Maybe you’ve come across it in a book or by scrolling through TikTok – shadow work. But what exactly is it? According to BetterUp.com, shadow work is the practice of working “with your unconscious mind to uncover the parts of yourself that you repress and hide from yourself. And according to today’s interviewee, it’s “the most powerful healing modality in existence.”
Meet Danielle Massi – the shadow work queen. Danielle is a multi-faceted, multi-talented women. To name just a few of her titles, she is a licensed psychotherapist, CEO of The Wellness Collective, founder of the SELF(ish) Philly conference, a podcast host, motivational speaker, and much more. The most recent endeavor to add to her already impressive resume is writer – she is the author of Shadow Work, which is out now.
I’m very much into the spiritual world and had known about Danielle and her work. So needless to say, I was very excited to interview her. Danielle took time out of her very busy schedule to chat with me about her projects, how to embrace your “shadows”, and how to navigate failure.
You can find Danielle on Instagram , TikTok, YouTube and Facebook.
Welcome to Positive Publicity Danielle! I’m so thrilled to have you here. I am a bit familiar with your story, but for those who might not know, would you tell us about you background and your story?
So my background is in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I studied both and got my Master’s degree to become a psychotherapist, which is what I did for about 10 years. So here I was, a licensed psychotherapist at a private practice in Center City working insane hours. I was also a professor at a nearby Penn State campus, so I would teach there in the mornings, and then head right over to my private practice office. I’m also a mom with two kids and, eventually I got really burnt out. Then I got sick and in 2018 was diagnosed with cancer the week of my 30th birthday. It was worst thing that ever happened to me, and also the best, because it made me turn my entire life around. I quit being a therapist, I quit being a professor. I realized through my own cancer journey that shadow work became my calling – shadow work was it was what saved me when I needed it most. Now I teach it to other people!
That really is incredible. You mentioned something that I want to touch back on – so when I think of shadow work, I guess I think of it in a spiritual sense. Is there a “clinical” shadow work as well?
It’s a merger between the two! The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung was the one who actually coined the term shadow work. He was a protégé of Freud, and when they were working together he came up with the discovery that we have three levels of consciousness.
We have the conscious mind, which is everything that we know. For example, we know that we’re talking right now and taking in this information. Next we have the subconscious mind, which is the second level just below the surface of your awareness. This is the stuff that you do automatically without thinking; subconscious behavior is when you start to do things where your body takes over.
The lowest level is the unconscious mind – this is all the stuff that is buried so far down and repressed so deep in your psyche that you don’t remember it, but it’s still there. This is what shapes who you are as a person because every second of every day of your life you are actually remembering everything. You know every license plate you’ve ever seen, you know the name of every person you’ve ever interacted with. It’s all in your head, you just don’t know it.
What happens for a lot of us unfortunately is that our traumas get repressed into that unconscious mind. The “shadow” is another term for the unconscious. Shadow work is the process of going into the unconscious mind to heal all the things that have been buried. It’s a scientific practice from that perspective, but it gets spiritual when we start to realize that there’s levels that happen to come up when we go that far deep things like past lives ancestral traumas, generational curses and inner child work.
It seems like a lot of millennials and Gen Z are really taking the time to do shadow work and break those generational curses. What do you make of that, with seeing so many more people learning about this and wanting to do the work ? Does it excite you to see that?
Absolutely – I love it. I feel like this is the most exciting time to be alive because of that fact. It is really incredible and really exciting for the younger generation and the future it is the more we talk about it, the more we make it normalize even. I’m glad that we’re talking about and that we can have these conversations, as well. I was actually talking about this with my mom the other day about this. She was saying if anyone would have talked about shadow work when she was young they basically would have been like a “witch” in the 1600s!
I would love to talk about your book, Shadow Work. Firstly, congratulations! What was it like creating this book and and telling your story in this way?
I got really lucky when I was time for me to write the book. At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the women who was in my Create Your Light Academy gave me several akashic record sessions. She said to me, “You’re going to be an author and you’re going to write a bunch of books.” I was like no, absolutely not, but she kept telling me that I’m going to be an author and that it’s going to start with a journal that specifically said “journal” on the front.
So I went to the store, I bought a journal and began writing. I stopped writing in it and almost a year went by, when I woke up one morning to one of my TikToks going viral. People were asking me to write shadow work props and I thought, well if this many people want this, I’ll make something. In a day, I quickly made the Shadow Seekers Journal and posted it on Amazon – the sales were crazy!
The woman who told me I would be an author emailed me saying, “So you did the journal, I guess the book is next.” I had totally forgotten about that! So everyday, I just envisioned myself getting an offer to write a book. I saw in my head, and I meditated on it. I spent time thinking about it how it would feel if it happened and letting those emotions exist in my body. Within the span of a week, I actually received three offers without proposal and without ever letting anyone know that I was doing this. The only person who knew was that woman.
You offer several different courses, such as the Create Your Light Academy that you previously mentioned. Could you tell us more about these courses and groups?
Absolutely! So for Create Your Light Academy, I never have groups that are bigger than 10 women at a time. It’s so important for me that as we’re going through extremely tough, vulnerable moments, everybody feels really safe and supported while we do it. I run that four or five times a year, so that’s the first one – that’s my baby.
I have another group for women who have done Create Your Light and want to help other people by being healers themselves called Radiate Your Life Academy. There I teach people how to really come from a heart-centered space in their healing work. I teach them how to be trauma informed; there’s nothing more important to me than making sure that the people who are out there helping others actually know what they’re doing and can do it safely.
And for those who might not know what it is, SELF(ish) Philly is a one day conference in Philadelphia which offers self-care experiences and features a number of vendors. This year’s conference is going to be at the W Hotel on September 17th, and I hope to have it be something that expands to be nationwide.
Women are told all the time that being selfish is a bad thing, that when you take care of yourself that you’re hurting other people or you’re taking time away from children or a significant other. Men aren’t taught those same things – men are taught to go have a beer with the guys after work and go golfing, or don’t do housework, you don’t have to do any of that stuff. I think it starts with us about changing the narrative and really making sure that it’s not just about us doing this quietly. It’s about us creating a movement of people who are ready to stand up and go no equality needs to be a thing we need to really stand up for our right to take care of ourselves and we have to normalize it.
I am just loving this conversation so much. Typically when I have a creative on the blog who’s also an entrepreneur, I like to hear how they manage everything in your life while starting a business. Would you be willing to share your process of making it all work?
So here’s my secret sauce for having so many different facets to my business, and this has a lot to do with my human design…
For anybody who’s not familiar with human design – if you look up “human design” with your birth time and location, you’ll find your type is. It basically shows you the type of worker that you are and how you show up in the world. I’m a manifesting generator which means I’ve got a thousand ideas, and I can take those ideas and bring them to life. The hard thing with manifesting generators is that we have a thousand ideas, so I always pick whichever one feels like it’s the most important for me in that moment. I focus on one thing and see it all the way through. I have to see it until I cross the finish line, which I know is hard for a lot of us. We get discouraged along the way when it doesn’t go as planned, and we feel like we’re a failure. But this is my secret sauce – everyone fails, and every successful person has failed.
The thing with failure is that it’s not an invitation for you to stop, it’s an invitation for you to really dig deep down and figure out why you want it and use that to keep the fire going that you do it again and again and again. So that by the second, third, or fourth time it’s finally successful. That’s how you become the person who has a massive brand – you have to find that fire within yourself and you have to let yourself fail. Even if it means doing things that are terrifying.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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