shadow Emotions?

You may be asking yourself, what do I do with shadow emotions? The key is to acknowledge them and confront them.

We must get beyond our fear of experiencing whatever is unpleasant. The more we train ourselves to do this, the more we realize how crucial and necessary shadow emotions are to our lives.

Buddha reminds us, “suffering is the path to enlightenment.

Everyone experiences suffering at some time or another. Some experience it more frequently than others, but no human alive is exempt from it. We all suffer in our own unique ways.

However, suffering leads to greater empathy, wisdom, and compassion. When we experience suffering and the host of negative emotions that come with it, our souls go through a growth spurt.

We attain wisdom from our suffering.

From wisdom then comes greater empathy, as we are then able to identify with the suffering of others. From this empathy comes compassion, where we feel compelled to help end the suffering of others because we know how it feels to suffer ourselves.

The problem is that suffering is equated with negativity because of the negative emotions it induces. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls - in the words of Carl Jung.

To get beyond this, it is essential that we change the way we think about things. We may not be able to control everything that happens in our lives, but we can become masters of ourselves and change our perspective.

Learn to Deal With Shadow Emotions in 3 Steps

To deal with shadow emotions, it is important to understand them better.

1. Analyze the Shadow Emotions

Sometimes with shadow emotions, our first instinct is to run from them or bury them.

But when the emotion of anger, jealousy, grief, sadness, or any other negative emotion comes out, let it. Take time to understand it. Imagine that you are looking at it from an outsider’s perspective.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What is the shadow emotion trying to tell me?
  • How can I turn this emotion into something positive?

Once you have taken time to understand the emotion, your logical mind will kick in and help smooth the emotion out. It takes some practice but the more you do it, the more attuned you come to understanding shadow emotions.

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2. Find An Outlet

When the shadow emotion hits, it’s important for you to find your outlet.

It can be a place you go to, a crystal, a lucky charm, a breathing exercise– it is something you do or go to as soon as you feel the shadow emotion hits. It can be anything unique to you, from making yourself a cup of green tea to doing a cat pose to holding an amethyst crystal.

Once you choose this outlet, you will come to associate it with shadow emotions. The point of the outlet is to provide you with comfort and support as you navigate your way through the emotion itself.

This also lets your subconscious mind know that shadow emotions are not simply just wild feelings that spiral out of control; they are part of a routine you are setting for yourself and understanding at a deeper level.

3. Use Positive Affirmations

Once you have a better understanding of your shadow emotions, it is time to transform them into positive ones- this is the fun part.

Let’s say your shadow emotion is jealousy, triggered by someone being friendly to your partner.

Jealousy is a wild and destructive emotion and one of the hardest to control. However, if you have managed to step outside of yourself and analyze the emotion, you will also manage to maintain some kind of control over it.

This is when you repeat a positive affirmation to yourself.

You may discover upon analyzing your jealousy that the reason you get jealous is that you were betrayed in the past.

A good positive affirmation to repeat to yourself is: I am worthy of being loved. I am everything my partner needs.

Repeat this to yourself over and over again. Write it in lipstick on the mirror if you must so you can see it as soon as you wake up. Say it before you go to bed and upon waking.

Eventually, your subconscious mind will get the message and send word to the shadow emotion that it’s time to transform into a positive emotion, a bit like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

Don’t Let Negative Emotions Shadow Your Day

In short, shadow emotions get a bad rep, but they are just as crucial to our existence as positive emotions. Your physical body and mind may instantly recoil from negative emotions, but your soul knows that it cannot grow without these shadow emotions and help you become the best version of yourself.

Remember, when the shadow emotion shows its face, don’t be afraid of it. As unpleasant as it feels, remember that it is there to help you transform.

Much of life is about evolving as human beings, and in order to do this, we must face the darker aspects of ourselves. We will not get very far if we always remain in the light.

By going through the darkness and not running from it, we will eventually find the light we are seeking. It will burn brighter and better than ever before– and it will all be thanks to the shadow emotions.

Related article: How to Use an Oracle Deck for Shadow Work

Sarah Brownlee

Sarah Brownlee

Having worked as a teacher, a bartender, and even a private investigator, writing was something Sarah Brownlee just fell into, even though it had been her passion since she was a little girl. To date, she has written and published 3 Children and Young Adult fiction novels, ghostwritten for others, and... Read More

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