Shadow Work: A Complete Guide to Self-Healing

shadow work and learning to love your darkness…

You’re probably thinking, “Darkness? Girl, what witchy nonsense is this “shadow work” you speak of?”, but stick with me for a minute.

We all have a light side and a dark side. To further simplify, our light side encompasses the qualities and traits we like, love, and appreciate about ourselves. Our dark side (shadow) houses the traits we hide from the public, the characteristics or behaviors we are not proud of, and wounds from traumatic experiences we have been through. For instance, someone is super compassionate (light) but also extremely jealous (dark).

So, what does shadow work mean and what does it entail?

Well, it’s the process of exploring the things you are not fond of in yourself, understanding where they stem from, understanding the core of their existence, and accepting that those are things to work on within yourself. It is merely the process of understanding and acceptance. Once you can accept the things that you may be ashamed of, your true self and light side can shine through in its most genuine form.

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before you get started with understanding your shadow

If you’re ready to start loving yourself entirely, let’s get started with some preliminary work…

It’s important to understand that we are all the same in the sense that we all have traits we deem as shameful or ugly, or that deem us as unworthy of our desires in life. So, with that knowledge, it’s important to rid yourself of feeling some type of way towards your less appreciated qualities.

Rid yourself of the shame or disapproval and the voice inside your head that gives definition and life to whatever you dislike about yourself.

Once you can do that, then you can dig a little deeper with an open, non-judgmental heart and continue doing the inner work that is so important.

understand your emotions and feelings with acceptance

As you begin to pay more attention to your everyday interactions and that negative self-talk, understand your reactions and emotions as they arise. Pay extra attention to the “negative” emotions or better termed as “triggers”.

Now, no emotion is a bad emotion. Emotions are portals to understanding our true being if we allow them to be, so with that, take a minute to step back and reflect on why it is you feel the way that you feel.

Whatever emotion is arising, is the stepping stone to understanding a part of you that needs some extra TLC and some healing.

Treat yourself how you would treat a child. Have patience and compassion. Allow yourself space and time to understand your feelings and what is causing them to arise.

To use myself as an example, I have a really hard time having patience with people who ask for help in accomplishing something when they could easily figure it out themselves, #theinternetisgolden. As I have explored why I have such a strong emotional response to people reaching out for assistance, I have come to realize that my reaction is based on my own personal hardship in asking others for help.

I am independent to a fault and need to prove to myself that I can do things on my own, which in turn is another shadow aspect of myself that needs further investigation.

When you can evaluate your emotional responses, you can understand their origin and also, needs that are not being met by yourself or others.

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partake in an activity that allows for deeper introspection

//journaling

I’ve talked about this topic a few times here and here about the power of journaling. Journaling is a mindful activity that is great when doing shadow work.

In terms of shadow work, journaling is great when exploring your emotions deeper. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What emotion is popping up?
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What does this remind me of?
  • What physical response is accompanying this emotional response?
  • What would make me feel better?
  • What area of my being needs more love and attention to help this emotion lessen?

Personally, journaling is really hard for me. I don’t like the idea that my deepest darkest secrets just sit in a book unprotected. Another shadow of mine that needs attention, so to get through that hurdle, I like to write it all out, take that paper and burn it. The power of this activity is in the release of not only getting my emotions and thoughts on paper but the action of then letting them “dissolve” and become nothing more than specks of ash and dirt.

It’s liberating.

//meditation/mindfulness

Being able to meditate is a skill and it involves a lot of practice, but at the base of that skill is the ability to be mindful.

Mindfulness is the ability to allow your thoughts to resemble clouds. They come and go and you don’t give them any definitions, any power, or any attention.

When you can integrate the two, it helps immensely on the emotional spectrum.

When it comes to insightful activities, guided meditations really do allow for deeper understanding and loving. There are guided meditations for relaxing, for gratitude, for spiritual awakenings, for motivation and energy, and for improving your sleep, etc.

Try a guided meditation that speaks to you and give it a go. Don’t have any expectations of being able to turn off your mind. Just sit and be. If your mind is extra loud, let it be loud, but don’t give it power or weight. Just let it be. Focus on the meditation and the person speaking and allow yourself to come back to focusing on your breath.

//show love to the shadow parts. yours and others.

Start loving your “less than” qualities and give them the same appreciation and respect as your light side gets. Both dark and light make up who you are as a person.

Once you can accept how you feel, you begin to fully and deeply love yourself on a genuine level.

Not only that, but you then take that newfound love into your daily interactions. When people treat you a certain type of way, you are able to then take things less personally and have more understanding and compassion towards others.

You begin to see people’s responses and actions for what they are, areas they have yet to love and explore within themselves.

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benefits of shadow work

Now, for the good stuff. By going through the rough and tough parts of digging deep into the soul and exploring the parts that bring you discomfort, you are allowing so much good to happen…

  • You become even stronger
    • Shadow work isn’t easy. Facing your inner demons is hard and takes a lot of courage and often times is uncomfortable. But guess what, you’re growing and you are becoming a stronger more enlightened version of yourself. This will do you so much good in your future relationships (romantic, familial, work, friendships, etc.). You are becoming more emotionally intelligent.
  • You are allowing the Law of Attraction to do its job
    • A lot of shadow work involves releasing your self-limiting beliefs. When doing that, you release resistance and the things you put out into the universe can come to you more easily.
  • You heal yourself and relinquish the past
    • Do you ever feel resentment? Do you have a hard time letting things go? Well, by doing shadow work, you eliminate those responses and are able to move forward fully. You free yourself from the ties the past may still have on you subconsciously.

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how has your shadow side controlled you?

As you begin to contemplate how this inner darkness has controlled your life up until now, it’s important to realize that you are the only one in control of your life. Good and bad, light and dark.

Reflect on what self-limiting beliefs have kept you from going after the things you want, and create an action plan to dig deep and rid yourself of the inner suffering and restraints you have allowed to be.

For any questions or to further your learning on this topic, check out these books:

Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert A. Johnson
Meeting the Shadow by Connie Zweig
Shadow Work: A New Guide to Spiritual and Psychological Growth by Dr. Michael Ruth
Shadow Work Journal by Jessica Cross
The Upside of Your Dark Side… by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan
Momentum: A Shadow Work Guide & Journal by Quinn Barbour
Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark by Robert Augustus Masters Ph.D.

Have you explored shadow work before? Let us know in the comments!

Here’s to loving ourselves even more!

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