Embracing Your Shadows

flickr photo shared by Michelle Brea under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license


The 3-2-1 process was developed by Ken Wilber and his associates at Integral Institute as a simple and effective tool for working with the ‘shadow’. The process helps to uncover our shadow (unconscious thoughts and emotions), so we are aware of and can then work with it. It takes an extraordinary amount of energy to keep aspects of ourselves hidden in this way. The energy it takes to repress or deny them could be re-directed to other, more nourishing practices. When we shine a light on our shadow, we are integrating disowned aspects of ourselves, we liberate the energy we were using to hide them.

This exercise involves participants using a process of journaling in order to explore how their shadow can manifest itself in their day-to-day life.

Activity Type

Group / Experiential [Participants can choose to work individually or with a partner for each step if they wish to share].


90 Minutes

Learning Outcomes

  • To recognise our reactive patterns and that the parts of ourselves we reject, manifest themselves in others

  • To gain awareness of how we relate to others and to practice conflict resolution methods

  • To deepen an understanding that we are fundamentally interconnected


Required Materials and Tools:

Book, pens

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Ask participants to choose an emotional experience from their life connected to another person. It is often easier to begin with a person with whom there is difficulty (e.g. lover, relative, boss): this person may irritate, disturb, annoy, or upset them. Conversely, there may be feelings of attraction, obsession, infatuation, or jealousy toward this person. In any case, choose someone with whom there is a strong emotional charge, whether positive or negative. Ensure participants that they will not have to share the specific details at any point if they do not wish to. [Give participants 3 minutes to decide on the person, participants will do this step individually.]

  2. Face It. Ask the participants to imagine this person. Using a journal, ask participants to write down the qualities that are most unsettling, or the characteristics that are most attractive using 3rd-person language (he, she, it). Invite the participants to take this opportunity to let it out, not trying to be skillful or to say the ‘right’ thing. Remind the participants that there is no need to sugar-coat the description as the person they are describing will never see this. [Give the participants 10 minutes for "journaling" them and invite them to share their experience for 5 minutes each if they have chosen to work in pairs]

  3. Talk to It. Ask participants to begin an imaginary dialogue with this person in their journal. Ask participants to write directly to this person as if he or she were going to read the letter. Invite them to write what bothers them about that person/situation. Participants can ask them questions such as:

    1. Why are you doing this to me?

    2. What do you want from me?

    3. What are you trying to show me?

    4. What do you have to teach me?

  4. Then ask participants to imagine the person's responses and write them down. [Give participants 15 minutes for journaling and if they have chosen to work in pairs, invite them to share their experience for 5 minutes each.]

  5. Be It. Invite the participants to become this person, taking on the qualities that either annoy or fascinate them, embodying the traits they described in ‘Face It’. While journaling, participants should use 1st-person language (I, me, mine). Mention that it is normal to feel awkward. The traits they are taking on are the exact traits that they have been denying in themselves. Invite them to use statements such as “I am angry”, “I am jealous”, I “am radiant”. In their journal, ask them to fill in the blank with whatever qualities they are working with: “I am__________.” [Give participants 10 minutes for journaling and if they have chosen to work in pairs, invite them to share their experience for 5 minutes each.]

  6. To complete the process, ask participants if they notice these disowned qualities in themselves, experiencing the part of themselves that is this very trait. [Give participants 5 minutes per person]. Finally gather the whole group for 20 minutes sharing, use the reflection questions below.

Attached Support Files

2 minute video introduction to the exercise.


  • Did anything emerge from the exercise which gave you a fresh insight into yourself?

  • Do you feel like you resolved/addressed any strong emotions that were consuming you?

  • Have you noticed any shift in your feelings towards yourself and the person?

Instructions for Submission

Upload 1 picture of the group working together. Submit a short reflection on how the process went. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading

Instructions for Assessment

Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback

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