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The More You Do, the More You Can: The Cumulative Effect of Shadow Work

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An Article by Alyce Barry

It's not something I say to every client, but it's true: Shadow Work® has a cumulative effect. Each piece of work builds on what came before.

The more Shadow Work® you do, the more you can — the more you can be, the more you can see, the more you can feel, the more you can do.

One reason I don't say it to every client is a fear that it will sound discouraging, as if I'm saying, "You've only just scratched the surface, you know — there's a lifetime of work here for you to do!" (Read: "That you should do.")

Another reason, of course, is that since I make income doing Shadow Work, it might sound awfully self-serving — as in, "You should pay me lots of money for years and years!"


Before experiential modalities like Shadow Work® came along, I think the whole idea of tackling your shadow sounded overwhelming to a lot of people.

Carl Jung had a tendency to compare the human unconscious to a lake, sometimes even to an ocean. The traditional way to explore that lake was Jungian analysis, meeting with your analyst for an hour a day, five days a week, for about five years.

I haven't done analysis, and what I know about it is primarily from reading June Singer's wonderful book, Boundaries of the Soul, The Practice of Jung's Psychology, first published in 1972, and from talking to friends about their experience in analysis.

The process sounds a little like straining the water in the lake through a sieve one bucketful at a time, to catch the symbols coming through from the unconscious. The symbols appear primarily in dreams, in conversation through techniques like active imagination and word association, and in the choice and arrangement of objects in a sand tray. But a skilled analyst can also detect symbols in the ordinary events of daily life.

Analysis requires a tremendous commitment of time and energy, not to mention money. My impression is that most people aren't ready to sign up for that kind of commitment.


Jungian analyst Robert Moore and his co-author, Doug Gillette, were the first to "chunk" the shadow into manageable pieces in their book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, and Shadow Work® follows in Moore and Gillette's footsteps. It was a really brilliant innovation, in my opinion, in two ways.

First, behaviors and beliefs fall into categories reflecting the archetype that's in shadow. So for example, issues around money, responsibility, and integrity mean that Warrior energy is in shadow because it is the Warrior in us that deals with "real world" things like money, that takes responsibility and has (or does not have) integrity.

Issues around control, manipulation, and trust point to Magician energy in shadow. Issues around self-esteem, passion, and mission point to Sovereign energy in shadow. Issues around feelings, the body, and relationships point to Lover energy in shadow.

The Shadow Work® Model goes a step further, to offer a tool to use in transforming the shadow, a different tool depending on the archetypal energy in shadow: boundaries for Warrior, viewing from a split for Magician, support from an ideal for Sovereign, and a metaphor in the body for Lover.

Second, in a session or a workshop, Shadow Work® chunks the shadow in the moment by starting with the question, "What would you like to have happen?"

It's a question that helps a person focus on one thing they really want, or on one behavior that's really bugging them, or on one shaming belief about themselves or other obstacle that's standing in their way.

I can say from personal experience that Shadow Work® can offer real change on an issue in a single session. I can count half a dozen Shadow Work® sessions that have changed my life, my behavior, or my beliefs about myself in a fundamental way, each in a matter of a few hours. Many of my colleagues and friends report similar experiences.

And, at the same time, I know that those sessions that changed my life built upon sessions that had come before.


A yacht race is an apt metaphor for what I mean.

In honor of summer, here's a photo essay about the yacht race.

With each piece of work I've done, I've gained a new crewmember — some part of me that helps me sail my yacht safely and swiftly across the water — or become a better captain.

rowboat At first, of course, I didn't think of my boat as a yacht.

It felt more like a scrungy little rowboat.

And I felt as if I were sailing it alone.

Since a small rowboat doesn't require much in the way of crew, I thought I was managing okay without help, for years and years.

When I finally learned that help was available — that, in fact, help had always been available for the asking — I started asking.

When I asked, I did Sovereign work — I asked for and received support.

Getting support was like getting a First Mate.

I didn't have to make decisions alone any more.

The sun came out, and the weather looked a lot more promising.

Getting some support gave me the confidence to ask for something I'd always longed for and never dared think I could really have — the capacity to be a leader.

With each Sovereign process, I grew into the role of captain.

I've always enjoyed looking in a mirror at the end of a Shadow Work® process, when I've seen that captain looking out at me from behind my eyes.

As I gained more and more access to my Sovereign, my captain gained in authority and experience, and I could take on and manage more crew.

As I've gained more crew, my boat has grown to hold them. It's become clear to me that my boat can be as big as I imagine it to be.

When I did Magician work, I brought more of my Magician on board.

I gained a navigator who could plot a clear course ahead.

With a navigator, I could venture into less familiar waters without fear of getting lost.

And I could reach my destination in a more timely fashion.

I did a lot of work with my Risk Manager, too.

I honored it myself regularly, and worked with others who also honored its role in my life.

When I brought my Risk Manager on board, I had a scout standing aloft in the rigging, watching out for storms and approaching vessels.

Lover work has enabled me to reach out to people and have fun sailing alongside them.

Having others nearby has enabled me to do things I wouldn't have been able to do alone.

With more of my Lover on board, I enjoy the sailing itself more, rather than always looking ahead to my destination.

I have also invited love itself on board, bringing loved ones on board, into my heart.

With loved ones on board, I can share my deepest self and feel accepted.

It makes for a wonderful voyage.

My feelings, which at one time were strangers to me, have become active crewmembers as well.

My fear peers into the waves ahead for hidden rocks.

With fear on duty, my captain can indulge her adventurous spirit in the knowledge that she'll be alerted to risks as they appear.

My sadness stands usually at the stern, letting go of what I've left behind. With my sadness letting go, my boat rides higher in the water because there's less baggage in the hold.

My anger is on board, too. It helps me keep my friends close without losing myself in the process. It hails other boats if they sail too close, so I have fewer accidents than I once did.

My joy refused to see my voyage as work; it became my cruise director — planning parties and reminding everyone to take time out to bask in the sun on deck, which meant we all had a lot more fun.

Lover work also brought my creativity on board, as a sort of artist-in-residence.

Creativity painted the deck in bright colors and hung paintings below deck where I could enjoy them after dark.

With creativity aboard, life on board is never boring.

The artist invited a musician on board, who plays the merengue for the cruise director's parties, and we all learned how to dance under the stars.

Doing Warrior work has brought strong, capable crewmembers on board.

They make sure the sails go up to take advantage of the wind, and they maintain the boat to make sure it stays strong and seaworthy.

Without them, my boat might not hold together for the long haul. If I lost integrity along the way, reaching my destination wouldn't feel like much of an accomplishment.


I've done a lot of Shadow Work® since 1995.

With a large and varied crew aboard, my boat sails more smoothly, more unwaveringly.

She can withstand storms at sea that once would have sunk her.

The crew enjoys the voyage as much as they do reaching the destination.

With a larger ship, and a larger and more experienced captain and crew, I can safely travel wider oceans.

I can sail to far-off places where the currents and winds are treacherous, and still come home safely.

On the farther shores of those oceans are new lands I can visit for the exciting new experiences they offer.

My crew and my captain have expertise, passion, commitment, strength, and courage.

They bring me safely to rest at day's end, in safe harbor.

Knowing that the sailing itself is worth the doing, regardless of how smoothly the voyage goes, and regardless of the destination reached, makes for a very different voyage than I once did in my rowboat.

Peace of mind, peace of spirit. And looking forward to the next day's adventure.

Alyce Barry is a Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator and Coach, and author of the forthcoming book about Shadow Work®. Read more about Alyce or about the book.

This article originally appeared in our free email newsletter in June 2007. To subscribe, visit our subscription page.

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