Shadow Emotions: What Are They & How To Identify Yours?

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What Are Shadow Emotions?

All emotions are neutral. Yet, there are some emotions that we subconsciously categorize as bad. Consequently, we try to disassociate with them. These are the shadow emotions.

Shadow emotions are emotions that remain hidden in our shadow, behind what we portray as our self-image. Then, they manifest unexpectedly, causing havoc to what we consider as our stable lifestyles.

Understanding Emotions

Emotions are a vital part of human life. They give us essential information that reassures us when we are on the right track. Likewise, emotions help us to relate to others. They form the basis of how we handle the expectations and demands of life. Indeed, our emotions form the basis of our rapid and automatic response to most situations.  It is our way of communicating our feelings.

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Why Do We Fear Emotions?

We develop emotional reactions through our past events. But what if your feelings are out of your past negative experiences? Like when you feel shameful at the thought of taking part in the school debate because the last time you did so, the crowd booed at you.

These negative encounters can turn into an enormous scary feeling, resembling a shadow of someone who hurt you in the past. It is more like the shadow emotions you want to avoid. For this reason, many people fear and avoid shadow emotions viewing them as painful.

The Effect of Shadow Emotions

If you were scared a lot while you were a child, you might grow up having a core feeling of being afraid. In turn, you may over-protect yourself so that no one could hurt you ever again. Childhood emotional wounds leave us with a deep need to feel safe. We constantly desire someone to love and connect with.

However, when we try to over-protect ourselves, we end up chasing away the people we want to attract. So, managing your shadow emotions becomes vital for leading a healthy life.

Managing Shadow Emotions

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Did you know that our emotions towards a specific aspect can change over time? Here, we get the needed opportunity to manage our shadow emotions. So how do we achieve that?

#1: Understand Your Type of Shadow Emotions

Do you recognize your shadow emotions? If not, you will struggle to control feelings that you do not understand. And, we feel and function better when we are aware of and deal with our real emotions. For example, if you feel agitated by your partner’s habits but mistake them for his/her uniqueness; you may mislead his/her into a committed relationship that breaks up eventually.

Secondly, understand the types of emotions and their effect on you. For starters, basic emotions like surprise, happiness, interest, anger, fear, and shame may arouse you or calm you down, respectively.

Like when you get suspicious out of a past fear emotion, you become alert to your surroundings. In contrast, we feel content due to our past happiness emotion. Hence, we become relaxed when content.

#2: Appreciate the Purpose of Unpleasant Emotions

Unpleasant emotions like anxiety, loneliness, suspicion, and irritation help us survive. However, they become more unpleasant when we fight them. Still, if you allow them to be there, they become less unpleasant.

#3: Listen to Shadow Emotions

If you have a partner you trust, you can tell them about your fears. That way, instead of ignoring, covering up, or denying this shadow emotion, you welcome and listen to it. With time, this fear will become more manageable.

#4: Often, Shadow Emotions Can Be Misleading

Note that; people can fake emotions to get what they want. Other times, people cover up their real shadow emotions with other “acceptable” emotions. When what we express is contrary to what we feel, we can drive people away or attract the wrong attention.

Yet, if you have a supportive, patient, and curious enough spouse, family member, or friend, they will try to understand you. In turn, they can help you bring out your real shadow emotions and get the help you need.

#5: Shadow Emotions Can Mess You Up

When a suppressed feeling crops up unexpectedly, the effect on you and those around you can be dire. For example, suppressed anger that builds up during childhood can show up in your adult life as domestic violence against your partner.

Here, you need to engage in shadow work to acknowledge and redirect these feelings to beneficial activities. That is, you can use this anger to advocate for children’s right to protection by the state.

#6: Have Self-Compassion

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What do you do when you unexpectedly express a shadow emotion? Do you deny its existence, cover it up, fight it, or see the positive side of it? Well, self-compassion dictates that we look at ourselves as unique and whole, even when we have unpleasant feelings.  It also includes taking the chance and letting people into your life, even when you are afraid of getting hurt again.


  • Accept your scars lovingly. Know that no one is perfect.
  • Observe what triggers shadow emotions in your life. Most likely, these triggers are deep-seated in your subconscious mind.
  • Take measures to reprogram your subconscious mind and be in control of your triggers to shadow emotions. Here, you can meditate, listen to positive affirmations, or go for forest baths.
  • Give yourself time to heal. Good habits, and emotional reactions, take time to grow.

#7: Convert Your Shadow Emotions into Assertive Anger

Assertive anger is about standing up for you without driving people away. Here, you want to be objective while expressing your thoughts to the other person. You remain open to new ideas. This approach helps you respond better to hurtful criticism.


We learn our emotional reactions, both negative and positive, long before we use them. Hence, if you have shadow emotions, they resemble a person who hurt you in the past. Embrace these feelings to get what you need from yourself and others. Doing so will help you feel and function better. Hence, you react to current situations based on fresh emotions instead of referring to the negative emotions stuck in your subconscious mind.