Often times when I tell people about shadow work and what resolving unconscious trauma entails, I describe it as a painful flow followed by a kind of relief and euphoria, as new aspects of consciousness are integrated in the whole, restoring more energy and mind processes in the person. Often times that is how it feels, especially when we become experts at it, and manage to flow through it quite naturally.
But I have to say, that is not the whole truth to it. There are times - particularly when it is gets really intense - for instance right after a major break-up or loss, or during a really difficult life conflict - where it becomes so deeply radical, that it feels like a near death experience. As layers of ego dissolve ever so rapidly, letting a part of who we were die, it feels somewhat like the skin of a snake falling off, leaving space for the new. It often feels like the death of a whole life we had: of attachments, dreams, memories, connections. It isn’t unusual to lose lots people who we thought we would never be able to live without. Losing homes, jobs, and our idea of what life would be like. Letting go, letting it all die can be such a drastic experience that it can feel like a near-death: the death of our ego. And this new we allow space for feels like the light and purity of what we had when we were first born into this world, that clear consciousness space without all the beliefs and attachments, that space that feels the closest to our connection with what spiritual people often refer to as “source”: the thing that is everything and nothing, what gave rise to all, existence itself.
So it is not so different from grieving a death. And as you allow yourself to die you are reborn a person more pure, more clear, more authentic, closer to the highest version of yourself. The hardest part of the process is letting go of all the people and everything that was familiar, to allow complete uncertainty to rule in. And falling into the light allowing it to take you wherever you need to go. That is what shadow work feels like, when you allow it to flow through a really drastic event in your life.