Breaking Free from the Hidden


       Forces That Drive You


PUBLICATION DATE: October 1, 2018



Do you sometimes say about what you’ve just done, “I don’t know what got into me?”

Do you sometimes feel like you’re being run from “behind the scenes” or are stuck on automatic?

At such times, it’s very likely that your shadow is in charge.

Our “shadow” is our internal storehouse for the aspects of us that we’ve disowned or rejected or are otherwise keeping in the dark. It houses our unfaced conditioning.

Everyone has a shadow but not everyone knows their shadow. And the degree to which we don’t know our shadow is the degree to which it influences, controls, runs us.

This book provides a direct, very comprehensive look at shadow (in personal and collective contexts) as well as the tools needed to explore and effectively work with it.

Knowing our shadow and working in depth with it are not just sideline pursuits, but rather necessary practices if we — both personally and collectively — are to really get on track, unchaining ourselves from our conditioning and embodying a life in which our differences only deepen our shared humanity. Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark is devoted to this essential undertaking.


  • Anger and Shadow
  • Shame and Shadow
  • The Anatomy of Choice
  • Sexuality and Shadow
  • Spirituality and Shadow
  • Emerging from our Pain
  • Generational Trauma & Collective PTSD
  • Dethroning our Inner Critic
  • Self-Sabotage Uncovered
  • Death and Dying
  • Bigness & Beauty in the Shadow
  • The Shadow of Shadow Work


If you feel like something is missing in your life, that you are disconnected and stuck, then this book is here to finally bring you home to yourself. Robert Augustus Masters has quickly become my go-to resource for the dark art of shadow work—essential to any authentic spiritual path. It’s time for this exploration, for all of us, and this guide lights the path.

— Kelly Brogan, MD, holistic psychiatrist and NY Times bestselling author of A Mind of Your Own

Almost everywhere we look today we see the dark forces of unconsciousness playing themselves out, creating unconscionable suffering, whether in political, social, religious, or spiritual arenas. No place is exempt; no person untouched. At this unprecedented time in human history where the future of humanity, indeed all life, hangs precariously in the balance, Robert Augustus Masters’ timely and essential book summons us to have the urgent courage to cease our blame, cease our reactions, cease every expression of fear, ignorance, and aggression, and to reclaim our beauty and vulnerability and own our primordial shadow — learn to work with it, grow from it, love it, and resanctify it, as freedom itself.

I cannot recommend his book enough. If we are to save the future we need to own our shadow with mindful courage in the present — this very moment now. This book will inspire and guide you to do just that. Simply put: This utterly brilliant and courageous book should be mandatory reading for every politician, spiritual or religious leader, psychologist, and education teacher worldwide.

To neglect this essential and urgent book is to perpetuate the denial and ignorance that places our precious planet and all life as we know it on the precipice of annihilation. Please spread this book’s message of hope far and wide, before it is too late.

— Alan Clements, author of Instinct for Freedom and A Future to Believe In

This is a wise, brilliant, extremely clear and useful exploration of the shadow and will be invaluable for all seekers.

— Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

This book should be called “Bringing the Human Condition Out of the Dark.” Robert Augustus Masters has done a monumental job of showing us the self-sabotage and relationship sabotage that gets normalized when we live life without real awareness of why we are feeling or “choosing” whatever seems to be happening. The degree of care, precision and discernment Masters brings to what we call “inner work” makes a lot of other therapy look…not so deep.  (His section on the dark side of ‘being honest’ is, on its own, worth the price of admission.) If you can resonate with his uncompromising embrace of the pain of being human, this book will lead you to the Realness that likely put you on the path in the first place.

— Nancy Dreyfus, PsyD, author of Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love

Robert has offered us a marvelous, hands-on guide, based on decades of exploration, on opening to and transforming the shadow. This is the work of a sage and skilled teacher who knows and names, in very clear and often poetic language, the many regions of the territory, and the many details and nuances crucial to working with the shadow. Savvy about the range of emotions, narratives, and difficulties that one encounters in this work, Robert gives us a powerful and comprehensive map that clarifies not only the varieties of the individual shadow, but, unlike most other work on the shadow, also the collective shadow, so crucial to face and transform at this time.

— Donald Rothberg, PhD, author of The Engaged Spiritual Life and teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Whether we like it or not, our unacknowledged and repressed self — our shadow — dictates much of our lives, including our actions, emotions, and reactions. In this succinct and wise guide to self-exploration, Dr. Robert Augustus Masters teaches us how to emerge from shadow — individual, generational, and cultural — into the light of awareness and freedom.

— Gabor Maté, MD, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

This book is a game-changer, a majestic masterpiece of shadow work. Life-affirming, embracing, and evolutionary, Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark shows a true path of empowerment for humanity. Robert Augustus Masters is a ninja shadow guide who helps us to have real access to the most hidden forces compelling us in unconscious ways. Raise the bar of transformation, both personally and collectively, with this impeccable guide to navigating the most challenging aspects of being human. This is a courageous invitation to call home the exiled parts of self, rest into vulnerability, be renewed through transparency, and awaken intimacy in this beautiful journey of life. Thank you for bringing forth this jewel of consciousness when the world needs this so much!

— Sianna Sherman, internationally renowned yoga teacher

In Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark, Robert Augustus Masters takes the reader on a tour of the “shadow”, the many ways that the human psyche hides from whatever seems threatening, burying it from our conscious awareness and empowering it to sabotage our conscious intentions. Then it becomes numbness, projection, depression, neurosis, yes — but in highly specific ways, and he spells them out. Rarely has a sophisticated contemporary psychotherapist offered such a thorough inventory of the many facets and dynamics of personal and collective shadow, and the many ways we can shine light upon it and “denumb” ourselves.

Blessedly, there is a light at the other side of this dark process of seemingly painful unflattering self-awareness. We can relax and discover ourselves, as we are, free and human. Ironically, a wise, patient forgiveness and self-acceptance permeate the tone of this sharply intelligent unflinching look at all the ways we hide what we’d rather not see, as individuals, groups and nations, especially the USA. Highly recommended.

— Terry Patten, author of A New Republic of the Heart

When I started to read this book, I assumed that it would have some interesting ideas and tools about working with shadow. But I soon discovered that this is not a cozy perusal of the map over a cup of cocoa at the dining room table. Reading this book is an immersion in the darkness and apprehension of the wilderness, and a redemptive return out the other side. Every page carries the authority and compassion of a man who has thoroughly done his own inner work, and who has guided countless others. You will find yourself in trustworthy hands.

— Arjuna Ardagh, author of Radical Brilliance

Robert Augustus Masters is clearly a master of shadow identification and work. In this comprehensive book, he extends shadow identification and shadow work from the personal to the social and cultural, and offers precise and effective means of freeing the personal and collective from the bonds of the unknown and unexpressed. Anyone who reads this book cannot avoid being confronted with the question of their personal shadow and relieved that there is a way to bring the dark forces of the unknown into the light.

— Harville Hendrix, PhD, author of Getting the Love You Want

In this brilliantly written offering, Robert Augustus Masters offers us a path to genuine change. Many authors talk about “the shadow” without providing the tools to transform it. Masters gives us those tools, supporting and energizing us in our efforts to heal and transform. His many years of lived experience as a therapist shine through, illuminating the path home. Highly recommended!

— Jeff Brown, author of An Uncommon Bond

To extract the light from the essence of our ever-evolving soul requires embracing the totality of our humanity, including the shadow parts of ourselves — the parts that we don’t want anyone to know about or see, yet we all embody. Dr. Masters, once again, provides guidance and insight to assist us on this inner exploration; helping us to understand that these shadows are our teachers, live within both the individual and the collective, are generational, often determine our choices, and influence the perceptions we hold. Being in relationship to our shadow elements and understanding their depths can support the awakening of our consciousness, leading to greater empathy, personal and ancestral reconciliation, and peace…within and beyond. I highly recommend this powerful and illuminating book and have no doubt it will be an essential resource for your own healing and transcendence.

— Seane Corn, yoga teacher, co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World

In this remarkable book, Robert Augustus Masters helps his readers bring their shadows out of the dark. He assumes the role of guide, providing commonsense approaches for discovering and integrating those aspects of the psyche that have been ignored, repressed, or disowned. Many readers will identify with the well-written case studies, and others will create their own stories, including material that had been too long sidelined. Masters also provides ways in which this expanded view of oneself can improve interactions with friends and family members. Indeed, Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark will change the lives of many readers, and the change will be for the better!

— Stanley Krippner, PhD, co-author of Personal Mythology


Shadow Work in Practice

Once we realize that we, like everyone else, have a shadow, and don’t take this as some sort of shortcoming, we are in a position to do more with our shadow than just thinking about it. So where to start? How do we enter the work of encountering our shadow — and its various ways of manifesting — in ways that deepen and enrich our lives?

Signs That Your Shadow Is Showing Up

Begin by identifying the signs that indicate the presence of your shadow. This means bringing a penetrating eye to your behavior, especially the kind that you might describe as not really being you — behaviors that make you say, “I don’t know what got into me” and other such statements suggestive of being “possessed.”

Take some time to explore how any of the following signs apply to you and in what circumstances they are most likely to make an appearance.

Reactivity. This means automatically and repeatedly acting the same way and losing ourselves in the ensuing dramatics. When we are triggered, having a self-righteous, disproportionate, or far-from-fitting response to something or someone, we’re being reactive. Our buttons have been pushed, and we are letting our emotions have their way with us.

Reactivity is activated shadow material. The first step in handling it, once we’re aware of it, is to simply admit that we’re being reactive. Doing so increases the odds that we’ll cease letting our reactivity remain in charge of us. When we’re being reactive, what’s mainly bursting out of our shadow is unresolved and unacknowledged wounding, especially that which happened in our early years.

Projection. When we (1) attribute something to another that’s in us and (2) don’t recognize that this something is in us, we are projecting. This is particularly common when it comes to qualities we dislike so much that we vehemently deny their existence in us. We may also attribute something to another that’s not in us, but that we have a charge with, and not recognize what we’re up to. An example of this is projecting the domineering mother of our childhood onto our partner during an argument, reacting to our partner as if they indeed are that parent.

Projecting a certain quality onto others doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have that quality in them, but it does mean that we may well be blinding ourselves to its existence in us. What’s in our shadow here is whatever we’ve disowned in ourselves to such a degree that we’re adamant it cannot be in us.

It’s worth noting that the notion of projection can also easily be misused, as when we’re mired in the often-erroneous belief that whatever bothers us in someone else is actually in us.

Aggression. When we’re being aggressive, we’re not just angry but also on the attack, whether we’re being sarcastic, hostile, mean-spirited, or worse. In anger, we may stay in touch with our caring for whomever we’re angry at, but in aggression we have completely lost touch with that caring. Our heart is closed. We’re in the dark. We need to learn to express anger without getting aggressive. We don’t need to quench the fire of aggression, but to bring some vulnerability to it, ceasing to treat the other as something to attack. That means letting our aggression shift back into clean anger — meaning anger that doesn’t blame, shame, or otherwise fight dirty.

Outwardly expressed aggression — ranging from contempt to passive aggression to violence — does damage, but so too does inwardly expressed aggression, as most commonly demonstrated through the heartless shaming delivered by our inner critic when we give it free rein to take us down. In both cases, what’s in our shadow is our vulnerability and softness, along with our investment in dehumanizing our target, be it another person or ourselves.

Excessive positivity. Having an exaggerated investment in being positive separates us from our shadow and its riches. When we’re being so resolutely upbeat, it may seem as if we don’t have a shadow and that all we have to do to thrive is stay positive. This inordinate positivity does distance us from our shadow, but it also distances us from real emotional and psychological depth, tranquillizing us to varying degrees from feeling the suffering of others. What’s in our shadow here are our apparently non-positive states, especially our anger, fear, and shame.

Emotional numbness. Being significantly cut off from our emotions keeps us in the shallow end of the relational pool, “safely” removed from the pain that we associate with such emotions (like having been rejected for crying or showing anger when we were young). When we find ourselves emotionally flat or disconnected or numb, we have an opportunity to see our shadow in action, showing up in the form of whichever emotions are being shut down or gagged. It’s very easy to normalize numbness or even to interpret it as a healthy state, a detachment indicative of spiritual advancement.

Instead of putting up with or flagellating ourselves for our numbness, we can acknowledge its presence and start compassionately exploring it and what underlies it. What is in our shadow here are not only the emotions that we’re dissociating from, but also our attachment to continuing to believe that it’s better to leave them as far away from us as possible.

Eroticizing our unresolved wounds and unmet needs. This is the result of having funneled our charge with certain situations and persons from our early years into sexual contexts. For example, if we faced heavy aggression from one parent, feeling very afraid of them, and had a resulting charge with being thus overpowered, we might later on let this charge find some expression and release through being eroticized, by acting out unhealthy power dynamics with sexual partners. What’s in our shadow here are our unresolved wounds and unmet needs, in close association with the child in us — all of the nonsexual factors that are at play in our sexuality.

Dehumanizing others. Once we’ve dehumanized others, we are narrowed and diminished in our own humanity. Much of our culture is dehumanizing, reducing others to inconveniences, mere problems, marketing icons, sources of behavior best kept far away from us, roadblocks to our success, and so on — and all too much of this dehumanization gets normalized. When we’re reactive, projecting, aggressive, using porn, and so on, we are, to whatever degree, dehumanizing others.

What is in our shadow here is our empathy and compassion, accompanied by various payoffs for engaging in dehumanizing activity, such as our getting to stay separate from, immune to, and/or superior to others.

Over-tolerance of others’ aggressive or harmful behavior. This happens when our early conditioning has taught us that the challenging of others’ aggressive or harmful behavior is dangerous (resulting in the loss of safety, the loss of love, or the presence of punishment). And this over-tolerance is made worse when we act as if it is a virtue — especially a spiritual virtue. We often mask our fear of taking a stand with a show of care. What’s in our shadow here is our anger and self-respect, along with the roots of our fear of taking firm, out-front stands.

An exaggerated need to please or be liked. This need stems from a childhood history of things going badly when we were ourselves, but less badly when we behaved in ways that were pleasing or otherwise acceptable to those who held power over us. Wanting to be liked is rooted in wanting to be accepted; if we had an early history of not being accepted — and I speak here not only of our behavior, but of our very being — we will attach excessive importance to being liked. What’s in our shadow here is our self-acceptance, along with our anger.

Self-sabotage. This shows up as procrastination, martyrdom, settling for crumbs, and so on, in the midst of which we play victim, “trying” to make things better, but only continuing to derail ourselves. When we’re obstructing ourselves, it may look like we are just being hard done by, as if we’re a victim of forces beyond our control. The payoff is that we get to avoid taking responsibility for what we’re doing to ourselves. Slipping into guilt and its self-punishing rituals is our common reaction to our self-sabotage, but such practice is just more avoidance of being accountable. What’s in our shadow here is our inner child and our neglect of it, accompanied by our attachment to staying small, to not having to grow up.

Refusal to say that we’re sorry. When we know that we’ve hurt another and simply won’t admit that we’ve done so and won’t genuinely say that we’re sorry, we have to harden, to cut ourselves off from our heart. And even if we somehow do manage to squeeze out an admission of being sorry, it probably will be voiced with minimal emotion and care, so that our ego can remain intact. The emotion that stands out here, regardless of its non-expression and non-admission, is shame.

Our refusal to say that we’re sorry keep us distanced from our shame, “protects” us from having to directly feel it. Such shame easily slips into aggression, which allows us to harden in the face of whomever we’ve just hurt, perhaps even to punish them for putting us in a position where we had to feel, however briefly, the presence of our shame. What’s in our shadow here is our shame and our vulnerability, along with our investment in remaining emotionally intact.


Make your consideration of your shadow signs a compassionate one, especially when parts of it stir up shame in you. For each item, look deeply into what is hidden — the shadow elements — and take some time to recollect times in your life when you have engaged in such practices, whether it was an hour or thirty years ago.

Make sure that you work with your shadow signs in a non-abstract way; ground your exploration physically and emotionally. This means staying in touch with your body and what you’re feeling. When you are looking back at what triggers you — such as another’s sarcasm, their neglect, or your sense that they’ve not met certain standards — allow yourself to go into the bare feeling of this trigger and to stay with the feeling.

Find out and name the characteristic sensations and feelings of being thus triggered. Register this information not just mentally, but also physically and emotionally. If your jaw tightens when you’re focusing on something that gets you feeling reactive, bring your full awareness into your jaw. Without trying to untighten it, sense the various qualities of this tightening or constriction — its intensity, texture, density, sense of shape and color, emotional tone.

Carry this investigation into your shadow, identifying its elements in more and more detail, along with identifying what first drove these into your shadow. Keep this exploration down-to-earth.

An example: Bob now knows that he tends to keep much of his anger in his shadow. Previously, he claimed not to have anger in situations where he was actually angry — times when he showed no outward signs of anger. Much of the time, he was unaware of his anger because he could not feel it.

But now that he is aware of the anger hidden in his shadow; he feels it and starts bringing more awareness to it, without any pressure to give it expression. As he scans for tension in his body, he senses his anger’s shape (perhaps tightly fisted), its texture (perhaps hard or rough), its density (perhaps quite thick), its coloring (probably reddish or black or both), its directionality (probably a wanting-to-burst-forward kind of movement), and more. He also goes over his history with anger, both his and that of significant others, viewing the choices he made regarding his anger and its expression or lack thereof. He starts to distinguish anger from aggression. And he continues to mine his shadow for more of his anger.

Soon, he takes on the practice of acknowledging the presence of his anger in daily life, simply saying something like, “I’m feeling angry” or “anger’s here” or “I’m irritated” or just “anger.” There’s no need to express it at this point; what’s important is that he is starting to bring his anger out of his shadow, giving it both a caring and curious eye. He is beginning to change his relationship to it. If he persists and learns how to express it cleanly, including when it’s fiery, he will have turned his anger from a jailed darkness to an outright ally…