Throughout January I’ve been trying to gain a sense of understanding about myself by embarking on a spiritual journey. So far you’ve all been privy to my social media cleanse (which is a whole other story but that’s something for another time), my reading (which is still doing well) and journaling.
At first I started with morning pages and even though they were fun for a while, I took a break to focus on another journaling activity: shadow work.
I had never heard of shadow work until I started scrolling through Tik Tok. I follow a lot of spiritual pages and it was something that kept showing up. At first I didn’t pay it any mind, but then I joined a group chat full of people who are either well on their way in their spiritual journey or they’re just starting out. And the common thing I noticed was that everyone had started or completed some form of shadow work, which inspired me to dip my toe in it too.
What’s shadow work, you ask?
Shadow work is the process of unveiling our “shadow self” The shadow self is the part of us that we repress. They’re the parts we’re insecure about, the things we don’t come to terms with. So by doing shadow work you’re allowing yourself to come to terms with the fact that you have feelings and emotions that you shove down unconsciously. It’s a journey of self discovery.
It’s a form of psychoanalysis (it’s the core of Jungian psychology) that allows you to dig deeper and integrate the hidden parts of yourself. Being able to see that will not only make you look at the world differently but it’ll allow you to live a more authentic life.
This is done by completing writing prompts that will make you think/dig deep. I’ll list a couple prompts at the end of this post to give you an idea on what that looks like. And if you choose to participate, then please do. Shadow work is one of those things that can pull a lot out of you so if you’re willing to deal with that and if you’re ready to face any repressed feelings, then it might be for you.
Now, I’m still a newbie at this. I just started a couple days ago and I’ve been doing it on and off since then, but I’ve learned a lot in such a short amount of time. If anything it just solidified the fact that I’m not as content within myself as I would like to be and it’s showed me that I’ve allowed people to put so many of their own perceptions onto me that I’ve started to lose my footing. It also had me think about the emotions I tend to repress. There was this one question I did that went as follows:
What emotion do you try to avoid? Why are you afraid of letting yourself feel that way?
Originally, I put jealousy, which isn’t a lie. But after thinking about it more I realized the one emotion I tend to repress is anger. Sometimes I’ll hold it in and other times I lash out when people cross a boundary or they say something that may irritate me. I realize that sometimes that anger is unjustified, but in the few moments where it’s not, I never feel like I’m being heard. People tend to assume that I’m being an asshole or I have a mean streak whenever I do say something and sometimes it makes me not want to say anything at all. Most of the time people never look at why I’m lashing out or they don’t want to take responsibility for what they said.
I’m not necessarily afraid of feeling it, but I’m afraid of feeling the guilt that comes along with it. Because at the end of the day anger is a natural reaction and I shouldn’t be ashamed to feel that way. But I do think that I need to pick and choose when to get angry and decide what deserves my energy and what doesn’t. And I understand that I need to set boundaries as well with certain people because I tend not to be vocal about that, which in turn contributes to me feeling angry and feeling unheard. Of course I’m no saint. Nobody is, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t feel that way and actively seek out things that may help me find a different approach.
That’s an example of what shadow work is. It’s being able to recognize something about yourself and why it’s happening. And sometimes, like in this case, it’s something that can be corrected if you put the time into it. So like I said before, it’s been an enlightening experience and I want to continue it for a couple more days just to see where my mind takes me.
Shadow work isn’t one of those things that I plan on doing all the time, but I do want to make it a habit to do it consistently every month for a week. I think it’ll allow me to keep exploring myself and it’ll allow me to grow if I put everything down on paper.
Again, this is just my experience and shadow work isn’t for everyone. But if it’s something you want to try then I recommend grabbing a notebook and starting. And if you’re afraid of someone reading your inner most thoughts, try out this app called Diary With A Password. I’ve never used it myself, but a few people I’ve spoken to have and they say it works wonders, so check it out if you want.
Shadow Work Prompts
- How can I be kinder to myself? In what ways do I consciously or unconsciously punish myself?
- What is a grudge/incident that I am holding on to? Why do I choose to hold on to this weight? How can I let this weight go?
- What unhealthy attachments (things, places &/or people ) do I hold onto? What fears do I have around the idea of ending those attachments? What do I have to gain from ending these attachments?
- What is the biggest promise you have made to yourself that you have broken? How does that make you feel?
- If you truly loved yourself, what would your life look like? Is it very different from how it actually is? If yes, why?
- How do you lie to yourself in daily life? What are you trying to avoid?
I found most of these prompts from Google and one blog post that I’ll link below. There’s also a video on YouTube that I watched about shadow work that actually inspired me to get into it. That’ll be linked as well.