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Shadow Emotions: What Are They And How To Recognize Them?

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by Conscious Reminder

In the modern world, categories come naturally. Good and bad; healthy and unhealthy; positive and negative, etc.

These categories can help us. But they also make us judgemental and inflexible in our behavior towards ourselves and those around us.

A common example of this happening is in the field of mental health. Many times, emotions are judged, categorized, and labeled as negative or positive. Positive emotions make us feel joyful, happy, and content. So we prefer to feel, savor, and grasp onto them.

On the other hand, negative emotions are usually removed, avoided, and ignored in our lives. This is what many have been conditioned into believing – that “negative” emotions cause problems; negative emotions are what is “wrong” in us.

But the reality is not like that. Emotions do not have sides to them. They are neutral. Emotional experiences point out what we should be attentive to in every aspect of our lives. Emotional responses show us how we react to our outer and inner experiences.

What Is A Shadow Emotion?

For a psychologist, calling an emotion “negative” creates problems. It makes us avoid and suppress the experience. The label makes us be on the defense about the emotion, deny or ignore it altogether. Thus, “shadow” emotions are a much better term for such emotions.

Shadow emotions are of five types: Disgust; Embarrassment and Shame; Fear and Anxiety; Anger; and Sadness.

Each of these wide categories has shadow emotions which range from mildly intense to extremely painful. But these emotions are an essential part of being a human. Embracing them will give us a chance to be more committed and curious about emotional health.

Human nature’s “shadow side” was made popular by Carl Jung, the psychiatrist. “Shadow work” tries to make you aware, curious, and intentional about such thrown-away parts and experiences. Accepting this shadow self lets us see ourselves in a new light. Thus, healing us and our behavior.

It is the part that is wise and wants us to acknowledge and care about. The more we ignore them, the more intense they get until we will have no choice but to face them.

How To Know The Shadow Emotions?

There are four methods you can use to know about and accept shadow emotions:

1. Label Emotional Experiences

Give a detailed description of your feelings. For instance, if you are sad, ask yourself about the type of sadness it is. Is it loneliness, exhaustion, depression, or hopelessness? The more specific and descriptive you can be, the more aware you will be. This will help you to decide on what to do next – how to look after emotional heath.

2. Be Attentive Of Your Thoughts About Such Emotions

Try to keep an eye on the thoughts that you have about such emotional responses. These are also called “meta-emotions”. Do you find yourself criticizing yourself, a certain situation, or a relationship? Maybe you keep thinking of something that happened in the past?

Try to describe the kind of thoughts in a few words. Do they show insecurity, low self-esteem, some worries about what is to come, or just frustration and anger? If you pay attention to the thoughts, it will also help you identify and label shadow emotions.

3. Do Not Be Judgemental

Try to not judge yourself when you are feeling shadow emotions. Rather, dig deeper and try answering the following questions:

·   What kind of reactions did you get from those around you during a specific shadow emotional experience?

·   Did you have the space to feel these emotions, or punished, judged, or shamed?

·   Did you get to know how to avoid or ignore shadow emotions since no one supported you? Or maybe because a significant person got angry at you for sharing them?

The responses we get often have a major effect on our emotional health. Unlearning them is an important step to embracing them.

4. Embracing The Shadow Emotions

On experiencing such emotions, keep in mind that you have neither any need to act on it nor does it define you. They may be temporary and have various intensity. They can even lead to self-discovery. Shadow emotions can also make you heal and grow as you learn from understanding the experience.

You are performing self-care when you manage such emotions. Accepting them might feel like too much in the beginning. But be patient and compassionate, and you will see how much you can heal. Remember, these are only a part of yourself, not your entirety. But your entirety deserves your attention and care.

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