Don’t Skip Leg Day

The perils of sidestepping Shadow Work

Martin O'Toole
2 min readMay 18, 2023
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who conceived and wrote of the Shadow Self (illustration via DepositPhotos).

Keen as we are to work on parts offering instant gratification — aspects of ourselves that others are more likely to notice — we discount the significance of foundation.

So what happens if we skip our psycho-spiritual “Leg Day”?

We build the rest of “us” on foundations that haven’t been inspected for years (or ever). And as it transpires, they were oftentimes installed by someone who didn’t know what they were doing. We learned our tradecraft from a collection of unskilled adults who were also mistaught and self-taught to varying degrees. Emotional competence covers a broad spectrum from totally open to completely traumatised (thus, borderline fucking useless). My friend, these were the co-creators of our foundations — a mixed bag of humans at best.

To skip the crucial and investigative developmental phase of Shadow Work is to apply filler to the cracks of one’s neuroses-addled psyche. The filler’s futility shows as the cracks do surely grow.

There’s a sweet irony, of course. You’re not growing. While you flirt with myriad distractions, your repressed guilt, shame, and pain sit inside a crate at the heart of you. Festering, they occasionally send a whiff wave that’ll knock you for six.

Sustainable personal development is drastically improved when all aspects of the Self receive loving and balanced attention — even your Shadow Self.

So, we must look inside, even when a part of us knows that we won’t like what we see.

Listen to that knower — pay closer attention to them.

And do yourself and everyone close a favour: don’t skip Leg Day.

Here’s a wee treat from me to you. It’s a video of me reading Chapter Twenty of the book: Shadow Work.



Martin O'Toole

Psychedelic integration coach and counsellor, How To Die Happy author, podcaster, and mental health advocate writing about healing and the Anatomy of Happy.