by Aletheia Luna
It's essential to face
our shadows, to explore our
childhood wounds, and to unravel the intergenerational trauma that
Don't get me wrong.
But shadow work is a layered process. It starts with
you, but it doesn't end with you.
Most crucially, it is
also familial, societal, cultural, and global.
And to truly dive deep,
we have to keep going and peel back the layers of junk we've
In a nutshell,
if we are interested
in authentically embodying our true nature - our Heart and Soul
- we need to also examine how we have internalized the racism,
sexism, homophobia, speciesism, and other Collective Shadows
that permeate all of society.
And to do that, we need
to courageously and relentlessly dismantle the toxic spiritual
ideologies that we are conditioned to believe (more on that soon).
What is the
The Collective Shadow is humanity's dark side.
It is the sum total
of past and present atrocities, cruelties, tragedies, and
horrors perpetrated by humankind and stored at a deep,
unconscious, cellular level.
This darkness is not
always glaringly apparent as it is so ancient and so ingrained into
the fibers of our societies.
Examples of the
Collective Shadow include,
discrimination, racism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, and
anything that "others" or condemns, rejects, or diminishes
Collective Shadow Work - Our Biggest Blindspot
At some point during our spiritual paths, we will be exposed to the
idea of shadow work.
There are so many
teachers, mentors, and other spiritual-type folk out there who will
encourage you to take a good, firm look at yourself and what's
lurking in the unconscious depths.
But there is a
silence filling the spiritual community, and it is deafening.
And that silence is towards the importance of Collective Shadow
Up until a year ago, this
was my blindspot too - I totally overlooked the importance and
essential need to examine Collective Shadows such as ingrained
I didn't connect the dots
between what was going on in my internal world and in society around
So I'll stand up, own
this ignorance, and take self-responsibility. I'm striving to
include these vital issues in my shadow work exploration now,
although I'm not an expert on anything I'm diving into and I've
definitely got a lot to learn.
And then, I looked around me and saw that this collective silence
wasn't just endemic to me, but a pandemic infiltrating most of the
spiritual, wellness, and self-transformation circles.
No one was talking about it. (Or at least, apart from a very few
rare and exceptional individuals.)
was talking about
spiritual practice helps or hinders
No one was
and other ways
of rejecting and
brothers, sisters, and fellow souls...
Yes, I could see a lot of feminist and goddess-type focus, but it
was usually centered around rich, white women with enough cash and
time to invest in expensive mala beads, yoga classes, and smoothie
Not only that, but I discovered not just a total neglect of
exploring the Collective Shadow (again, apart from a rare few
exceptions), but also a flat out denial of it.
Spirituality Denies and Contributes to the Collective Shadow
Let's take a moment to breathe deeply, ground ourselves, and connect
with our hearts.
My goal in this article is to come from a place of care, concern,
and humility, acknowledging my ignorance, knowing that I have a lot
to learn, unpack, and process - and always will.
I know it can be hard to read articles like this as they challenge
us in a deep, visceral way.
But please know that this
is done with compassion. It's normal to feel ashamed, guilty, angry
at ourselves, disgusted at others, reactive, and defensive when
being challenged. So just be aware of that and keep going. Let the
layers be stripped back.
Here are some ways that modern spirituality denies and also
contributes to the Collective Shadow:
"Focus only on
the positive" (this denies reality and shames those who
have legitimate issues that need space and compassion)
only" (this denies the importance of anything going on
around us that is "low vibe" and encourages us to escape
into a spiritual dreamworld)
that situation" (aka. those who get discriminated
against due to the color of their skin, sexuality, age,
mental/physical ability, etc. "brought it on themselves" -
imagine how sociopathic that sounds when you say it to
someone who is suffering)
is used as another way of brushing over and
dismissing someone's pain by attributing it to some kind of
retributive cosmic force)
your reality" (this is another way of saying that
basically "it's too bad you're suffering, but it's your
fault" which is essentially a form of victim-blaming)
an illusion" (on an absolute level that may be true, but
we're also operating from a human level and that needs to be
respected, acknowledged, and lived - to say that
everything is an illusion is bypassing the importance of
facing issues that are happening within ourselves and
love" (again, on an absolute level this may be true, but
from a human level we need to be careful not to discount the
reality of our/other people's pain - that itself is not love
evil/unconscious" (this is a common philosophy held by
many spiritual folks who use it as an unconscious excuse,
ironically, to close their hearts and ignore the suffering
of the world in order to make their lives easier to live)
lightworker, I don't ____" (this excuse and belief is
used by modern spiritual seekers who believe that Shadow
Work in no way fits into their mission - that it's all about
spreading light and love - however, by denying the Shadow
either personally and/or Collectively, they are
paradoxically living in and perpetuating darkness)
and whatever is going on in society don't mix" (this
definition focuses on compartmentalizing and elevating
spirituality above daily life - however, what use is
spirituality if it doesn't help us to deal with the
realities of the world we live in? That is flat out
spiritual bypassing and spiritual escapism)
I'm sure there are many
other beliefs, philosophies, and sayings out there - so if I've
missed any, feel free to share them below in the comments.
Let's educate each
5 Ways to Deepen Your Shadow Work
As Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who first popularized
the concept of the Shadow Self, once wrote:
None of us stands
outside of humanity's black collective shadow.
You heard it. None of
We all carry the Collective Shadow inside of us and it's our
responsibility to unravel it.
In fact, the more lost in self-righteous spiritual labels,
philosophies, and delusions we are, the more likely we are to spread
and reinforce not just the personal but also the Collective Shadow.
We see examples of this in spiritual and self-growth spheres that
culturally appropriate indigenous practices, exclude BIPOC (black,
indigenous, people of color) from their groups, unknowingly
standards, encourage sexism, price their services at
unreasonable rates that exclude the financially disadvantaged,
So how can we
tackle the huge beast that is the Collective Shadow?
Firstly, we need to realize that whatever has been internalized
inside of us is ancient. We are never going to fully undo or purge
all of it.
The Collective Shadow,
is literally the sum
total of all the darkness, all the atrocities that have ever
been experienced and committed by humanity.
However, what we can do
is start this work and keep at it.
The benefits are many:
It keeps us humble.
It keeps us open. It keeps us willing to learn and grow.
When we believe we are
somehow "perfect" or beyond this work, that's where the stagnancy
and egotism sets in. That's where the darkness multiplies.
With that being said, here are five ways to begin incorporating
Collective Shadow Work into your spiritual practice:
Listen to those who lead different lives and have a different
context from you
Expand the bubble of your awareness.
Put down the mic,
move your attention to how others feel (and away from centering
everything around yourself), and be receptive.
Listen to the
stories of black and indigenous folk and what they undergo
each and every day.
Listen to those
whose lives have suffered as a result of their sexual
preference or identity.
Listen to those
who are neurodiverse. Listen to people with disabilities.
There are many ways
of doing this - YouTube is the first place that comes to mind.
You can also listen
to podcasts or if you're a book lover, expand your book
repertoire. If you have the chance and opportunity, strike up a
conversation with someone who leads a different experience from
you in your life.
Doing so will enrich
your mind, your perspective, and open your heart.
your ingrained prejudice and negative conditioning
In what ways are you perpetuating old and unhealthy ideas and
Look at the people
you listen to and follow, the products you buy, the people you
financially support, the friends you have, the feelings you have
toward certain groups, and any other area of life that feels
helpful to keep a journal when doing any kind of Shadow Work
- and especially Collective Shadow Work.
By keeping a journal,
you'll be able to refer back to moments in time where you
observed the Collective Shadow emerge in your thinking or
This will help you to
learn and grow.
yourself, "In what way am I othering that person or group of
‘Othering' is a term used in sociology that means,
person or group as essentially alien and reducing them to a
socially inferior stance to us.
othering is about creating an "in-group" (of which we are
part of) and an "out-group" (of which they are part of).
Often, othering involves projecting negative and ugly
qualities onto "the other group" of people.
For example, one
country may project qualities of savagery, deceptiveness, and
evil onto another country - and so these two countries
eventually go to war.
The same goes for
many societies that value and elevate whiteness, for example,
and devalue and debase blackness.
The problem with othering is that it comes from a place
of pure ego. It is a way of separating the world that elevates
us and diminishes other people.
It causes us to
disconnect from our hearts and mistreat/alienate others because,
on some level, we believe that they essentially "deserve it."
Take responsibility and practice humility
When doing any form of Collective Shadow Work - that is,
exploring how we have unconsciously internalized parts of the
Collective Shadow - we need to be aware that we're going to mess
We're going to
We might offend
someone or be unpopular.
That's okay. It's
okay to be imperfect. It's okay to say the wrong thing.
What matters is what
you do after you learn that you've made a mistake.
Do you totally
shut off and stop doing this vital work?
Do you react and
Or do you
practice humility, apologize, and take sincere steps to open
your heart and mind even more?
responsibility is crucial. It's easy to point the finger at
others. But it's much harder to put the mirror up to ourselves.
Remember that all
changes, whether personal or collective, start from inside...
with your heart and be proactive
When we connect with
our hearts and do this work
from a heart-centered place, that's when it's the most
That's when we
can be the most proactive.
Do you need to go to
every protest rally out there? No, not necessarily.
Shadow Work could mean a hundred different things.
You might choose
to amplify the voices of BIPOC creators on your social media
You might speak
up against homophobia in your social circle.
You might make
your business more accessible to people with disabilities.
You might journal
or create art about the Collective Shadow.
You might donate
to and support movements such as Black Lives Matter and
You might read
books, buy workshops, or listen to songs about these issues.
You might honor
the land you're on and pay respect to the original
There are so many
The important thing
is to do something - because if your Shadow Work
doesn't also extend to the down-to-earth realities of everyday
life, what the f*ck is it for anyway? (I say this with love.)