What is the difference between light work and shadow work and can we be both a shadow worker and a lightworker?
Short answer: yes. Both are necessary for our healing, and we might use them more than we think. Further in this article are lists of examples.
But first, I want to go into a pattern in the spiritual community: that there is a split or conflict between the Lightworker and the Shadow worker. In other words, the people that practice the infusion of high vibration (lightwork) might be opposed to the people that practice raising awareness of their subconscious patterns (shadow work).
In my opinion, the problem isn’t those practices or the preference of either of them. Everybody is on a different journey, after all. The problem can be to identify with one of those ‘camps’ and condemning the other. As I have one foot in the light worker community and one foot in the shadow worker community, I have run into comments about the other modality. Those comments weren’t always as compassionate.
The past year (2020) I have thoroughly investigated both fields of spirituality. I was part of both groups, and connected to people in between as well. I wanted to understand why there can be such a palpable difference in a practice of inner work that ultimately – arguably – is the same thing.
Knowing that this outer split I perceived was a reflection of an internal split in myself, I decided to generalize my own inner work in this blog so you can relate. I do this with the intention of unifying the spiritual field.
I ask you to keep an open mind, and see what perspective feels more true to you right now. See if you can understand where the other part is coming from as well.
EDIT (after receiving some comments): Even though some parts of this article might seem polarizing, as if I condemn the other polarity, this is not true: I’m just channeling the different perspectives to bring them together at the end. This article is intended to shine light on the whole subject.
Lightwork is defined by any spiritual practice that is based on higher dimensional, higher frequency concepts. It is the infusion of those higher frequencies into our current reality. Lightwork operates on universal truths such as ‘All is One’, ‘Thoughts create reality’, ‘We are a Soul, an Eternal being’, and ‘Love and Light are the ultimate principle of this universe’. It is the Remembrance of our higher essence and the process of letting this Light infuse our whole being once again.
To carry the emphasis of divine reverence, things are often capitalized in order to awaken this frequency in us.
Examples of lightwork modalities are: light language, certain energy healing modalities like reiki and blessings, sound healing like singing bowls or chanting, positive affirmations, sending ‘love & light’, working with crystals, color therapy, aromatherapy, most oracle decks, spellwork and channeling higher beings.
I’m going to use lightwork as an umbrella term for this group from now on. So maybe the term ‘lightworker’ doesn’t resonate with you, but if the above does resonate with your beliefs and spiritual practice, bare with me. Lets dive into this perspective now. I’m going to channel it here so please don’t conclude immediately that this is the ultimate perspective that I hold! Just diving into it fully here – read on until the end of the article. To mark the parts that I channel from these different perspectives, I will use a blue colour.
If we are walking the path of the lightworker, it is very understandable that negativity and people that identify with it are super unhelpful. Shadow workers seem to be promoting heavyness and suffering, the very energies that we came from and that we seek to uplift. After all, we are a Soul and a Light Being. We might think something along the lines of: “If anyone truly believed this, if they would truly see how we are multidimensional, eternal beings, they wouldn’t want to perpetuate this negative energy.” We use the Law of Attraction by generating a wanted energy, so that we will then vibrate at it and attract more of it. Deliberately focussing on a negative energy only creates more of it. Dwelling for too long in a negative will not get us anywhere and we might feel lost and unsure of what to do with all of that negative emotion.
In order to heal ourselves, we are practicing consciously generating positive energy, maybe for the first time in our lives. Because all is One, we are changing the world one positive vibration at the time.
Behind our perspective is this objective truth: The fact that society denies the spiritual dimension is harmful to all life on this planet.
If everyone would Remember their soul, we would live in a totally different world. Anyone that isn’t actively participating in spreading light and love pulls down the collective.
Another thing that becomes apparent from this perspective is the corruption of the spiritual field with the shadow side of shadow work. What we see are shadow work teachers that go into trauma work too deeply, with no attunement to the nervous system, and even create dependency with clients or students, keeping them trapped in loops of identification with the darkness and the endless need to ‘fix themselves’. Possibly there are even dark entities and dark occult practices involved, whether unconsciously in the form of attachments or through active worship.
From our perspective it can seem that, granted, maybe there are people with good intentions in the shadow work field, but letting the light and love enter us is an infinitely better way to transform. Why? Because in higher dimensions, quantum shifts are possible. This is a mindblowing insight and not one we can understand from a limited perspective. We need to literally get into a different dimension with our mental body in order to understand a quantum shift.
Seeing people pottering around in the mud of shadow work and painstakingly looking for healing there seems so inefficient once we are in this higher dimensional understanding of the instant shifts that lightwork can achieve. But sometimes it not only feels inefficient, but those people feel downright threatening. Their negative vibration pulls us down. They push us into deep dark swamps of emotions that we can’t find our way out of. And we need lots of high vibes in order to recuperate from this. They might even be attacking us with phrases like ‘naive love and light people’ and saying we live in ‘fairytale land’ or that we are ‘narcissistic’. But we know that the ego loves resisting Love and high vibrations and that it can’t bare it. We have been there. But we shifted. Why don’t they just shift as well, into their soul, into 5d where healing happens in quantum shifts?
So, that was quite deep, right? Can you see the judgments woven into this, as well as the truths?
When we think thoughts like this, we need to look deeper. After all, our practice is Love. When we can’t love another human being and accept them wherever they are on their path, we are suffering, and we know that. This is the path of the Lightworker. Condeming shadow workers will get us nowhere. But it comes from an understandable place: a place of hurt.
The hurt underneath is something like this: When I was a child, the denial of my Soul has brought me lots of pain. When people are against this Light now (as shadow workers seem to be), I feel rejected all over again.
From this perspective, it is understandable that we would feel put off (or downright threatened) by the shadow workers.
The reason we are vulnerable to these shadow workers, is because people have denied our sensitivity, intuition and psychic gifts throughout our lives is hard enough already. Not only did they not see us, they didn’t receive us. Giving is just as important as receiving. When we give Love or express our light innocently and it isn’t received, it can be very painful. We feel personally rejected. Awakening our pure essence and shining our light comes with growing pains. We grow by reclaiming the light, intuition and psychic gifts in ourselves first – this is the opposite of rejection!
Another reason the shadow work community might feel threathening to us is that there is a very real tendency there to go too hard too fast with healing trauma. We need to be attuned to our nervous system and ‘window of tolerance’ in our healing: go in small increments that we can integrate. While shadow work in and of itself is not damaging, the way some communities practice it isn’t the healthiest. But we can step out of those communities. And find light worker communities instead that just offer comforting vibes.
We need to be supported in our journey and find like-minded people. Other people that own this light and help with the ascension, so the world will be relieved of the pressure of suffering. We need to find people that have come out of the closet spiritually. We need to connect to light beacons. To find people that acknowledge our soul, our light, our essence. We thrive on phrases like ‘you’re a beautiful soul’ because we can then actually feel included in this Light and share it. This will give us the healing experience that is the opposite of the rejection.
Shadow work is the practice of shining our light onto our subconscious patterns, to transform them into more helpful ones. Shadow work is not: active worship of dark entities. That is practicing the dark occult which is a whole different topic. Shadow work actually operates on the light frequency as well, as it’s using it to become more aware. Whether you call yourself a shadow worker or not, this is the term I’m going to use for this group.
Examples of shadow work are: compassionate inquiry, voice dialogue, inner child work, parts work, emotional journeying modalities (The Completion Process, The Healing Journey), dream work, the classical Tarot deck, regression or reincarnation therapy, trauma recovery therapy, intuitive drawing and almost all divination techniques like pendulums, scrying etc.
Especially for someone that just entered the field of shadow work, there can be an equal amount of bashing towards the light worker community. Again, I’m going to channel this judgment-mixed-with-truth in blue:
We can’t just use positive thinking our whole lives and not address the deeper issues that we’re not aware of. That’s spiritual bypassing: using spiritual truths in order to deny reality. Even though we agree that we create our reality with our thoughts, we first need to become aware of the reality we have already created. Anything else is denial, and this can get people hurt.
We can’t shift what we don’t know. And we can’t be in that higher dimensional awareness all the time, no matter how much we’d like that… We’ve been there and we tried.
Behind our perspective is this objective truth: Not only our consciousness, but also our subconscious creates our reality, so we need to become aware of that to be able to make a conscious choice.
Stored in our subconscious are negative beliefs and emotions that the Law of Attraction works on as well. The negative beliefs are formed throughout our lives when our mental body drew a conclusion that wasn’t in accordance with universal truth. The emotions are stuck in our field because of trauma – distressing events that we couldn’t find resolution with. If we subconsciously believe that we are powerless to create the life we want, we can repeat positive affirmations all day long, but our subconsciously repeated thoughts of powerlessness will intersperse them like a layer cake. Our vibration will be a mixed bag and we will therefore attract mixed experiences. The only way to solve this, is to become aware of the so-called ‘points of attraction’ in our field that are creating the negative aspects of our lives. Only when we become aware of what we’re actually thinking can we change this. We are not ‘deliberately focussing on a negative energy’ as the lightworkers think, we are shining light and therefore healing the negative charge we already have been subconsciously carrying in our field.
Another thing that becomes very apparent from this perspective is the corruption of the spiritual field with the shadow side of lightwork. These are teachers that are selectively identified with only their higher dimensional, deemed ‘positive’ aspects, to the detriment of their human side. Denying their ego, human needs and desires doesn’t make them go away. It only means that those negative aspects will come out in even more unsavory ways and hurt innocent people. In the most extreme cases: children. These gurus are narcissistic and will use other people as chess pieces instead of looking at them as human beings, using them for money, status, personal pleasure and/or life force energy.
Looking at our own ego, needs and emotions is very hard. If people don’t understand this, don’t understand our bravery and authenticity, that’s one thing… But sometimes they are actively bashing shadow work. Saying that we are ‘in our ego’, that we ‘still haven’t healed all of our karma’, that we are ‘identified or attached to suffering’ and we just need to ‘let go’. That’s when lightworkers feel threatening, and we need to look deeper.
The hurt underneath: We have felt invalidated in our negative emotions our whole lives, and the unwillingness to see the realities we live in (as light workers seem to do) makes us feel rejected all over again.
People that bash the shadow work community are another invalidation added to this pile. If they don’t see our negative emotions and our willingness to investigate their origin, they don’t see Us. They think we are being cowardly while in fact it takes an incredible amount of bravery to dare to honestly look in the mirror. We know that change starts within. And as long that there is internal war, there will be external war. So our shadow work is for the good of all. Instead of creating more dangerous gurus, we are become more relatable, soft and authentic, and therefore more loving.
The only way, after all, to really transform this planet, is by starting from reality and shifting and healing from there, into something that feels Safe and Accepting. This way, we create a safer world, a kinder world, and assist in the ascension of this planet.
What we might not be seeing, is that bashing ‘light & love’ people is contributing to separation as well. Lightworkers might then represent a part of us that isn’t on board with our shadow work practice at all. This part needs something very different from us than we are used to: maybe it needs allowing in our light essence, our higher dimensional awareness and the parts of us that are capable of generating positive frequencies and creating quantum shifts.
So let’s take our power back and see this in ourselves too, so we can shift our perspective and uncover this gift that lies in our shadow: the suppressed inner lightworker. However that may look like for you.
It is very true that spiritual bypassing can be damaging to ourselves and our environment. Luckily there is more and more awareness of this phenomenon now thanks to a few good shadow work teachers spreading the message.
What we might need to heal, is to surround ourselves with safe people that are capable of holding space for our vulnerability. Maybe the lightworkers that we know are not those people. They are in a paradigm of reaching for the light, while we reach into the shadow to find healing. They add to our pain, instead of relieving it. They will not meet us where we are, and instead disconnect or shame us, and this is retraumatizing. We need people around us that will see us in all of our aspects, including the more unsavory or uncomfortable ones. This will provide us with the healing experience.
We just went deep into the perspectives of both the lightworker and the shadow worker. Now we can take a deep breath and step back into pure awareness (or what is called ‘the aware ego’). The perspective that isn’t identified and can be an objective observer of all of our parts, the ‘great I am’.
Can you see from this perspective how both camps just want the same thing? That is: a world that is safe, where every individual can truly be their unique, essential self? Can you also see, that both camps feel rejected for who they are?
For me, it was weird to experience the rejection I felt in both fields. Both fields rejected a different part of me! The lightworkers rejected my vulnerable negative emotions (especially my fear, anger and rage) and my human struggling and relapses. The shadow workers rejected my psychic, higher dimensional awareness and innocent Light essence that just wanted to Love everyone through giving and expressing my creativity.
I needed both. As a result of this split, I couldn’t feel confident as a lightworker nor as a shadow worker.
The integration of this split, is to meet all parts where they are. It is to meet myself where I am and seeing the vulnerability underneath. This grounds the lightworker part of me into reality so I can actually express my light in a practical way and be seen for all my gifts and uniqueness. Seeing the rejection that I felt in my innocence and psychic gifts raised my awareness to the degree that I could start healing this part that had identified with being a lightworker. Acknowledging that quantum shifts do exist and that I deserve the light is key for this part of me to feel safe and stop spiritual bypassing.
This also validates the shadow worker part of me so I don’t have to live in a state of retraumatization all the time and soften my self-protective walls and embody the frequency of love into the world that I want to embody. Seeing the rejection that I felt in the vulnerable, suppressed and already rejected parts of me raised my awareness to the degree that I could start healing this part that had identified with being a shadow worker. Reaching out to safe people that I can be vulnerable with is key for this part of me to feel heard and stop me from escalating into prolonged negative states.
Seeing that some spiritual people and lightworkers can’t hold space for this, was key for me. Granted, I had to learn this lesson over and over again! I met a LOT of spiritual people that would just check out and emotionally disconnect whenever I went into a ‘shadow moment’, where negative emotions or patterns would become evident. For example, Law of Attraction people that would not want to talk about needs, only about desires. Or lightworkers that focused only on eradicating karma and 3D, judging lower vibrational states, rather than valuing compassion above all. And I really had to learn to honour myself and stop engaging with these people.
The integration of this split in the external world is to meet all people where they are. It is to practice empathy: to feel into how they are feeling. To practice compassion for these feelings by understanding how they were created and what thoughts & experiences they originated from. To recognize similar processes in ourselves. To relate. This is different than throwing phrases of ‘love and light’ at people – it’s actually applying this love and light in an attuned way to the reality that they are in, without completely erasing our own perspective.
If you want to be a true lightworker or shadow worker (succesful in raising awareness on this planet), it’s all about being completely attuned as well as strong in our own identity. This is how we see that light work and shadow work are ultimately the same thing.
We can see that acknowledging especially the shadow aspects of someone’s personality that have been suppressed and deemed ‘negative’ in the case of shadow workers, registers to them as Acceptance, Approval and Love.
We can see that acknowledging the light aspects of someone’s being (their Soul) in the case of lightworkers, registers to them as this Acceptance, Approval and Love. Interesting note: those light aspects have been suppressed in their personal shadow so we can also call them shadow aspects, paradoxically.
In that moment, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, if we truly live from the heart, what matters is the person in front of us and where they’re at.
We all want the same thing: approval and love. So let’s resource people that will be capable of giving this! And stop looking for this in communities that currently add to our feelings of rejection. We don’t need to be able to hang out with everyone all the time. We are cyclic beings. We go through phases. We are retraumatizing ourselves by banging on doors that won’t open.
We are also retraumatizing ourselves if we are trying to take a step we’re not ready to take, like diving deep into shadow work alone without proper assistance or tools.
This is why perfectly healthy shadow workers can seem to pull the light workers down. They tend to confront the lightworkers with steps they’re not equipped to take – yet. For the lightworkers, their system, their life, currently isn’t safe enough for those negative emotions to be dealt with. It might look like that on the surface level, but on a deep somatic level, this safety to deal with suppressed parts of us isn’t registered, and so it overwhelms and floods the system rather than coming up for healing in a digestible way.
Healing happens naturally. All things in the universe move towards healing. That’s why our system naturally heals when given the opportunity – we can see this the best on the physical level. Every time we are triggered in our day to day life is an opportunity to heal, not more, not less. We don’t have to force it or go looking for it. If we do that, our ego has hijacked our shadow work practice, and uses shadow work as a means to get something else. For me, this showed up in the following belief: ‘If I heal myself to perfection by integrating all shadow aspects, I will finally be able to attract the financial abundance and relationships I want’. This is called the Healing Trap and I’ve written a different blog about it.
Another way we can retraumatize ourselves is by forcing our hearts open to be more like a lightworker in order to be loving while we don’t yet feel safe enough to do so. Opening our hearts is a tricky thing to do. There are lots of experiences that shape our hearts and they might have translated into heart walls, layers of pain and wounds on love and connection. If we don’t love something, we don’t love it. Honestly admitting this, is sometimes more healing than forcing ourselves open and then subjecting ourselves to unsafe or abusive situations.
Always remember: the true practice of love starts with Self Love.
Taking a step back from the other community can be a temporary relief that gives our inner world the safety and trust that we will take care of ourselves. We are allowed to consciously pick our reality and choose the people that we surround ourselves with. It’s not ‘unloving’ to do so, if we are taking care of ourselves. We need to put selflove before loving others or we won’t have anything to give.
The denial of both the spiritual dimensions of reality and the emotional, suppressed parts of us can have very unwanted repercussions throughout life. Ultimately, the integration of both is necessary if we want to ascend.
A deeper perspective
Now that the identification with those two camps has loosened a bit (I hope), let’s go into a more objective viewpoint.
Both light work and shadow work are tools of awakening. Both of those modalities will assist in the ascension of our planet. They are also phases, meaning: we need to experience both of these polarities on our spiritual journey. And I certainly don’t want to talk you out of any of those perspectives. If anything, I hope I will have brought some more compassion for the people that are in a different place in their development than us. As I’ve been in both, and truly believed their more unsavory prejudices towards the other ‘camp’, I can tell you: all people are just trying their best, creating a safer and more harmonious world. All people are just trying to find more selflove. This is paired with identification with a group to belong to, like the lightworkers or the shadow workers, as we are a social species and do much better in groups. Bashing the other group might have been part of this group consciousness. But the choice is yours. If we want to practice Love (the thing that both groups have in common), projecting negative judgments onto others isn’t really the way to go. However, we can use those negative judgments that come up inside of us to become more aware of our inner world and create more love.
Shadow work and lightwork have one thing in common: Love. It’s all aimed at loving ourselves more.
Some core truths that underly both perspectives: it’s how much we love ourselves that creates our reality. Selflove is integrating all parts and dimensions of our being when they come into the present: all that is present in our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies. At that point we don’t even need to escape from anything anymore and therefore can choose to ascend. However, Source has a subconscious too. Source is continuously expanding, and the way it’s doing that is by sending fractals of itself into the lower dimensions in order to be mirrored and gain more consciousness.
When we resist others, as we are all One, we resist ourselves. We have to choice to start loving each other a bit more, by trying to understand them. Not by condoning their perspective. But by allowing it, appreciating it for what it is: the best efforts of a fellow human being with a beating heart, trying to make their life feel a little bit better.
And, in case your inner perfectionist wanted to hijack this (as mine sure wanted): it is a Practice. The practice of Love. This means that we get better at it through repeating it. If we can remind ourselves of this, we are doing just fine.
Another thing to consider is that in order to write this blog I had to use a shadow work modality: parts work. However, most of the pictures that I used could be categorized as lightwork. Also, the conclusion is lightwork.
If you like diving deep with shadow work, I have made a course: Gentle Shadow Work. This is aimed at sensitives, starseeds, lightworkers and old souls that are looking for directions on how to use shadow work in an easy, gentle way, fully supported by your connection to Spirit. Check it out here: