What is Shadow Work and How to Do it

What is Shadow Work
16 min reading time

What is shadow work you might ask?

According to psychology, You almost certainly have a dark side.  Everyone has, but there is a procedure that can help you get through it.

Shadow Self Test – How Dominant is Your Dark Side?

Shadow work entails delving into the unconscious stuff that influences our ideas, feelings, and behaviors. The idea is to bring those unconscious fixations, such as the agony of a traumatic incident, into the conscious mind so that you may work on them in treatment. Those unconscious parts responsible for your impulsive acts and the function of your so-called dark side can be triggered by traumatic events, trauma, and old memories.

If this is your first time coming across shadow work and you want to know what shadow work is, you have come to the right place.

Here, I will discuss all you need to know about shadow work, from shadow work meaning, benefits, practices to its dangers. However, beware of taking this as professional advice. Contact a professional before applying the techniques in this piece.

What Does Shadow Work Mean?

The “shadow self,” defined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, M.D. is a portion of yourself that you may have learned to repress as a kid.

For example, if you were chastised for having a tantrum, you may have hidden your rage behind a more socially acceptable smile for the rest of the world. You were taught that getting angry was a bad thing from a young age.

Everyone has sentiments like wrath, hatred, jealousy, greed, and selfishness, but not everyone is comfortable expressing them. These emotions make up your shadow personality. Techniques like shadow work, meditation, or yoga

“Shadow work is all about the unconscious mind which comprises of the things that we repress and conceal from ourselves, such as traumas” and “shadow personas.”

Danielle claims that your shadow self may manifest itself when you’re provoked, in your relationships, and via various levels of anxiety and sadness. When this seemingly dark aspect of your personality emerges, it may tell something about your character worth investigating further.


While anybody can undertake shadow work, a qualified mental health professional is the ideal choice for therapy, especially for aiding someone who has suffered severe trauma, such as surviving an accident or being subjected to violence or abuse.

According to the Center for Health Care Strategies, they’re educated to assist you in moving through trauma without re-traumatizing you or generating further emotional and biological stress.

Massi has been doing shadow work with several of her clients for the past year.

“I felt that my clients and I could only get so far investigating the conscious and subconscious mind as a psychotherapist for a decade. I went away from standard psychotherapy and towards shadow work to assist my clients in recovering at a much deeper level to serve them best.”

What is Shadow Work in Spirituality?

The shadow is made up of all the elements of ourselves that we’ve tried to repress or that we’ve learned to see as ‘negative’ or ‘undesirable’- either because they don’t fit into our egos (who we think we are) or because society has told us these parts of ourselves are ‘inappropriate’ or unsuitable.

This shadow presents itself in subliminal ways in our behavior or beliefs, causing us to do or say things that are ‘out of character,’ or to acquire strong judgments and dislikes without knowing why.

If you’ve ever done anything and thought to yourself, “I have no idea why I did that — it’s not me!” — Whoosh. That’s you alter ego.

We live in a world where we are constantly pressured to be “perfect,” and most of us learned to hide aspects of ourselves as children. Repressing aspects of yourself prevents you from completely embracing or practicing self-love – and the darkness will still emerge – just in ways you don’t desire.

If you’ve ever felt intense hatred, jealousy, or judgment, you’ll know that it only serves to harm you and drain your vitality – and this is what the shadow is for.

On a spiritual level, our souls WANT us to heal all of the wounds that have generated the shadow self — they want us to recover from feelings of inadequacy, embarrassing memories, and emotions we’ve been taught not to express.

It’s here that shadow work along with other techniques like the 36-hour fast comes in handy.

What is Shadow Work in Astrology?

We all have personality characteristics or habits that make us grimace, feel uncomfortable about, or even ashamed of, and that we hide as a consequence.

Shadow work is a term used in astrology to describe being aware of your shadow self via profound psychological study. It’s about being aware of your zodiac sign’s judgments or less-than-pleasant characteristics, accepting responsibility for them, and doing your best to be more cognizant and sensitive about them.

Shadow work might include tarot cards, meditation, silent thought, and examining your natal chart when it comes to your shadow self in astrology.

You may utilize your natal chart to learn about your zodiac sign, transits, and planetary placements to get insight into what inspires your zodiac sign, both positively and negatively.

The purpose of shadow work isn’t to completely erase this layer – you’re only human, after all! The goal is to live in harmony with your shadow self.

What Is Shadow Work in Journaling?

A Shadow Work Journal is a written journal that may be used to assist you to prepare for reflecting on your vulnerabilities, energy blocks, and other potential’ shadows’ that may not show themselves easily, with the goal of bringing them to a conscious high level so you can work through them effectively.

The real journaling process is a technique to better understand the parts of yourself that are being overlooked, the characteristics of your personality or conduct that you perceive as negative and wish to change.

This might take you along the path of eliminating these blockages so they no longer have an adverse effect on your life.

The entire procedure takes time and effort, but the results are well worth it.

What is Shadow Work in Therapy?

While you can do shadow work alone, Sweeton recommends doing it in therapy.

Because you have to address your primary caretakers, and a lot of people have loyalty, it may be stressful. You realize things aren’t what you thought they were.

A therapist can assist you in productively working through such feelings. it takes time to start shadow work therapy, and both the client and therapist must build a trusting connection. They can start once it’s there.

Sweeton incorporates shadow work into his meetings on a regular basis. Sweeton adds, “I’m looking for occasions when customers have a reaction to something and are probably uncomfortable with it.”

Some of the shadow work therapists include the folks over at Therapyrocks as well as Danielle Massi, LMFT – Owner and CEO of The Wellness Collective

Shadow Work Objective

The goal of shadow work is to make the unconscious conscious go into the depths of our psychologies, to excavate and uncover all of our fragmented pieces on the way to personal development. It teaches you how to master self discipline and control which will go a long way in helping you to control eating urges if you have any.

Exploring your dark side might be a daunting job. However, the advantages are numerous, and there is no better time than now to go on that journey as a human person.

Fortunately, as you understand the principles, going into the shadow self is far less daunting.

Benefits of Shadow Work

Shadow work is intended to help you grow and develop as a person, and make you more healthy overall just like how walking 30 minutes a day can improve your health.

Shadow work helps you in the following ways:

It is Important for Self-awareness

Self-realization is a Jungian phrase that refers to realizing the best version of yourself. Jung argued that becoming aware of one’s shadow self is an essential step toward self-realization.


Improved Empathy

A sophisticated understanding combined with a clear vision leads to increased compassion for others.

Rather than clinging to conceptions of righteousness or moral superiority, because of shadow work you understand why individuals are compelled to do what they do because you recognize those potentials inside yourself.

Taking Charge of Your Life

Shadow work may be empowering because it requires you to take responsibility for areas of yourself that you were previously unaware of, according to Brandon.

“It can help individuals realize their power to improve their condition rather than view themselves as victims of other people and situations,” Brandon adds.

Healing of Childhood Trauma

Shadow work can help repair childhood scars frequently caused by primary caregivers such as parents.

“When you start to address generational traumas inside the shadow experience, you’re always doing the job of healing yourself, healing your parents, and healing the lineage,” Short explains.

It might also help you consider your approach to child care if you have children.

A Beginner’s Guide to Shadow Work

After knowing what is shadow work, It’s essential to keep this in mind when figuring out how to get started shadowing. You encounter problems that are unique to you. You choose the symbols you use, the experiences you meet, and the healing path.

However, rather than being only an intellectual exercise, it must be lived; it must be a labour process.

The unconscious communicates through symbols, which we regularly see in our dreams. Shadow work entails paying attention to and exploring surfacing dreams, pictures, fantasies, and sensations. Maintain your curiosity and compassion for yourself, and you’ll discover the richness and reward of shadow work.

With that in mind, here are six shadow work exercises to try.

Shadow Work Exercises

Develop a Compassionate and Curious Mentality

Approaching shadow work with a sense of wonder and compassion is a fantastic place to start. Curiosity puts you in receptivity and openness, which facilitates an investigation.

It’s critical to be self-compassionate since shame is a significant motivator for suppression. Compassion permits you to confront the shadow with acceptance and understanding.

Otherwise, these aspects of the self are likely to be met with resistance and conflict, preventing them from being integrated.

Consider Every Event as a Chance to Learn Something New

Another perspective adjustment is to see everything as an opportunity to learn more about your shadow. Remember that your shadow is always present, whether you are aware of it. When you know the existence of challenging emotions like anger or envy as valuable pointers to the region you need to integrate, those feelings lose their power.

Consider what this teaches you in the face of adversity. This is especially true when it comes to projection. First, understand this process intellectually before being aware of how it develops in your life. After that, you may investigate the projection source and break the feedback loop.

Experiment with an Active Imagination

Active imagination was another shadow work exercise used by Jung. This is similar to meditation, but it employs a visual approach to elicit pictures and symbols from the unconscious mind and engage them in dialogue just like in the scarcity of mindset.

This is an ancient strategy with significant outcomes, despite its seeming simplicity concerning our present understanding of psychology.

Keep Track of Your Dreams

Exploring the shadow requires a lot of dreamwork. Many of my most significant insights have come via dreams. Begin by writing out your dreams. Give yourself the gift of a dream notebook. Keep track of your goals each morning.

In general, you’ll notice that goals with a powerful message have an energy about them. You can come into difficult people or situations.

Create a Support System

It’s great to have mentors or peers with whom you can discuss your experiences if you’re travelling alone. Those who are going through their form of shadow work, whether or not they call it that, are excellent confidants on this path.

It may be a lonely path to travel. It’s unusual for people to have the bravery to pursue individuation; therefore, having help in this area is really beneficial.

Master the Unconscious Language

Because the unconscious communicates with symbols unique to you, it pays to be curious about your unconscious’s language. By moving away from the concept of a single, permanent personality, you may begin to explore your inner archetypes, which are the qualities of psychic energies within you.

Personifying different states you feel in different situations is one practical approach to achieving this. Do you have a hidden artist inside you that you need to free? Do you have an inner-warrior that comes out while competing in sports or working out at the gym?

Begin to become acquainted with these many facets of your personality and decide how you’d want to merge them.

Shadow Work Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Do you have any triggers? What caused them?
  2. What common misconceptions do people have about you?
  3. Is there someone you hold a grudge against, if yes why?
  4. Do you often feel misunderstood? Why do you that is?
  5. Are you happy with your life? Is there any aspect that you will like to improve?
  6. What aspect of yourself do you dislike the most?
  7. How can you describe your childhood experience?
  8. What are your best and worst qualities?
  9. How often do you lie to yourself?
  10. What emotions do you tend to avoid the most?
  11. How did you deal with trauma in the past? Was it effective?
  12. What are your toxic qualities?
  13. How well do you respond to criticisms?
  14. What is your biggest fear?
  15. What is your biggest regret?
  16. Who in your past downgrade how you feel the most?
  17. Do you celebrate your achievements?
  18. What image do you think people have of you?
  19. What is your definition of failure?
  20. Do you ever feel inferior to others?
  21. If you could go back in time, what will you tell your younger self?
  22. Where do you need to set better boundaries in your life?
  23. Have your parents addressed your every need?
  24. What can’t you accept about yourself?
  25. What do you hate about others?
  26. How far have you come in life?
  27. What does success means to you?
  28. What does happiness means to you?
  29. How will you describe your life right now?
  30. How much do you look forward to the future?

Shadow Work Books for Beginners

  • Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature By Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams
  • SHADOW WORK JOURNAL FOR BEGINNERS: Shadow Work Prompts Journal and Workbook for Beginners

  • Shadow Work Journal & Workbook: Illuminate the Effects of Your Dark Side, Accept Your Shadow Self & Become Whole as Your Authentic Self
  • Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson
  • Shadow Work – Tracking & Healing Emotional Triggers Mindfully: A Guided Journal & Workbook
  • Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal: Reclaim Your Wholeness
  • Shadow Work Journal by Jessica Cross
  • Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature

  • ILLUMINARE – 100 Days of Shadow Work – Workbook/Journal

Shadow Work Quotes

“The shadow is needed now more than ever. We heal the world when we heal ourselves, and hope shines brightest when it illuminates the dark.”
― Sasha Graham, Dark Wood Tarot


“Your Shadow is all of the things, ‘positive’ and ‘negative’, that you’ve denied about yourself and hidden beneath the surface of the mask you forgot that you’re wearing.”
― Oli Anderson, Shadow Life: Freedom from Bullshit in an Unreal World


“You don’t accept yourself, you can’t transcend yourself and the world: first, you need to increase your awareness, then you need to accept what you learn, then you need to take action.”
― Oli Anderson, Shadow Life: Freedom from Bullshit in an Unreal World


“At times you got to find the untouched parts within yourself to be able to discover the true you”

― Etheria Divine

Dangers of Shadow Work

Experts say that keeping your shadow hidden is a type of repression that might have negative implications; it’s like admitting you have a problem but not allowing yourself to deal with it.

It is possible for people to:

  • Self-medicate with drugs or alcohol
  • Negative self-talk causes stress, leading to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

When you repress your shadow, you take your sorrow out on yourself instead of facing what’s bothering you. According to Jennifer Sweeton, suppressing a shadow can lead to individuals living inauthentic lifestyles.


Working in the shadows might be scary. It’s essential to recognize that the unconscious has its own intellect, even if it’s not to be taken lightly (pun intended). Even though the mainstream Western worldview is still catching up to Jung’s concepts, this intelligence is a part of nature. The beauty of this method is that this intellect genuinely cares about your well-being. Your inheritance is wholeness and the road of individuation.

I hope you have learned what shadow work is and shadow work meaning, and it was as interesting for you as it was for me.


What does Shadow work mean?

Shadow’s work entails delving into the unconscious stuff that influences our ideas, feelings, and behaviors. The idea is to bring those unconscious fixations, such as the agony of a traumatic incident, into the conscious mind so that you may work on them in treatment.

How is Shadow Work done?

Shadow work is easy and can be done using one of the following ways;

  • Decide on whether you’ll go to therapy or perform shadow work independently.
  • Make it a habit to notice your own inner darkness.
  • Consider your early years.
  • Avoid making fun of your shadow.
  • Observe your triggers by meditating.
  • Maintain a shadow journal.
  • Use art to express your inner gloom.
  • Begin an internal discussion with yourself

Is shadow work a real thing?

Yes, it is genuine; Shadow work can help repair childhood scars frequently caused by primary caregivers such as parents.

Is shadow work evil?

Shadow work isn’t some curse or an evil thing like the sanpaku eyes. Shadow work is in fact helpful. Childhood wounds, which are typically produced by primary caregivers such as parents, can be repaired through shadow work.

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