Shadow work includes facing our fears, dealing with loss and healing five major emotional wounds: betrayal, rejection, humiliation, abandon and injustice. 



We were each born into a 360-degree personality. As infants we expressed the full breadth of our human nature, without editing or censoring. As we grew up, however, we learned that certain slices of our 360-degree pie were unacceptable to the people around us. Maybe we were shamed for crying or punished for being angry. Maybe we were ridiculed for wanting attention or acting proud of ourselves. 

As a result, we learned to repress those slices of our pie; to cast into darkness our qualities that got us hurt. It was as if we threw these unacceptable parts of ourselves over our shoulder into a bag, which we have been dragging around behind us ever since.

The shadow is defined as all the parts of ourselves we have stuffed into the bag. These may be "positive" parts or "negative" parts. Our shadows are all those parts we have split off, repressed or denied — the parts of ourselves we are afraid to show.

Shadow work is about balancing the dark and light inside you that everybody possesses. It is easier to focus on the light, but every light has a shadow. He who does not cope skillfully with his dark side exposes himself to danger: sooner or later, the shadow energy overtakes him.

It is impossible to be loving all the time without recognising your own shadow. It is impossible to shine all the time in the eyes of the public without being fully conscious of the dark side in private. The light will backlash, sooner or later, or it will wither and dim, due to lack of fuel.

All you need to do is to face the shadow, to be conscious of its presence. It will disappear by itself. You may believe that a shadow is a ghost or a monster that is following you, but the moment you see it as it is, you will sigh with relief.
— The Venerable Sangharakkhita

The process of shadow work is exploring the four quadrants of our psyches.

  • The LIGHT QUADRANT is what we show to the world, the civilized and polite, socially and culturally acceptable side.
  • The MIRROR QUADRANT is a blind spot to us, which others see, but whose presence we ignore. We are most aware of negative traits in others which reflect our own shadows. One could say that we paint other people with our shadows, for better and for worse.
  • The SECRET QUADRANT is that which we know about ourselves and which others do not know. We try our best to hide it, because we do not like its content. These are our secrets and regrets, the things we would rather bury and forget once for good.
  • The SHADOW QUADRANT is the part that we are not totally aware of, and no one else is aware of. It is the home of all our repressed anger, conceit, lust, greed, doubts, fears, jealousy, aversions, weird and forbidden desires, broken dreams, frustrations…but also our deepest love, and our noblest qualities. This last quadrant contains the energies of our defilements and constantly threatens to disrupt our peace of mind, like a volcano that can erupt any time. The core of every shadow contains a nugget of strength and power as well.