Why am I irritated? How can art help me better understand my Shadow?

​Jung once stated, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”


This is often how I direct clients into Shadow work. The question that arises from this statement is, “what am I projecting on to others that I am rejecting in myself?”. This is a hard question to ask and the answer can be hard to swallow.


When you see someone doing something that you find incredible irritating, perhaps talking over others or fidgeting at their desk, it can be hard to understand how that behaviour can be a part of you-especially when it’s so annoying!  Looking deeper into the projection is heavy work and worthwhile though it can be conceptually difficult.

Working with our projections with art can help ease into the process. Art can show us in a very tangible way what we find irritating, and hence what we may be denying in our selves.




For instance, if you were to become irritated at a person eating with their mouth open I might ask you to draw that person. The drawing contains clues to why the irritation is there. Perhaps the drawing looks angry and you realize that it isn’t the action of eating with their mouth open that bothers you, but rather the inconsideration for others. Perhaps you can sometimes be inconsiderate, a behaviour you were taught as a young person was unacceptable. On the other hand maybe the drawing shows a huge mouth eating a big piece of meat, in which case we can ask, why the meat? What is the person eating and why? Perhaps you were taught only to eat with a fork and a knife, however there was a part of you that longed to eat with your hands and chew with your mouth open. In this case perhaps the denied part of the self might be the part that wants to be animalistic and primal but was told that primal behaviour is unacceptable.

Art Activity for Projection


1) Draw the person who you felt irritated with as creature. This creature can fantastical or realistic. Let your imagination have fun with this! Give them horns if you want, or give them a silly face.

2) Give them a name, let yourself have fun with this too! Let your inner child out a bit!

3) Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What colours did I use/ did I use colour? What do those colours mean to me? What are those colours symbolic of?

  • What type of creature did I draw? What are it’s features? What are those features symbolic of? For instance, perhaps the creature has large fangs, what are large fangs symbolic of for you? Do they indicate aggression, or gluttony?

  • What is the creature doing?



  • ​What do I want to say to the creature? What does it want to say to me?

  • What is it about the creature that I dislike the most?

  • Do I have these features inside of me? Am I denying a part of myself that is represented by this creature?

What does this creature need? What do I need? (And draw It in the picture! )

Remember, Shadow work is usually pretty hard work, always give yourself extra self-love and compassion when working with the Shadow!



You can link to these sites if you like!




Image credits:



Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash


Photo by Ilya Schulte on Unsplash


Photo by GoaShape on Unsplash


Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash


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