Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase through one of our links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We're grateful for your support in helping Bloom and Manifest stay up and running!
We all have a hidden shadow side. That part of us that we try to hide, that we’re ashamed of, that holds us back and has taken root in our unconscious mind.
It’s not the funnest thing to talk about on your spiritual journey, but it’s one of the most important parts of awakening to our purpose, healing our hearts and manifesting our dreams.
Where did the idea of shadow work come from?
This idea of having an inner shadow self originates from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. His teachings on the shadow make up the foundation of the modern “shadow self” we hear about in spirituality and psychology today.
Shadow work as a component of self development and self improvement also stem from Jungian teachings- you can reference his work if you’d like a deeper understanding on the origins of this shadow concept.
Books on Shadow Work
- How to Do the Work by Nicole LePera
- The Mastery of Self by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr
- Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
- Shadow Work Journal and Guide: Introduction to Discovering and Healing your Unconscious Self by Kelly Bramblett
What is the shadow self?
In order to know how to do shadow work and begin asking yourself shadow work questions, lets cover what the shadow self actually is and how it can show up influencing our lives.
The shadow self can often look like the following:
- Negative Thoughts
- Operating from Ego
- Judgment of others and self
- Lack of Accountability
- Lack of Self Awareness
- Attachment to Victim Mentality
- Feeling Superior to Others
- Having a “God Complex”
- Being Biased
- Being overly guarded from other people
- Playing Small
- Hiding Your Gifts
- Not trusting yourself
- Not being able to admit you are wrong
- Allowing triggers to derail you or your life
….these are just a few ways your shadow self can show up. There are manyyyy other ways it can appear. Therein lies the first question- where does your shadow self show up in your life?
What exactly is the shadow self?
Recognizing the traits of ours that stem from our shadow self is where true healing and awakening begins.
Essentially, the shadow aspect of ourselves is the inner “darkness” we hide from the world. It can be past trauma, limiting beliefs, a wounded inner child, or the negative voice in your head that’s run rampant for too long.
These traits and the examples above are all side effects of needing to examine our shadow and perhaps do some shadow work.
Shadow Work Pre-Work for Beginners
If you are new to shadow work, consider the following first:
Have you developed a solid self-care practice?
Shadow work can be emotionally overwhelming, stressful, and flat out challenging. It’s good to have a handful of healthy self-care habits and routines that you can utilize to help yourself decompress after getting into shadow work.
You may also like:
- Refreshing Ideas for Better Self-Care
- 10 Incredible Spiritual Benefits of Ceremonial Cacao
- How to Practice Better Self-Love: Tangible Ways to Love Yourself
- Energy Cleansing for Empaths
Have you developed a strong sense of self-worth and self-love?
If not, I suggest you begin there instead. Shadow work can be overwhelming, triggering and challenging- if you do not have a strong sense of self-worth it may leave you feeling worse off than when you began.
So please, if you are someone who struggles with loving yourself or seeing your own inner strength and power- begin your shadow work journey by first building your self-esteem and self-love.
If this is something you need support and guidance with, consider booking a 1-on-1 coaching session with me, here. My 8 week program, The Alchemy of Spiritual Awakening was designed to activate transformation- and the roadmap includes shadow work, self love, intuitive development and more.
Examine if you are ready for truth (or if you’re still seeking to be coddled and validated).
May sound harsh but many people are not ready to face the truth that resides in the depth of their shadows.
You have to come from a neutral and open space. Regardless of if strong emotions come up or not- you should be in a place where you feel confident to accept the root of your triggers and your challenges. Honor the truth that lies within your shadow self.
Know that you are not your emotions or your thoughts.
What I mean by that is- you may think negative things but that does not mean they are true or that they define you.
You may experience struggle, but you are not cursed. You may experience grief, but you are not unlucky. You may have experienced bad treatment from others, but you are not unworthy of love.
Have a solid understanding that though you may deeply feel and experience specific thoughts or emotions, you are not those things and negative experiences do not define you.
Release any shame or self-judgment.
If you’ve been through trauma or have stored negative experiences within you, be sure you’re in a place where you are able to release shame and self-judgment. When we go through spiritual growth, we are essentially creating space for new experiences and new vibrations. Because of that, we have to be able to release shame and self-judgment for anything we may have been through.
(Note: If you feel you have deep wounds and trauma that require external guidance or professional help unpacking- please be encouraged to seek support.)
Tools for to Support Shadow Work and Healing
Rose Quartz– Helps to keep you connected to the frequency of self-love and to remain centered in your heart space.
Shungite – A highly protective stone that also helps you to remain grounded.
Black Tourmaline– Another stone that protects your aura, absorbs negativity and helps to keep you grounded in the present moment.
Cacao– (discount code: BLOOM) Having a cacao ritual or ceremony for yourself is a great way to open the heart chakra and heal yourself from a place of unconditional love. Cacao assists us in healing work because it guides us to see things from a universally connected place that draws forward deep, infinite love. This is the perfect, most gentle plant medicine you can use to guide and assist you on your shadow work and healing journey. Be sure to try Soul Lift Cacao (linked above) as it is an ethically sourced and high vibe option for ceremonial cacao.
Cleansing Herbs- Working with herbs can help you to clear your space and your aura, removing any dense or negative energy. I love to use cleansing herbs before I journal or dive into shadow work to assure my aura and my space has been blessed and cleared.
Dedicated Journal– I recommend having a dedicated journal that is strictly used for shadow work- it is nice to have to reflect upon and also serves as a sacred place for you to unpack, examine, accept and heal your shadow aspects.
You may also like:
What exactly is shadow work and what shadow work questions should I start with?
We’ve covered what the shadow self is, now let’s dive into actual shadow work.
Simply put, shadow work is taking the time to address and begin healing the unconscious parts of ourselves that manifest in negative ways.
When we identify the aspects of our shadow that need attention, we can begin true healing and growth. Allow this work to encourage you and present opportunities to expand to your next personal level.
We all have parts of ourselves that we tend to hide or even ignore. Limiting beliefs or negative self talk, grief or feelings of isolation- it varies from individual to individual.
Unpacking the aspects of our shadow self and discovering the root of its effects is part of the journey towards manifesting your best life.
Start by identifying the following:
Are there any ancestral or familial behaviors or beliefs that you’ve absorbed into your being?
(Examples: racism, poverty, abuse, helplessness)
Oftentimes we inherit traits or mentalities from our family and it can develop into negativity within ourselves. When repressed or unaddressed- this becomes a part of our shadow self.
This doesn’t mean they are bad or did anything wrong (usually), but when we become aware of the patterns or beliefs we may have been programmed with- powerful healing and growth can occur. Identify any beliefs or behaviors that you currently notice within yourself that may have been absorbed from negative family experiences or teachings.
What are my limiting beliefs?
Do you currently operate with limiting beliefs? Do you often think thoughts like “that could never happen for me” or “I could never achieve that” or “I grew up this way so I’ll always live this way?” …if so, you may be operating from limiting beliefs.
Shadow work involves examining beliefs about ourselves and about life. When we identify areas we may be blocking or restricting ourselves- we can begin the process of healing the shadow.
What does my inner child need?
Inner child work is one of the most powerful things I’ve discovered on my shadow work and healing journey.
It’s as simple as “talking” to your inner child. Envision yourself as a kid again, and tune into what you needed to hear or needed overall as a child. Tell yourself what you needed to hear. Maybe it was “I love you” or “I support you” or “I’m proud of you.”
Look at pictures of yourself as a child and remember what it felt like to be little. Acknowledge the innocence of your inner child and visualize connecting with yourself at that age. It might seem weird but just envisioning your current self talking to or hugging your self as a kid can be so healing.
Is my ego or my intuition leading my life?
Shadow work often involves us identifying and learning from our ego.
When we identify the difference between our ego (false self) and our soul/higher self (true self) it becomes much easier to grow and heal.
The ego does the following:
- Views everything as separate
- Acts from jealousy or anger
- Focuses on power and materialism
- Blocks us with Pride
- Denies our own need to heal or improve
The higher self does the following:
- Accepts easily
- Views everything as one and connected
- Acts from a place of love
- Is grateful, friendly and open
- Appreciates simplicity
- Acknowledges their part in things
- Focuses on the present moment
What are my triggers?
This is one of the hardest parts- learning how to view our triggers as teachers.
Everytime someone triggers us- they are simply pointing to something within ourselves that we need to heal.
This may be a hard one to accept, but it’s true.
If we are not triggered by something, that means we are coming from a place of understanding and are grounded and connected to our higher self.
But when someone triggers us, that means we are being shown an area within our own self that needs to be addressed.
What negative patterns or habits do I have?
Shadow work is about looking into the darker parts of ourselves. This means our negative qualities or bad habits. These things often reveal to us what needs healing.
Being able to admit and acknowledge our negative patterns and habits is a huge healing step in itself.
Shadow Work Questions to Ask Yourself for Emotional Healing
- Where in my life am I playing small or settling?
- What challenges have I faced in my life that I can’t seem to forget or let go of?
- Am I playing helpless or playing the victim in any aspect of my journey?
- What did I lack as a child and how can I give that to myself now?
- Where am I still blaming others?
- What am I most afraid of and what are 3 life examples or things that prove I can overcome that?
- What bad habits do I have that are hindering my success?
- What hurts and emotional cords am I still allowing to guide my journey?
- Who am I jealous of and what are 5 inspirations they can exemplify for me?
- What do I need to stop complaining about? If it’s something that still affecting me, how can I work towards changing this situation?
Self-love Shadow Work Prompts
- What parts of myself do I not want others to see? Write 5 positive things about this aspect.
- What lessons have I learned through my journey that can be a benefit to others?
- What are my biggest strengths?
- What accomplishments have I achieved that I tend to downplay or minimize?
- Write 10 things you love about yourself.
- Write 20 things you are thankful for.
- Write 5 examples of times when you made someone else laugh or smile.
- What challenging things have I been through and how have those made me a better person?
- What unique perspectives do I have to offer the world?
- What are 3 examples of times I’ve supported other people?
- What are 3 examples of times I’ve been kind-hearted to others? (animals count too!)
- What does my dream self-care day look like? How can I create some of that same energy today?
How to do shadow work
Journaling Shadow Work Questions (above)
When assessing all the ways shadow appears in our life, and where the root of these qualities come from, its very helpful to journal and write down everything we discover. This helps us to process and come to terms with our emotions and experiences.
We can do a lot of powerful shadow work while in meditation. Some of my favorite shadow work to do in meditation is connecting with my inner child and identifying what she needs/needed.
I mentioned this above but sometimes we need help when diving into our wounds and our shadow self. There are plenty of incredible and qualified (shadow work trained!) therapists out there. If you feel you need that type of support in this journey (many do) then begin your search for a therapist that fits well with you. Don’t be afraid to talk with several and interview them until you find the right one.
Try to look at your life through the lens of an observer. This allows for honesty and neutrality. Reflect on all the questions in this article, with an open heart and open mind.
A spiritual coach or life coach can help guide us through our shadow work and give us tools to use to empower ourselves through this process of shadow work.
It’s a huge benefit to get an outsider’s perspective and advice from someone who has the tools to share that will help you navigate the healing process for your best possible outcome.
Addressing ancestral / familial programming, examining our limiting beliefs, caring for our inner child, acknowledging our ego, and reassessing our negative patterns and habits are all wonderful ways to begin the journey of shadow work.
Ask yourself shadow work questions often, whenever you feel you are in need of and ready for some growth-inspiring self-reflection.
Hopefully this guide was helpful to you. Shadow work is a deep and complex practice with so many moving parts, but my goal was to offer a starting point for working with the shadow.
Let me know what you think- have you experienced growth from shadow work? Have you begun your shadow work journey? Would love to hear about it.