The Ultimate Guide to Shadow Work

The definition of ''shadow'' self and step by step guide to mindfully do shadow working for spiritual and personal growth.

Shadow working is a psychological and spiritual awareness practice that refers to the process of discovering one's unconscious part or in Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung's words: ''shadow''. We might think that uncomfortable feelings, repressed emotions, and unresolved traumas just disappear but actually, it is quite the opposite. All of those negative feelings, unresolved traumas, and repressed emotions are stored in our unconscious mind. So this practice is a self-awareness practice that will help you overcome the negative aspects of your life that either you are not fully aware of or prefer to avoid. 

What is the Shadow?

The term was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung believed that the human psyche is composed of different layers and the shadow is the hidden part of the human psyche. This part stores all of our denials, the parts we try to hide or ignore, unresolved traumas, and repressed feelings. In Jung's model of the psyche, we show the world our ''persona'', we all put a mask on to hide our imperfections and negative aspects of our personality. Even though the shadow is deep down in our unconscious mind, it affects our outer mask, persona. The unconscious part still has the power to affect our life decisions, how we express ourselves, our relationships with other people and ourselves. The hidden aspects are always lurking in the background when it comes to our personality. If we do not heal the wounded parts of ourselves, this negative part of our psyche will always continue to be reflected in our personality negatively. That's why it is important to do shadow work to fully process all of our traumas and tap into your intuition.

How to do Shadow Work?

The ultimate goals of the shadow work are self-awareness and self-acceptance. The more we become self-aware, the more we can understand the way we act or the way we react. Whether done with the help of a mental health professional or on our own, the main idea is to explore and confront unconscious aspects of oneself. It is important to face and process our unresolved traumas, insecurities, and fears for personal growth and emotional healing. Shadow working can be done through different practices. Here are some steps to help you get started with shadow work:

1- Self-Reflection and Awareness: Identifying the uncomfortable and repressed aspects of our personality is just the starting point. Self-awareness is the key to being the better versions of ourselves so it is crucial to self-reflect. Self-reflecting can be done through meditation and deep self-inquiry. Reflecting on our feelings and behaviors is the essential point to deepen our connection with ourselves and deal with hardships in our lives.

"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." -Carl Jung

2- Journaling: The most essential part of healing: Always questioning. Question why you feel in a certain way right now, why you felt that way when something traumatic happened to you, and what are the reasons for your reactions. Question and examine your thoughts, feelings, and actions and I think the best way for this mission is to journal. Dedicate yourself to journaling, and make the time every day to journal. Don't know where to begin? Here are some examples of journaling prompts.

3- Dream Analysis: 

Carl Jung believed that all our dreams are the vehicles for the unconscious mind to send important messages to us. Through our dreams, our subconscious talks to us so it is important to analyze our dreams. Analyze the recurring themes and symbols in your dreams.

“Dreams are the guiding words of the soul. Why should I henceforth not love my dreams and not make their riddling images into objects of my daily consideration?” -Carl Jung

4- Confronting Shadow Aspect: Identify the memories or feelings that trigger you. The best way to resolve our traumas, overcome our fears, and embrace our insecurities is to acknowledge them. Acknowledge all of your deep emotional wounds, fears, flaws, traumas, and negative thoughts.

5- Inner Child Work:  Reflecting on our childhood experiences, both positive and negative is perhaps the most important thing on the list. One's personality is shaped in the childhood. The remnants of childhood experience can impact one's adult behaviors, personality, relationships, and reactions. Unresolved childhood issues is a pivotal step in shadow working practice.

6- Creative Expression: Creative expression is an important point to convey complicated emotions and thoughts. It is another form of communication for the unconscious mind to reveal itself. Find some creative outlets like painting, singing, or dancing, just do whatever works for you.

7- Theraphy: As shadow working on ourselves can be an emotionally intense and difficult experience, seeking help is always a good option. There still might be some parts of us that we are totally unaware of and needs deeper inspection so professional help is the solution. 

8- Be Patient: Take your time. This self-acceptance journey is a never-ending journey. It may take years to uncover the unconscious mind, fully heal the inner child, and process all of the trauma so be patient with yourself.