This Is Changing My Life: A Guide To Shadow Work

Daniela Marin
ILLUMINATION
Published in
4 min readJan 16, 2023

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Exploring the shadows entails delving deep into aspects of yourself that you reject, ignore, avoid, hide, or are not yet aware of due to a lack of effort to enter your inner world.

PEXELS

Today, I want to give you the opportunity to get to know yourself on a deeper level and make significant personal growth. So, grab a journal and pen as we dive into the shadows and see what we find.

I made a whole youtube video about this, in case you are interested.

WHAT IS THE SHADOW

Shadow work is a term that refers to the psychological process of exploring and integrating unconscious aspects of the self.

screenshot from Youtube Video

HOW TO DO SHADOW WORK

Journal prompts are an effective way to begin exploration. Still, there are many other ways to do shadow work, such as using creative expressions like art, writing, visualizations, dialogues, music, movies, dreams, dance, psychodrama, inner child work, inner critic work, ego work, mining the golden shadow, and meditations. A therapist can also guide you through the process.

THE GOAL

The main goal of shadow work is to bring unconscious aspects of the self into consciousness so that they can be explored and integrated into the whole self.

THE BENEFITS

This process can lead to increased self-awareness, personal growth, better relationships, reduced feelings of shame and guilt, better self-esteem, a better sense of self-identity, psychological development, growth from suffering, a better understanding of past wounds and trauma, stopping self-sabotage, and more.

WHO CAN DO SHADOW WORK?

Not everyone is ready or suitable for shadow work. For example, if you have a complicated history of unresolved trauma, low insight, a busy life, or no time to explore your psyche, shadow work may not be beneficial for you.

It’s important, to be honest with yourself and consider whether you have the time, emotional space, psychological strength, and curiosity to do this work.

Moreover, shadow work has improved personality disorders, mood disorders, anxiety, depression, self-identity issues, social problems, anger, aggression, substance abuse problems, trauma, and sexual-related problems.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THE SHADOW

You can use this worksheet that contains a structured form to identify the shadow and helpful prompts to help you dig into the unconscious.

IMAGE FROM AUTHOR

If you prefer to work on your own, this information will help you:

Some common traits, feelings, and behaviors that are often associated with the shadow include:

  • Negative emotions such as anger, fear, envy, jealousy, shyness, shame, guilt, sorrow
  • Negative traits such as selfishness, competitiveness, greed,
  • Repressed desires and urges, such as a desire for power, sex, control, drugs, death, or recklessness
  • Behaviors outside our conscious values and beliefs, such as acting dishonestly, manipulatively, and selfishly.

Some common symbols used to represent the shadow include:

  • Dark or shadowy shapes or figures
  • Dark or muted colors such as black, grey, or brown
  • Creatures or animals traditionally associated with the shadow, such as snakes or spiders.

Some experiences or concepts that represent your shadow include:

  • Traumatic events
  • The way your parents raised you (good or bad)
  • Subjective impressions of your childhood — note that the shadow begins to form at a very young age, which is very important.
  • Experiences where you were rejected or reprimanded
  • Dreams — dreams have a lot of shadow content since they reflect ideas coming from the unconscious
  • Fantasies
  • Projections on other people. Or things you are defensive about.

Important note: the shadow is not necessarily “bad” or “evil,” but rather a normal and necessary part of being human. We all share these negative traits at a universal level. Our collective unconscious has these urges, thoughts, and information stored. Are we often told we shouldn’t behave in these ways? Have we been told these things are bad? Have you felt ashamed for experiencing them? Yes, yes, and yes. And that’s the problem with our society; it makes us feel obligated to hide these human aspects, which later become your shadow.

Today, I invite you to grab a journal, put on a 10-minute timer, and write down a brainstorm of words and ideas of what your shadow could be made of.

No need to be objective, coherent, or even write complete sentences

After you finish this exercise, make sure to take the following steps:

  1. First, explore your feelings and thoughts: What came up for you?
  2. Practice self-acceptance: Remember that these aspects of yourself are an ordinary and necessary part of being human. Embrace them.
  3. Review and reflect: After you have finished writing, take some time to review what you have written. Then, continue to have a reflective mindset for the rest of the day.

In summary, shadow work is a powerful tool for personal growth and self-discovery. It involves exploring and integrating the unconscious aspects of yourself, such as repressed emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It can be challenging, but it can lead to increased self-awareness, personal growth, better relationships, and reduced feelings of shame and guilt.

Remember to be patient, non-judgmental, and compassionate as you embark on this journey, and take the first step by doing this brainstorming exercise and reflecting on your findings.

Daniela Marin, LMHC | Youtuber | Therapist

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