Shadow work is a practice of self-discovery, integration and healing. Shadow work requires digging deep within yourself to heal from things you have repressed, fears, or shame. Within each of us lies insecurities, emotions and traits that we consciously or subconsciously hide from the world. Our shadow consists of parts of the self that have been rejected by parents, peers, friends and society and are suppressed to fit in. Shadow work helps you go within to heal and integrate these hidden aspects of the self so you can live authentically.
The concept of the “shadow self” is credited to famous psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung. The shadow self is created during childhood as we are dependent on our care takers. Even positive traits like sharing your feelings and creativity can become parts of the shadow self if rejected by your caretakers during childhood. Jung found the less the shadow is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. Repressing the shadow can lead to additional problems like projecting your shadows onto others. Shadow work can break patterns of self-sabotage, addiction, and codependency. Ignoring the shadow can cause anxiety, depression, offensive behavior, poor self-esteem, unhealthy relationships and self-sabotage.
"A man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps...living below his own level." -Carl Jung
tips for discovering your shadow self
- Allow your authentic self to shine in hobbies and activities that bring you joy. Enroll in a class that you are interested in but have been afraid or made excuses about why you can't.
- Be objective and honest with yourself in your reflections
- Examine the traits and behaviors that repeat in your family tree
- Identify traits of yours that you hide from others; insecurities, fears, guilt and shame
- Identify your triggers – if one of your shadows is related to speaking your truth, others who speak their truth freely may trigger you
- Pay attention to repeating patterns in your dreams, your relationships and overall in your life
- Pay attention to your emotions and reactions. Allow yourself to feel emotions as they arise and transmute the energy when needed. Spend time in nature or with your crystals.
- Remember to be kind, compassionate and loving to yourself. Take plenty of time to process emotions and care for yourself.
Shadow work practices
- Ask your spirit guides to support, guidance and healing
- Dream journaling – keep a daily record of your dreams to recognize, interpret repeating symbols, archetypes and themes
- Ground yourself with crystals and breath work before beginning shadow work
- Journal and reflect on traits and behaviors that repeat in your family tree
- Meditate with your crystals to help you discover and integrate traits, strengths and weaknesses that are repressed. Meditating with your crystals will enhance your intuition and assist in your shadow work.
- Reflect on people who trigger you
- What is it about them you do not like
- Do you share any of the same traits with this person
- Journal the thoughts and emotions that come up
- Release and heal your shadows through continued reflection, journaling, positive affirmations and/or releasing ritual
- Past-life regression
- Talk with a mental health professional as needed. Shadow work and other healing practices may bring up repressed traumas and intense emotions. If you need support or someone to talk to, please seek the help of a licensed professional.
Shadow work journal prompts
- Have I ever been dishonest about who I am? What I like? What I believe in? Why am I hiding my true self?
- How do I cope with feelings of anger, rage, jealousy, greed, and selfishness?
- How do others see me? How do I see myself?
- What do I fear the most?
- What memories bring me shame?
- What are my biggest insecurities?
- What are my biggest triggers and why do they trigger me? Do I share any of these traits or behaviors?
- What causes me to feel guilt or shame?
- What emotions do I avoid expressing? Why?
- What judgements or assumptions do I make about others?
- What negative thoughts or perceptions do I hold about myself?
- What traits, interests, thoughts or beliefs do I feel the need to hide from others?
- When do I hold back from sharing with others because I am fearful of what others think?
- When do I “play the victim” instead of taking responsibility for my actions? When do I justify my actions instead of trying to improve?
After journaling, you may want to meditate on some things that came up during your journaling session. I believe shadow work should be an on-going process in your healing journey. It shouldn't be rushed or judged; healing takes time and you need to progress at a pace you are comfortable with. Please remember to be loving and compassionate to yourself. Take breaks when you need to.
Through shadow work, you will integrate all aspects of yourself (both light and shadow), allowing you to live an authentic life and fulfill your purpose. Hiding or repressing parts of yourself, will hold you back from fulfilling your destiny. You are here with a unique purpose and gifts. I believe in you! Send lots of love, healing and positive energy your way!