Because of how we naturally tend to repress – rather than acknowledge – our phantom selves, the traits they encompass can hold us back from reaching our full potential. This is where self-reflection and shadow work comes into play, as a way to cultivate a better understanding of your dark side and learn to integrate it and even embrace it. While you can do this work for any dark side you might identify with yourself, the most common dark side of your zodiac sign can be a useful starting point for a foray into shadow work.
What, exactly, is a shadow self or a shadow side?
Duality has been mythologized: light and darkness, good versus evil. Obviously, humanity loves a good polarity. Are you the friend who tends to project his critical perfectionism onto others? Or, maybe you tend to fight for control, and that usually ends in a lot of drama. If you asked the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who originally developed the idea of the me from the shadows in the 1940s he would probably call those pesky quirks your shadow qualities.
“The phantom self represents the part of our personal psyche that often stays just outside of our awareness, especially without intentional work,” explains the therapist. Jor-El Caraballo, LMHCauthor of The Shadow Workbook. “If the character represents the face we like to show the world, which is our outer self, then the shadow represents the parts we hide and repress from others and even from ourselves.”
“The phantom self represents the part of our personal psyche that often stays just outside of our awareness, especially without intentional work.” —Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC, therapist
In astrology, the concept of shadow is no different. Each zodiac archetype comes with both strengths (qualities of light) and weaknesses (qualities of darkness or shadow) – and usually the former can actually become the latter when pushed too far or wrong. interpreted. For example, Leo’s self-confidence, while excellent in scenarios requiring trust, can easily turn into a war on their ego when expressed in excess. And Aquarius, though humanitarian and community builder at heart, tends to struggle with emotional awareness in close relationships.
What is shadow work?
Because we are all naturally complex and contain a multitude of traits that often mask our shadows, mental health experts like Caraballo suggest unearthing your dark side via shadow work, which is essentially bringing your shadow into light. “Jung believed that working to accept the shadow parts (of ourselves) allowed us to integrate them and live alongside the shadow, thereby reducing psychological tension and conflict,” says Caraballo.
Typically, parallel work can look like a diary, mirror workor even dream diary to identify and confront your phantom self and learn about the less desirable tendencies that come with it. But working with your energy centers, or chakracan also help balance your light and dark features.
“Within our chakras, the experiences we (have) in our life and past lives accumulate,” says a mid-life and past-life progression therapist. Gaia Chinniah. And over time, these formative experiences overlap, trapping our shadow beneath them, she says: “These forces of opposition drive us to act, to behave, to move, to react, to react and even to recreate past experiences.
Unpacking the layers of past experiences that create and inform your shadow sides is the only way to fully understand the reason for your behaviors in the present. Even so, the point of shadowwork is not to completely remove these less-loved traits, but rather to become aware of them. “Doing work in the shadows can help us learn to accept ourselves more fully and make choices that help us realize ourselves and live with more self-compassion,” says Caraballo.
Understanding the typical shadows of your zodiac sign can help you deal with dark sides that may be particularly inherent in your personality. Below, astrologers break down the shadow side of each zodiac sign and explain how to practice shadow work accordingly.
How Each Zodiac Sign Can Practice Shadow Work, According To Astrologers
Fast pace Ram is known to make leaps without necessarily thinking ahead. They could benefit from acknowledging their dark streak hastily through mindfulness meditation. “Setting the intention to examine the shadow part of oneself without judgment or ego can be a powerful way to counter their naturally impulsive side,” says the astrologer Angel Dawn.
The stubbornness of Bull should not be underestimated – they are unwavering in their beliefs and will not back down on something that really matters to them. Addressing and combating these bullish behaviors may require them to practice active listening and empathy exercises. “By opening up to different perspectives, they can learn to be more adaptable and understanding,” says the astrologer Pix Wilder.
Let’s be honest: talkative Gemini always has something to say, and that’s just one of their strengths. But these curious air signs tend to put logic before emotion (sometimes mistakenly), which is why Wilder and Dawn suggest journaling as a path of shadow work for this zodiac sign. “Gemini can benefit from journaling to explore their thoughts and feelings more deeply, helping them to understand and integrate their different aspects,” says Wilder.
Of course, Cancer has a reputation for being compassionate and loving, but being everyone’s caretaker can hurt their mental health and self-image. “Your dependable nature requires you to pay some attention to yourself from time to time,” says Chinniah, of Cancer.
The best way to integrate your tendency to please people, according to Dawn? Primitive yelling. “Becoming more aware of pent up feelings and releasing them can be deeply helpful,” she says.
Leo holds her head up high and thrives in any performance with an audience. But sometimes, Dawn says, their pride can get in the way of the success they might achieve by giving in to others once in a while. Wilder says volunteering or doing acts of service for others are great exercises in humility to keep Leo’s ego in check. “By focusing on the needs of others, they can gain a more balanced perspective on their ego and self-esteem,” she says.
Virgin can use shadow work to unpack their tendency to lament about what could or should have been, says Chinniah. There is no perfect life path or outcome, and it’s important for Virgo to remember that dwelling on perfection will only make them worse. “Through mindfulness and self-compassion exercises, they can learn to let go of self-critical tendencies,” says Wilder.
Balance seeks balance, but their pleasant nature can sometimes cause them to over-compromise or sacrifice themselves on someone else’s behalf. Wilder says it will do the air sign good to explore their possess desires. “By journaling or engaging in deep self-reflection, they can gain a better understanding of their motivations and develop a stronger sense of self,” she says. Libra sometimes needs to be reminded that being diplomatic also involves meeting their needs.
There are few things spicier than a Scorpiopassion, which can easily become volatile when jealousy or over-competitiveness comes into play. That’s why Chinniah says shadow work for a Scorpio will involve recognizing that one’s own success isn’t dependent on the failure of others.
In turn, practicing vulnerability and openness with others will be key for Scorpio, says Wilder, who adds that honest communication will help them deepen connections with others.
Sagittarius don’t like to be held back, and their hyper-independence, according to Dawn, might just be the dark self they need to discover. Spending time outdoors with other like-minded people or joining talking circles can be rejuvenating and liberating for this sign, Dawn says. Learning to empathize and collaborate with others is a great way for them to foster a better sense of community while suppressing their typical desire to go it alone.
External validation (such as status and prestige) can often hold Capricorn far from nurturing their inner world. “Cultivate your ability to recognize yourself for who you are and what you want,” Chiannah says of the zodiac goats. Picking up a self-care ritual is one way Capricorn does just that. Wilder suggests they focus on practicing self-compassion and making it a habit of resting and rejuvenating.
Aquarius is a natural for psychoanalyzing everything, including their feelings. So it’s no surprise that their behind-the-scenes work focuses on healing their emotional distance.
“Group therapy circles or retreats, in person or online, can be a way for Aquarius to find support from other like-minded people,” Dawn says. These programs typically encourage participants to tune into their emotions, which allows Aquarius to cultivate emotional awareness and better serve those around them.
Pisces has an untamed sense of wonder and imagination, which can sometimes lead him astray from his goals. In order to reconnect with their intuition and purpose, it may be helpful for them to practice dream work. “Writing down dreams and their symbolism after waking up and working intuitively with the potential meanings can be a way to explore the darker subconscious while strengthening intuition,” Dawn explains.