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The 3-2-1 Shadow Material Process

Danica Joan January 17, 2022

The 3-2-1 Shadow Material Process is a simple and effective tool designed for helping you to work with your shadow material. It was developed by Ken Wilber and his associates at Integral Institute, and is a recommended practice in the Integral Life Practice Started Kit.

This is a process for re-owning your shadow material. You’ll FACE your shadow in the 3rd-person; you’ll TALK to our shadow in a 2nd-person dialogue; and you’ll BE your shadow in 1st-person. Face it, Talk to it, Be it…It’s that simple. Try it now:

  • Choose an experience in your life that you want to work with. It’s often easier to begin with a person with whom who have difficulty (e.g., lover, relative, boss. This person may irritate, disturb, annoy, or upset you. Or maybe you feel attracted to, obsessed with, infatuated with, or possessive about this person. In any case, choose someone with whom you have a strong emotional charge, whether positive or negative.

  • Face It: Now, imagine this person. Describe those qualities that most upset you, or the characteristics that you are most attracted to using 3rd-person language (he, she, it). Talk about them out loud or write it down in a journal. Take this opportunity to “let it out.” Don’t try to be skillful or say the right thing. There is no need to sugar-coat your description. The person you are describing will never see this.

  • Talk to It: Begin an imaginary dialogue with this person. Speak in 2nd person to this person (you). Talk directly to this person as if he or she were actually there in the room with you. Tell them what bothers you about them. Ask them questions such as “Why are you doing this to me?” “What do you want from me?” “What are you trying to show me?” “What do you have to teach me?” Imagine your response to these questions. Speak that imaginary response out loud. Record the conversation in your journal if you like.

  • Be It: Become this person. Take on the qualities that either annoy or fascinate you. Embody the traits you described in “Face It.” Use 1st-person language (I, me, and mine). This may feel awkward, and it should. the traits you are taking on are the exact traits that you have been denying in yourself. Use statements such as “I am angry,” “I am jealous,” “I am radiant,” Fill in the blank with whatever qualities you are working with: “I am ___________.”

  • To complete the process, notice these disowned qualities in yourself. Experience the part of you thatĀ isĀ this very trait. Avoid making the process abstract or conceptual: just BE it. Now you can re-own and integrate this trait in yourself.

You may now say, “They are just like me.”

Shadow material in relationships:

Partners in a relationship are sometimes powerfully drawn to each other’s bright shadow material. Initially, as partners are attracted to each other, the partners may project onto their partner some of the bright shadow material of eros “a reaching beyond to what is her to be within them. “One or both partners may represent each other’s bright shadow. It is also possible for the dark shadow material to dominate although not as frequently in the early phase of a romantic relationship as a fantasy abounds and seems rather wonderful. Often you will hear someone describe their partner as “my better half”. Over time as fantasy is replaced with more remains reality, the partners begin to project less bright shadow material, which then opens the possibility of increased dark shadow material projection as substitution. In other words; the dark shadow material fills a space void by the loss of the bright shadow material in order to maintain a bonding emotional charge. A pattern may develop with one partner projecting dark shadow material with more intensity than the other partner. This is a time of power struggle as partners may begin to polarize in conflict. The major point is that both bright shadow and dark shadow material are always at play. It is the play of shadow material in relationships that helps to explain the potential for criticism, destruction, and dissolution on the one hand, and affirmation, healing, and deeper commitment on the other. The acceptance of one’s own projected shadow material offers both partners a royal road to healing and growth.