What Is Shadow Work? Ultimate Guide + How To Do It

We all have one. Our shadow.

Maybe you’ve always been a “good and proper person” at work and home only to find that you’re acting differently in an unfamiliar setting.

At this point, you may have realized that you are not as prim and proper as you once believed.

You are suddenly aware of a darker side; a shadow side.

Many people struggle to deal with this part of themselves and without realizing it, these parts then start to influence other parts of their lives.

In the words of Carl Jung himself when addressing the impact of the shadow self on our daily lives;

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Accepting and controlling your shadow self instead of allowing it to control you will open doors of opportunity that you never thought possible. Also, it will lead you to live a fuller and more balanced life.

In this post you will learn:

  • What shadow work is 
  • How to do shadow work
  • Why shadow work is important
  • Benefits of shadow work

Let’s dive in!

shadow work definition

What is shadow work?

Shadow work is the idea that there are certain activities that a person has to go through to clear or cope with certain flaws or biases that they may have picked up earlier in life.

The idea of a shadow self was well explored by the 20th-century philosopher Carl Jung.

In this context, the term shadow refers to parts of ourselves that we hide consciously or unconsciously.

This ‘hiding’ often happens in childhood. As children, we try to be our freest selves and we are not criticized often.

However, as time goes by we age and we are conscious of ‘social pain‘. Thus, we start to hide parts of ourselves from others so that we do not feel this pain. 

The accumulation of these hidden aspects forms a shadow that we keep to ourselves and when we let others into our innermost sanctum, they may see glimpses of the shadow in the form of issues like low self-worth, addiction, temper issues, impatience, and other mind-body issues.

what is shadow work

Why is shadow work important?

In relationships with other people as well as in your ambitions and goals, your shadow self will manifest at some point or the other.

While this is a detriment to anyone who doesn’t have some level of mastery of their shadow self, it could be a huge advantage to anyone who has mastered their shadow selves.

“Know thyself”

The reason for this is simple; you can not control what you do not understand, and what you can not control may end up controlling you.

Therefore, a person that understands that he/she has an anger issue may work on that aspect and improve it. This improvement may in turn lead to certain life-changing opportunities.

Whereas, a person who does not work on his/her flaws or doesn’t work on improving them will miss similar opportunities.

We are born on different life paths, and while we may have access to beneficial traits of that life path we also can unwittingly possess some adverse traits that we may not notice. This is why I recommend everybody gets a numerology reading.

Being conversant with your numerology reduces the chances of you understanding your flaws and knowing how to address them.

shadow work

How to do shadow work

Knowing the existence of a problem is only half the battle. The other half is knowing how to solve the problem and prevent its recurrence.

There are different approaches to shadow working however they all maintain certain themes. I will be detailing 9 very important steps on how to shadow work:

1: Identifying the shadow

Identification of your shadow is the most important step in shadow working. This process is an introspective one.

This is because the shadow is present in the subconscious.

It is quite common for people to be unaware of traits and characteristics that they display when confronted with certain scenarios.

For instance, some parents have been known to criticize their children for reminding them to pay certain dues that they had agreed to. This might be indicative of insecurity arising from lacking as a child. 

We all have such shadows. Therefore we must identify these issues when they arrive.

2: Find the root of the issue

When a particular issue has been identified you must go further and investigate the genesis of the problem. Identifying the genesis of the problem is key to eventually resolving it.

This is because behaviorally, the genesis of the problem is the nucleus that was not dealt with quickly thus leading to the need for a shadow self to form.

These roots can be notoriously difficult to locate because they are often rooted in childhood. Perhaps even before your consciousness formed.

Therefore a discussion with an older relative will be beneficial.

3: Employ your diary!

Shadow work requires a high level of objectivity. This is because human beings possess an unconscious bias towards themselves.

However, recording our activities in a diary allows you to bypass some of these biases. You can read through your daily interactions with people more objectively and then fish out the parts of your shadow that need addressing.

Carefully note down your reactions to certain issues whether internal or external and dedicate a regular interval at which you review your diary.

girl journaling

4: Meditation

The value of meditation both physically and spiritually is invaluable. Meditation is quite straightforward, but there are common meditation mistakes to watch out for.

The world is constantly throwing various energies your way and due to this, you may be unable to filter through and locate the real reason for certain feelings and reactions.

Meditation acts as a filter. With nothing else in your mind that can cause significant distractions, you can focus on filtering the truths from the untruths.

Uncovering difficult truths about yourself can sometimes make you feel unworthy or ugly on the inside. When you feel this way reciting affirmations for self-love and unshakeable confidence is a good way to get back on track mentally.

girl meditating

5: Analysis

Carl Jung was a major advocate of the theory that dreams are an outlet of your unconsciousness. In other words, what you see in your dreams could be your subconscious trying to interact with your conscious.

He proposed what is known as dream analysis. To carry out this distinct form of analysis, you should take note of important symbols in your dreams and your reaction to those symbols.

For instance, you may see a roaring lion in your dream, and while this is usually a scary thing to dream about, in your particular case it might be a symbol that filled you with pride.

Another interesting way in which you can analyze your subconscious is by analyzing the archetypes present in the movies and stories that you’ve heard.

Paying attention to some of the recurring archetypes and plots can give you a better insight into your psyche.

Analysis helps you to construct strong inferences that can help you understand your shadow self better. 

girl sleeping on field

6: Confront your inner child

Your past is the birthplace of the shadow self that lies within you. You have to take a trip to your past and find out that hurt child and nurture it.

A lot of children experience trauma in their childhood that later manifests into shadow versions of themselves. They grow up hiding important feelings and emotions.

You have to go back to that inner child and parent it properly. When you do this, it can start to grow again.

Additionally, as important as it is for you to heal your inner child, you have to try to not create new shadows in your children.         

7: Acceptance

Acceptance is a very important step on the journey to self-discovery. When you accept your shadow self as a part of yourself, you can start to unloosen the mechanisms that put it there in the first place.

Your flaws are a part of you and a very vital part of what makes you unique. You have to embrace every ounce of imperfection because they are one of the reasons why you’re here.

Be gentle with yourself. The realization that you’ve been projecting parts of yourself that you find displeasing to people can be embarrassing.

Know that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Walk every day of your life accepting yourself for who you are and shower yourself with the love and understanding that only you are capable of.

8: Therapy

As much as you may try the help that you can provide is limited. You should try to seek professional therapy.

As earlier stated, as a person you have a certain amount of bias that makes self-analysis difficult. This is why professional therapy is important.

Professional therapy takes advantage of multiple perspectives to solve problems.

girl in therapy

FAQs

Who needs shadow work?

Shadow work is a very important aspect of self-work that is needed by everyone. Everyone has a shadow self that they are either dealing with or hiding from others.

So shadow work is essential to anyone who has not undergone the process before or anyone interested in trying out the process again.

How can I face my shadow self?

Your shadow self is an important aspect of your self; a part of you, only buried deep within.

Therefore coming face to face with your shadow requires a journey to the center of yourself. To reach this center often requires meditation and actual self-analysis.

Moreover, one’s effort alone might not be enough. In this case, intervention from guides and therapists may be needed.

Conclusion

The shadow self is a part of you that you have buried deep within your psyche as a mechanism to negative feelings like anger disappointment or social pain.

This part of yourself doesn’t always stay buried though, different aspects of it may still pop around in your mind from time to time.

The concept of a shadow self is broadly explored in the realm of psychology with contributions from famous authors like Freud and Carl Jung.

The shadow is any part of the human mind that the conscious ego-self has banished from consciousness into the shadows.

Therefore for you to be your whole self, you need to confront and facilitate the adoption of this side of yourself. This process is what is known as shadow work.

Shadow work is essential because it allows real exploration and expression of oneself. However, shadow work must be approached cautiously because it may lead to the peeling of layers that may have been better left untouched.

Finally, shadow work doesn’t have to be an individual endeavor. you may enlist help from spirit guides and therapists who have enough experience to help you out.

Julia Lundin helps spiritual seekers step into their purpose and abundance. If you want to learn how to raise your frequency to attract your dream life, check out her book here.

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