Updated: Aug 25
When we're doing shadow work, very often things will come up to trigger us. This is because our spirit guides can see that we're doing the work and they will help us by sending us things that will trigger us by reflecting our own shadow back to us.
One of the most common shadow work triggers comes when you are doing shadow work on yourself and you meet somebody who hasn't done any sort of 'inner work'. This person may have no interest in doing that sort of work. They may lack self-awareness and don't appear to have any desire to become more self-aware.
What to do when faced with shadow work triggers
It can be very easy at this point to fall into the shadow work trap of "self-righteousness". We see somebody who is ignorant to the fact that shadow work even exists. And we can react to that person with anger or irritation, as we become triggered by them. It is our ego triggering this feeling of self-righteousness and tricking us into believing we are better than them somehow, because we've done the work.
The reason we might feel irritated by them is because we have buried that part of us that lacks self-awareness. We've pushed that part of us down into our shadow. The reason we choose to do shadow work is to become a better version of ourselves, to develop personally and to become more self-aware, therefore in order to become more self-aware we must bury the part of us that is not self-aware. But by burying that part of us, that's what causes the trigger! Therefore when we meet other people who are not self-aware and find that they irritate us, ironically, this is is a perfect example of the shadow at play!
How to Avoid the Shadow Work Trap of Self-Righteousness
If you find yourself becoming triggered by somebody who is not self-aware, you can reduce the trigger by putting some context around it. For example, I'm an ex-smoker. I smoked for many years and I quit a long time ago. I meet people all the time who smoke, and I would never judge them for smoking because I used to enjoy cigarettes. When I stopped enjoying them, I quit. But that doesn't give me the right to get self-righteous with other people about smoking because it would be hypocritical to judge somebody for doing something that I've also done in my life. In fact I wouldn't even dream of it!
But it seems to be a lot easier to fall into the trap of getting irritated by people who are not self-aware. It becomes an ego trap and can bring feelings of superiority, because you've done the work and they haven't. This egoic reaction is part of our shadow as the shadow is where the ego lives. We will have buried deep that part of us that lacked self-awareness as that's probably what brought us to do shadow work in the first place - we wanted to improve ourselves, we wanted to be happier. We wanted to be a nicer person. We wanted to have better relationships. But at some point, remember that you won't have been like that. At some point, you won't have been that self-aware. This is the key to reducing the trigger. Be compassionate with people who are yet to discover the journey you are on! They will get there when the time is right for them, and that may not be in this lifetime. Another way to look at this is to remember where you've come from, and remember that other people are still there.
To learn more about shadow work, including what it is and why it is important, take a look at this article: What is Shadow Work?
To read more about Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who first discovered the shadow self, read this article by Good Therapy