What is Shadow Work, And How Can You Get Started Today?

Personal Growth

Shadow Work Feature

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Shadow work– what is it, and why are you seeing it everywhere all of the sudden?

Simply put, shadow work is a psychological concept that involves uncovering, exploring, and befriending the unknown aspects of your personality.

So what exactly does that mean? Basically, it’s an intensely introspective practice that can be done through journaling, meditation, and more. The goal is to uncover parts of yourself that you consciously or subconsciously repress, and learn to accept them into a more complete self image.

Shadow work is not a new concept– First called Jungian shadow work, It was first invented by psychologist Carl Jung, one of the most influential psychiatrists in history. Jung believed that shadow work was essential for self love and empowerment.

“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

Carl Jung

In this post, we’ll cover all things shadow work, why it’s important, and how to get started. Before you can understand shadow work, it’s important to understand one key principle: the shadow side.

What is a Shadow Side?

Your shadow side refers to the parts of your personality that you repress and hide from others.

Yes, we all do this… but why? Often it’s a fear that certain traits are not welcomed or accepted by others. You fear that you could be seen as unlovable, inferior, or even evil. Sometimes, this is a direct result of experiences you’ve had with loved ones or society in general.

Out of this fear, to protect yourself, you push down and bury certain parts of yourself. Essentially, you disown a part of yourself that is not compatible with who you choose to be. But you can’t completely eliminate your shadow. It follows you through life and can impact your every decision, even without your acknowledgment. That’s why it’s called the shadow self.

Where Does The Shadow Side Come From?

Our shadow selves are often born of our early childhood experiences. As children, we’re much more impressionable an sensitive than we are as adults. We’re also dependent on the care of adults for our survival.

So, we learn to protect ourselves to adapt to the world around us.

When you perceived negative cues from those around you as a child, your brain took those as a serious threat, and began building a shield by suppressing parts of yourself. This is where your shadow was born.

Your shadow side can be born from any adverse childhood experiences. Consider the following:

  • Were you reprimanded often by a parent, caregiver, or person of authority?
  • Were you allowed to be your true self around your primary caregiver?
  • Were you bullied in school for being a certain way?

These are just a few of the negative cues that may contribute to your shadow side. The reality is, we all had such different childhoods, and the unique ways in which we all experiences rejection as children cause all of our shadows to be very different. For more questions like this, check our my 100 Shadow Work journal prompts on Etsy which takes a deeper dive into uncovering your shadow.

What is Shadow Work?

Shadow work is the practice of acknowledging, understanding, and accepting our shadow selves. In shadow work, you learn not to reject the parts of yourself that you dislike, but to learn how to work with them to embrace your full self.

Your shadow self might not be apparent at first. Often, we push parts of ourselves so far back we might not even know they’re present.

That’s why the first step of shadow work is to identify your shadow traits. I’ll cover some methods on this later in the article.

Next, you learn to work with your shadow self and channel it in a positive way. You’ll change your perspective to understand your supposedly negative traits in a different way. You’ll learn to accept yourself fully, even the parts you can work on.

Repressing your shadow self over a long period of time takes a lot of emotional energy. Shadow work requires you to release this energy by bringing your shadow to light.

Why Should You Do Shadow Work?

As Carl Jung believed, only by bringing your shadow to light can you release the power it has over you.

The thing is, no matter how much you try, you can’t eliminate your shadow.
Have you ever felt unexpectedly triggered by someone else’s actions? The reason for this is that often the parts we deny of ourselves we magnify in others. This is a common psychological concept called projection.

For example:

I used to have a friend who always took charge of situations, and asserted what they wanted on the group. We would always go to this person’s choice of restaurant. It bothered me that it seemed like they always got what they wanted in life and at work, just by unashamedly speaking up. I thought they were bossy.

I discovered this bothered me so much because I repressed my own assertiveness, and rarely asserted my opinions or desires. At a young age, people called me bossy and loud, so I pushed this part of myself down until I no longer acknowledged it.

And projection happens entirely unconsciously. If you’re not paying close attention, you’re not even going to notice. But it brings up unwarranted negative emotions.

So, your shadow side impacts your life whether you examine it or not. And by putting in the work, you’re able to avoid plenty of unpleasant emotions.

Benefits of Shadow Work

Examining and accepting your shadow self is not an easy process. Shadow work can be rather uncomfortable and can take quite some time working through your emotions. But the outcomes are worth it.

Shadow work is essential for authentic self love and compassion. First, it allows us to accept all parts of ourselves, both good and bad.
Not only this, but it can help improve our relationships with others. By acknowledging and accepting our own shadow, we can also learn to accept others’ shadows with ease.

Some other benefits of shadow work include the following:

  • Greater sense of freedom
  • Improved self worth
  • Better control of your emotions
  • Knowledge of and courage to set personal boundaries
  • Better connection with yourself and others

5 Shadow Work Methods

Are you ready to get started? I’ve included 5 methods to get started with shadow work today. If you’re more of a spiritual person, also be sure to check out my 5 shadow work tarot spreads.

Journaling

Journaling is an excellent vehicle for discovering and accepting your shadow self. You can start journaling for shadow work by writing down and reflecting on your emotional reactions to life events and people.

To take it a step further, try Shadow Work Journaling Prompts such as the following:

  1. What personality traits in others do you consider pet peeves?
  2. When was a time in your life you opened up to someone and felt rejected?
  3. What was a time I felt unexpectedly triggered by another actions?

If this resonates with you, check out my post on shadow work journal prompts for 26 shadow work journal prompts, or buy the full set of 100 Shadow Work Prompts and Worksheets plus Journal Paper on Etsy.

Meditation

With the busy pace of everyday life, you can go days or even weeks without examining your inner thought patterns. This makes it incredibly difficult to get to know your shadow self. Meditation allows you to take some time to get to know your thoughts, often revealing your shadow.

Even better, there are specific guided meditations you can use for shadow work.

Mindfulness

One of the most powerful ways to practice shadow work is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about being aware of your thoughts and feelings.

Throughout the day, notice and acknowledge your emotions without judgement. It’s a good idea to pair this with journaling to keep record of what you notice.

Over time, you’ll start to notice some emotional patterns that may reveal your shadow.

Inner Child Work

Our childhood experiences are often extremely formative because of our emotional vulnerability as children.

With inner child work, you can get in touch with how your childhood experiences may effect your ways of thinking today.

To practice inner child work, both journaling and meditation are great options.

Affirmations

If you’ve recognized your shadows, and are having trouble coming to terms and accepting them, affirmations may be the right tool for you.

Affirmations are short, powerful statements you can repeat to yourself to guide your thought patterns.

Try repeating these phrases throughout the day to integrate your shadow self and practice complete self love.

Shadow Work Resources

If you’re looking for more on how to get started doing shadow work, you’re in luck! I have some additional resources to check out for you to get started with shadow work:

Final Thoughts

The fact of it is, you can only suppress your shadow self for so long until it shows up it your relationship with yourself and others. And chances are, if you’ve read this far, you realize the importance of working on this as a key part of any personal growth or spiritual journey.

I hope this post gave you the motivation and tools to get started with shadow work, and wish you well on your journey.

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