Suttas with shadow work examples?

If anyone is familiar with shadow work I wonder if there is verses used that seems shadow work examples?

Shadow work involves getting in touch with the parts of yourself that you’ve repressed— or what many might refer to as their “dark side.” … It’s called “shadow work,” and involves “diving into the unconscious material that shapes our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors,” according to therapist Akua Boateng, Ph. D.8 Jun 2021

The action by Buddha I think of when he was striving he explored why he gets fear when hearing a sound in the forest.

The suttas don’t directly talk in these terms, but as you suggest, there are a number of passages that suggest similar ideas: confronting your fears being a good one. One could argue that the whole orientation of overcoming “the dark mass of ignorance” is what shadow work is all about.


Bhante I was thinking about that. It’s true. I was interested in very strong sentences used to work on certain areas.

I don’t know if this is a good example

I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir

I feel like Dependent Origination is all about shadow work.

When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn’t, that isn’t.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.

In other words:

From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.
From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.
From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.
From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media.
From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact.
From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.
From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.
From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance.
From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming…

My understanding is that this is all about emotional states. I think of it as 8 links in a chain that lead to anger/sadness/etc. If any of the links can be broken, then we do not become emotionally attached to the situation (i.e. unhappy, angry, etc).

The first few steps are about our preconceived notions. Some of this comes from past experiences, the rest of it comes from societies rules and expectations.

The middle steps (six sense media & contact) are when we first recognize that an event happened. Let’s say someone called us a name we don’t want to be called, like stupid or fat. We only see this as a bad thing because of our preconceived expectations.

For example, If someone spoke in Chinese I wouldn’t even know they were calling me fat, so I couldn’t get upset about it. If I didn’t think being fat was a bad thing (societal expectations), I wouldn’t get upset about being called fat. Perhaps I like being fat?

The latter steps (feeling, craving, clinging) come after our mind has perceived the event and determined whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. This is when we “feel” it, and become hurt. This is when we crave for it to go away. This is when we begin to feel upset/sad/angry.

To me, this is the essence of “shadow work”. We must first identify what upsets our shadow, then work on correcting the situation. According to my understanding of Dependent Origination, this would involve changing our preconceived notions about what is pleasant or unpleasant. Things are only pleasant or unpleasant based on our notions of the way things “should” be. If we have no expectations, then “it is what it is”, and there is nothing to get upset about.


Thank you for writing. Talking of which even generational trauma is influenced by it. When you realize it’s not your parents fault actually you start letting go of blaming. Grow in compassion.