Shadow Work: Meaning, Examples, and How to Get Started!

shadow work

Shadow work is a prevalent practice amongst self-improvement enthusiasts. The article clarifies the basic concepts, importance, and benefits of shadow work. Additionally, 10 shadow work journal prompts are included to help get you started today!

WHAT IS SHADOW WORK?

To grasp the concept of shadow work, you must understand what a shadow is. Shadow is every trait that remains invisible or in the “dark” to the consciousness. These dark traits are undesirable or embarrassing and thus suppressed by you.
Shadows are multi-faceted and could be anger, envy, greed, bitterness, etc. These emotions are undesirable traits that everyone has but may not express. Therefore these are the many faces of your shadow personality.

Shadow work is the act of bringing the shadow to light to uncover parts of yourself that are repressed or pushed back in your subconscious mind. Your ego doesn’t want to associate itself with any toxic traits and therefore chooses to ignore them.
Shadow work often includes addressing past traumas or confronting your psyche’s most profound and darkest portals. Professionals and therapists widely use this method to manage severe trauma with their patients.

Key Takeaways

  • Shadow work is the practice of self-improvement through understanding the parts of yourself that you repress
  • With this confidence, there is less room for self-doubts and self-deprecating thoughts. Therefore, liberating the shadow will make you happier and give you more self-confidence

CARL JUNG AND THE ORIGIN OF SHADOW WORK

In the twentieth century, the idea of shadow work was first brought onto the western world by a famous analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961). He introduced “shadow self,” where the concept of shadow work originated. 

Jung found that shadow is a byproduct of your interactions with individuals and caretakers during your formative years. These individuals dictate and make you believe that some parts are better than others. This rejection of the “bad” results in the shadow’s emergence and is called the dark side. 

According to Jungian psychology, you must fully address the dark side in your conscious life to lead a fulfilled and enlightened life.

Here are 2 of our favorite quotes by Carl Jung to understand your psyche better:

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

WHY IS SHADOW WORK NECESSARY?

Shadow is an innate part of your life and ideally should not be viewed as a flaw or weakness.

Although it is intimidating and energy-draining, shadow work is a proven healing method that helps achieve the state of enlightenment and self-improvement. It helps reprogram your mind to recognize that traumas that occurred in the past do not make or break your identity.

Through shadow work, you can find patterns in your life. Every time pattern repeats itself; it is your shadow calling out on you.
Here are three shadow patterns commonly found:

  1. Inability to set boundaries
  2. Fear of speaking up and resulting in low self-confidence
  3. Procrastinating from doing things that you know is good for you

Shadow work allows you to unapologetically claim and be your authentic self without associating with shame. Further, this work will enable you to embrace all parts of the psyche- the good, the bad, the embarrassing, and the beautiful. 

EXAMPLE OF HOW SHADOW WORK HELPS

Shadows manifest themselves in many ways. Not everything that resides in the shadow is negative. There are good shadows as well. 

An example of a positive shadow could be “creativity” in the artistic sense. In some cases, families contempt creativity and push kids towards more lucrative directions. But this creativity is a part of you; it will want to come out, and shadow work could be a medium. However, because creativity was taboo growing up, you will tend to push it away. Thus through this work, you can lean into these emotions and explore parts of your golden shadow.  

3 BENEFITS OF SHADOW WORK

You can tap into your full potential by integrating shadow work into your life. Here are the three benefits you can gain.

1. CONFIDENCE AND IMPROVED SELF-ESTEEM.

You show up confident when you know your full version, including your shadows. With this confidence, there is less room for self-doubts and self-deprecating thoughts. Therefore, liberating the shadow will make you happier and give you more self-confidence.

Studies show that people with low self-esteem tend to hide good aspects of their personalities as they do not feel worthy. In such instances, shadow work empowers you and aids in reclaiming the hidden gifts that are unique to you.

2. IMPROVED RELATIONSHIPS

You need to embrace your shadow and accept your dark side to accept yourself. It allows you to be receptive to other people’s shadows judgment-free. You can reduce or avoid the probability of getting triggered easily by others’ actions.

Shadow work manifests better communication, compassion, and understanding towards peers. As a byproduct, you will improve starting and maintaining healthy relationships with people.

3. STEPPING TOWARDS SELF-REALIZATION

According to Jungian psychology, being conscious of your shadow self leads you to achieve the best version of your personality, a.k.a, reach self-realization. Shadow work supports “see you for you”- not the perception of yourself being too big or too small.

This work is necessary for anyone who desires self-improvement or personal growth. It detaches any stigma that is holding you back. It helps you navigate life with more clarity and intention.

Want to start on your path of self-discovery today? Take our free DISC test today to learn about your personality type!

3 STEPS TO STARTING DOING SHADOW WORK

1. LOOK OUT FOR TRIGGERS AND STAY CENTRED

Before indulging in shadow work, you must first decide if you want to work on it yourself or seek professional aid to navigate the process. Ensure that you are in a good mental space before attempting shadow work. First, you must center yourself, or this work can have destructive results. Therefore, it’s critical to identify what habits of others irritate you. 

Pay attention to these projections/triggers to spot your shadow. This identification can help you be mindful of your triggers and work on yourself.

2. REVISIT YOUR CHILDHOOD

Childhood and shadows are deeply connected. The behaviors that family or caretakers had judged you for during formative years created a shadow/ trauma inside you. Once you locate the remedy to those questions, they may lead you to look into the shadow parts of yourself.
Asking yourself the below question is a great starting point:
When you were a child, were you accepted by everyone? What was the one constant feeling you had growing up? Did you change your behaviour because you were scared of being judged by family and friends?

3. OBSERVE, DON’T JUDGE

Shadow work is about making the subconscious conscious and the unacceptable — acceptable. That’s all you are trying to accomplish.

A mistake you’ll make with shadow work is judging the shadow when you spot it. If you do not silence your inner critic and judge the shadow, you are back to where you started- rejecting your flaw and fueling the shadow.

Practice shadow works to acknowledge and observe parts that aren’t shiny. Give your shadow compassion, acceptance, and love rather than blame and shame.

WHAT IS SHADOW WORK WRITING?

Shadow work writing is an illuminating self-discovery journey and a rewarding, liberating experience. You can set free your thoughts without censor by documenting them. It 

In the beginning, it will be daunting and uncomfortable. Still, it is essential to trust the process, lean into the feelings, and listen to your shadow self. Writing your insights and evaluating them helps convert the revelations to your awareness.

10 SHADOW WORK JOURNAL PROMPTS

Shadow work writing can get overwhelming; thus, make sure you choose to address one prompt at a time. It helps to articulate, process, and organize your thoughts. 

  1. Do you remember a time when you felt wronged as a child? How did you react? Has this affected you as an adult?
  2. What is something other people do that annoys you? How does that reflect a part of yourself?
  3. What is one characteristic you see in others that you wish you had? Why do you believe you do not possess it yourself?
  4. In what ways do you feel guilty, and why?
  5. What would you say if you could write a letter to someone who hurt you?
  6. Have you continually broken promises that you have made to yourself? Why?
  7. Do you remember a time you were the hardest on yourself? Why? Why are you being unkind and putting this kind of pressure on yourself?
  8.  When you are angry, how do you react? Would you say your reaction is similar to people who have been in your life since childhood? 
  9. How do you show up for others but fall short of showing up for yourself?
  10. Why haven’t you confronted someone about something you’ve always wanted to do? Do you plan to face them? Why not?

SHADOW WORK AFTERCARE

After an intense journaling session, it is crucial to indulge in self-care, meditation (guided or not), or some positive affirmations. Below are 5 affirmations that can help improve your mindset and outlook.

1) I accept and love myself for being me.

2) I completely control who I give my energy to.

3) I forgive myself for my shadow self.

4) I choose to grow as a person.

5) I am not my past.

BEFORE YOU GO, REMEMBER:

Shadow work is the work you do with the shadow. You integrate your shadow into yourself to make yourself whole again. It doesn’t mean you need to own your negative traits and be a negative person. 

Instead of trying to distance the shadow from yourself- recognize and understand how to have those parts of yourself live out intelligently. Learn to honour those sides of you but not in ways that would destroy you or the people around you. 

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