Shadow Work and Relationships: How the Past Influences The Present


shadow work relationships


Introduction: Defining Shadow Work and Its Relationship to Relationships
Understanding The Impacts of Unresolved Trauma on Present Day Interactions
Taking Inventory Of Your Shadow-Self and Its Effects On Relationships
Exploring How Shadow Work Can Enhance Your Current Connections
Working Towards Healthy Relationships Through Shadow Work
Conclusion: Harnessing the Power of Shadow Work for Improved Connections


As a child, I grew up in a household where there was alcoholism and codependency. My parents’ struggles overshadowed my emotional needs, leaving me feeling isolated and unheard. It wasn’t horrible, but there was a tense, dense energy that I picked up on and didn’t know how to process. The emotional support and connection I longed for just wasn’t there.

At a young age, I started to recognize the pattern. Whenever I needed emotional connection or validation, my parents were preoccupied with their own issues, leaving me to fend for myself. I learned to internalize my emotions, bottling them up to avoid burdening them further or risking their anger. Suppressing my own needs became a way to maintain peace and stability, even though it meant denying myself the emotional support I craved.

It was like inside I was screaming, “Hey Mom, Dad! I’m right here. I need deep connection with you! I need you to validate me! I need you to see me, hear me!” But I couldn’t voice it.

As time went on, this coping mechanism persisted, shaping my approach to relationships as an adult. Opening up emotionally became a challenge, as it felt scary. I had become so accustomed to guarding my feelings and prioritizing others’ needs that I struggled to connect on a deeper, more vulnerable level. Trusting someone with my emotions felt risky and unfamiliar.

Furthermore, my experiences with my parents created a skewed perception of what love and affection looked like.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that the struggles I faced as a child have influenced my adult relationships more than I initially understood. However, by acknowledging and understanding the roots of my emotional disconnect, I’ve been actively working towards healing and developing healthier patterns of emotional connection with others for years now.

How about you?

Do you think your childhood has had an impact on your adult relationships? Are you beginning to see patterns repeated?

This is one reason I love the topic of shadow work. It’s digging into the unconscious to see what we’ve tossed in there over the years because it was either too painful to feel at the time, or we just had no idea how to process it back then.

What Is Shadow Work?

You see, shadow work is the process of exploring and understanding the unconscious parts of the ego (mind), often referred to as the ‘shadow-self’. This is the part of ourselves that contains unresolved trauma, limiting beliefs, and deeply rooted emotional patterns from our past. It’s the false self. The carnal nature. The “long bag that we drag behind us”, as Poet Robert Bly puts it.

By coming face to face with these unacknowledged feelings and thought processes, we can learn to heal our past and in turn, form more meaningful connections with the people we love.

This blog post will discuss how shadow work can help us better understand and enhance our relationships with others by taking a look at the impacts of unresolved trauma on present day interactions, exploring how shadow work can benefit current connections, and ultimately working towards healthy relationships through self-exploration.

shadow work and relationships


Understanding The Impacts of Unresolved Trauma on Present Day Interactions

Unresolved trauma from our childhood, as well as younger adult years, can have a significant impact on our present day interactions with others. Even when we’re unaware of these experiences, they often shape how we interact with the people close to us in both subtle and overt ways.

For example, someone who experienced emotional neglect as a child may find themselves struggling to open up to their partner or to trust in their relationship. This is what happened to me.

On the other hand, someone who experienced physical or emotional abuse may find themselves responding aggressively and defensively when faced with a conflict.

Still another who experience physical or emotional abuse may find themselves learning how to a caretaker or people pleaser, as this was the way they coped with the trauma.

In either case, it’s important to recognize that these patterns of behavior are rooted in our past experiences and can be healed layer by layer through the practice of shadow work.

Shadow work allows us to explore the depths of our unconscious in order to become aware of and address these underlying issues. Through this practice, we can gain a better understanding of our relationship patterns and how they’ve been shaped by our past experiences.

By bringing awareness to these parts of ourselves, we can begin to heal and move forward from any unresolved trauma that is still affecting us, allowing us to form more meaningful and fulfilling relationships.

shadow work and relationships


Taking Inventory Of Your Shadow-Self and Its Effects On Relationships

The first step in the process of shadow work is to take an inventory of your shadow-self, or all the parts of yourself that you’ve been keeping hidden away due to shame, guilt, or fear. Granted, you are probably not even aware of these parts of yourself.

This could be anything from feelings of insecurity to intense fear to deep-seated anger. Once you’ve identified these emotions, it’s important to examine how they may be impacting your relationships.

Are there certain patterns that keep cropping up in your interactions with others?

  • Passive-Aggressiveness?
  • Lack of Empathy?
  • Criticism?
  • Disrespecting Boundaries?

Are there any beliefs that tend to hinder your ability to form meaningful connections?

  • “I am unworthy of love and acceptance.”
  • “Others will inevitably hurt me.”
  • “I need to be perfect to be loved.”
  • “I am better off alone.”

By reflecting on these, as well as how you’ve been shaped by your past experiences, you can start to uncover any unresolved trauma and look for ways to heal and grow.

Shadow work is a powerful tool for gaining insight into our relationships with others and ourselves. With a bit of self-exploration, we can begin to understand how our past influences our present, and in turn, make strides towards forming healthier relationships.

shadow work and relationships


How Shadow Work Can Enhance Your Current Connections

Once you’ve taken inventory of your shadow-self and the effects it has on your current connections, you can start to explore ways in which shadow work can enhance your current relationships. By facing and accepting the parts of yourself that you’ve been avoiding, that have been hidden, you can open up to a deeper level of understanding and connection with others.

Shadow work is also an opportunity to uncover your unique gifts, qualities, and strengths that may have gone unnoticed or untapped for years. Once you become aware of these traits, you can use them to create more fulfilling relationships by expressing them in healthy and positive ways.

For example, suppose you grew up in an environment where you were required to be quiet and suppress your voice. As a result, you may have developed a belief that your thoughts and opinions are not valuable or worthy of being heard. This belief can manifest in adulthood as a lack of assertiveness and difficulty expressing yourself.

However, by bringing this belief to light and recognizing its origin, you can begin to heal and integrate that part of you. Understanding that your voice is a gift and that your thoughts and opinions matter can empower you to develop assertiveness and confidently express yourself in relationships. Through this process, you can overcome the hindrance and form more meaningful connections based on genuine self-expression and mutual respect.

Additionally, engaging in shadow work can help you learn how to set boundaries with others and create space for yourself when needed. With this newfound awareness, you can start to form relationships based on mutual respect and trust.

Working Towards Healthy Relationships Through Shadow Work

Shadow work provides us with the opportunity to develop healthier relationships not only with others, but also ourselves. By understanding our own patterns and behaviors, we can start to cultivate healthier connections that are based on mutual respect and trust.

We can learn how to effectively communicate our needs in a way that is both compassionate and honest. We can also gain insight into any unhelpful patterns of behavior or limiting beliefs that have been preventing us from creating meaningful connections.

Throughout my life, I struggled to effectively communicate my needs, even with my own family. I suppressed my desires and opinions, fearing judgment and rejection. This pattern of behavior persisted from childhood into my young adulthood.

However, my journey of self-discovery and personal growth led me to engage in shadow work, a transformative process that brought my suppressed needs to light. As I confronted and integrated my hidden emotions and desires, I began to tune into my wants and needs with confidence. The fear that once held me back is dissipating, and I’m learning to express myself honestly and compassionately.

Today, I embrace the power of open communication, for the most part, fearlessly sharing my needs and desires with others, including my family, and fostering deeper connections based on authenticity and understanding.

You see, shadow work allows us to heal from any unresolved trauma that might still be lingering in our unconscious. This healing helps create space for more fulfilling and authentic interactions with those around us, allowing us to form truly meaningful relationships.

How A Shadow Can Show Up In A Relationship And How We Can Cope With It

An example of how a shadow can show up in a relationship is through self-sabotaging behavior. This could manifest in someone who has difficulty trusting their partner and pushing them away without even realizing it. This pattern may have been rooted in an experience from the past where they experienced betrayal or abandonment, and so now they find themselves subconsciously protecting themselves from potential hurt.

Shadow work can help to address this issue by exploring what lies beneath these behaviors. It allows us to identify any underlying unresolved trauma that we may be unaware of and start to heal it. We can also learn how to recognize when our wounds are being triggered and take steps towards responding more mindfully instead of resorting to self-sabotage. With awareness and self-compassion, we can slowly begin to let go of our negative patterns of behavior and form healthier relationships.

Using Triggers In Relationships

Emotional triggers serve as guideposts, revealing the hidden shadows within us that are seeking recognition and healing. These triggers act as reminders of unresolved wounds and unacknowledged aspects, shaping our reactions and behaviors. Embracing and exploring these triggers initiates a transformative journey of self-discovery and healing.

When triggered, we often experience intense emotional reactions that may seem disproportionate to the situation. These reactions stem from past traumas, unmet needs, or deeply ingrained beliefs, pointing to the existence of shadows—those hidden parts we have deemed unacceptable or too painful to confront.

Acknowledging and addressing these triggers requires courage to delve into our inner depths, exploring their origins and impact. Through self-reflection and compassionate inquiry, we gain insight into the wounds yearning for healing and integration.

This means when you’re triggered, it’s about you, not the other person. If you’re acting disproportionately to the situation, this means you’ve got a shadow that’s asking to be seen, heard, witnessed, experienced, and healed or integrated.

It’s easier to point fingers at the person who we think triggered us. But who has the explosives that are lit? You are. There’s an accumulation of wounds that are asking you to bear witness to and heal them.

Engaging in shadow work involves consciously confronting and integrating these hidden aspects. By acknowledging their presence and the pain they hold, we embark on a transformative journey of release and transformation. Seeking support from therapists, counselors, or trusted individuals can provide guidance and a safe space for exploration.

As we actively work with our emotional triggers and delve into shadow work, we set ourselves on a path of healing. We reclaim our power and liberate ourselves from the constraints imposed by our shadows. This process of self-awareness and integration enables us to move forward with authenticity, compassion, and a sense of wholeness.


I believe that engaging in shadow work is an important part of understanding and developing healthier relationships. Through self-exploration, we can gain insight into our past experiences and the ways that they’ve impacted our current interactions with others.

We can also learn how to set boundaries, express ourselves authentically, and tap into our unique gifts and strengths. Ultimately, by facing our shadows head-on, we can start to heal any unresolved trauma and move towards creating meaningful connections with those around us. With this newfound awareness comes the power to form fulfilling relationships based on trust, love, and respect.

Sending big love your way,


dominica applegate




Further Resources

If you’re interested in exploring shadow work and discovering the potential it has to enrich your relationships, there is a wealth of helpful resources available.

A wonderful book to start learning more is The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.

You can also take my online Inner Healing Shadow Work Course, which is an extensive course for the most affordable price out there on shadow work.

Also, engaging with trained therapists or spiritual counselors can be an invaluable source of support when undertaking this journey. With all these tools at your disposal, you can start to uncover the power of shadow work and use it to enrich your relationships in powerful and meaningful ways.


Q: What is shadow work?

A: Shadow work is a form of inner exploration that focuses on understanding and integrating the parts of ourselves that we’ve kept hidden away due to shame, guilt, or fear. This process helps us uncover any unresolved trauma and gain insight into our current relationships with both ourselves and others.

Q: How can I start engaging in shadow work?

A: A great way to begin exploring your shadows is by taking an inventory of all the aspects of yourself you may be keeping hidden away. Once you have identified these emotions, it’s important to reflect on how they are impacting your current relationships. Additionally, there are various books, guided journals, and online courses available that offer an excellent introduction to the practice of shadow work.

Q: What are the benefits of engaging in shadow work?

A: Shadow work has a myriad of potential benefits, including gaining insight into our own patterns and behaviors, healing any unresolved trauma, and forming healthier relationships with others. Additionally, it can help us uncover our unique gifts and strengths that may have gone unrecognized for years. Ultimately, by facing our shadows head-on we can start to create meaningful connections based on trust and understanding.

Rediscovering Sacredness Guided Journals

Here at Rediscovering Sacredness, we provide people with the tools and resources they need to better their mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Our guided journals and useful guides are designed to help you work through your problems and grow in a safe, healthy way. We believe that everyone has the potential for greatness, and we are here to help you find it. With our products, you can regain control of your life and reclaim your happiness.

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Inner Healing Shadow Work eCourse

In this course, we will delve into the “shadow” aspect of your psyche, or the unconscious parts of yourself. We will work to improve our understanding of emotions, open our hearts, learn to regulate an anxious nervous system, and awaken to a deeper sense of spirituality. Through this process, we will aim to tear down any walls we have built around our hearts and embrace a greater sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

And speaking of guided journaling, as a bonus to this course, you’ll get to download our most popular shadow work journal as a PDF that you can use on your mobile devices or print out.

shadow work course


Rediscovering Sacredness offers helpful resources & guides to help you identify and heal your inner wounds. Regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey, there’s hope for emotional healing, growth, and spiritual awakening. We focus on digging deep, doing the inner healing work, shadow work, ancient wisdom techniques & rituals to assist you live the kind of life you were meant to.