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What is Shadow Work? A Self-Help Guide for Healing

When people describe an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other, I'm sure they're describing our souls vs. our shadow selves.

"Hi. My name is Mary Elizabeth, and I'm an anxious codependent with raging control issues and a super unbalanced Sacral and Solar Plexus Chakras. I have to meditate a ton to keep my emotions in check, and I'm not past manipulating to get what I want if needed."

This is how my shadow self might introduce herself if she were to do it honestly. But she wouldn't because the Shadow Self doesn't come to the surface willingly, nor is it interested in self-awareness.

The Shadow Self is content to stay behind the curtain, feeding on negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, and shame.

The Shadow Work journey is its greatest fear.

If you're here with me, you're at least somewhat interested in Shadow Work and how it can help with healing past traumas, decrease mental health issues, and increase self-care and self-love.

You probably already know that getting a Shadow Work journal and working through Shadow Work prompts can be a cheat code to inner child healing.

The fact that you're still reading is not by chance.

Although I'm not a therapist or a psychological expert like the man who coined the term Shadow Work (hail Carl Jung), I've used it to heal my life and to help hundreds of clients through my spiritual practice, and I believe it can help you, too.

But before we dive too deep, let me tell you about Jung and my own Shadow Self.

What is Shadow Work, and What is a Shadow Self?

Carl Jung, the mastermind behind the term "Shadow Work," believed that our psyche is composed of different layers, including the conscious and unconscious mind. The Shadow Self, as Jung described it, represents the hidden and repressed aspects of our personality that we often deny or ignore. These aspects can include our fears, insecurities, desires, and even our darker impulses.

Jung emphasized that our Shadow Self encompasses not just our negative traits but also qualities that we deem unacceptable or contradictory to our conscious identity. This includes our fears, desires, insecurities, and even our untapped potential. '

Narc Relationships and My Shadow Self

My Shadow Self is quick to get addicted to unhealthy, abusive, toxic relationships with addicts, narcissists, and otherwise emotionally unavailable people. I was a serial dater for years, and I used to joke that I held the world record for the number of engagement rings I received.

The truth is, things that happened to my childhood self (sexual abuse, severe bullying, parental abandonment, familial substance abuse) caused me to have the self-esteem of a wet noodle. Any bit of attention I got from a man (or woman)—hello, mommy and daddy issues, I devoured.

My biggest fear was being alone, and this left me vulnerable to being preyed upon.

My true self and collective unconscious knew that I deserved better, but I did not. Even after years of seeing a professional therapist and starting my healing process, I was lost. Surprisingly, it was a Shadow Work journal prompt given to me by my friend Sierra that shifted my mindset, core values, and thought patterns.

Although it would take me a while to get to the root cause and see things in a healthy way, after taking a walk on the darker side, I felt more compassion. I wasn't as embarrassed by these hidden parts. I had stronger relationships. I met and married the love of my life.

You Are What You Hate

According to Jung, acknowledging and integrating our Shadow Self is crucial for achieving psychological wholeness and personal growth. He viewed the shadow as a source of creativity, energy, and vitality when properly integrated and understood.

If you hate something about yourself, it's a part of your Shadow Self. If you hate something about someone else, it's probably also a part of your Shadow Self. Just like my own shadow self, which I introduced earlier, each of us has a unique combination of traits and tendencies that reside in the shadows. These aspects of ourselves often contradict our conscious identity, leading to inner conflicts and struggles.


  • People struggling with their own sexual identity may outwardly express homophobia due to internalized shame and fear.

  • Someone who claims to be religious and hates the sin but has a secret porn addiction and is having an affair.

  • Some health-conscious individuals may hide addictions like binge eating or substance abuse behind a facade of wellness.

  • Successful individuals may secretly doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as frauds despite their accomplishments.

  • Caregivers may show empathy outwardly while harboring hidden resentment or anger, neglecting their own emotional needs.

  • Environmental advocates may paradoxically engage in wasteful habits, conflicting with their sustainability beliefs.

Trips to the Post Office

People always laugh when I tell them about my post office phobia, but honestly, this dark side of my repressed shadow runs deeper than that.

Dealing with raging anxiety can feel like wrestling with a stubborn shadow that just won't let go. It's caused moments where even stepping outside my front door seemed like an impossible task, let alone getting work done or going to the store.

Even taking my dog to the vet takes a whole week of planning and preparation.

But here's the thing about anxiety's shadow side – it doesn't have to be the driver of our lives.

This is why I created my Shadow Work Journal: Soul Stitches: to help free myself and others from these negative feelings, to help move our healing journey with the benefits of Shadow Work, to acknowledge past trauma, process emotions (especially negative emotions), and help build up authentic self-awareness.

This is my mission.

How do I get Rid of My Shadow Self?

Believe it or not, shadow work isn't about eradicating our Shadow Self altogether. Instead, it's about recognizing its presence and reclaiming control over our lives. We don't aim to kick it out of the car but rather put it in the back seat, ensuring it doesn't take the wheel.

You'll notice I didn't say I have fully healed from certain aspects. In truth, they will always be part of my human psyche.

I'm okay with that.

Acknowledging our Shadow Self is a crucial step in the shadow work journey because it gives us a better understanding. By shining a light on our hidden aspects, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our behaviors.

Consider someone who struggles with major freaking anger issues. Instead of ignoring or suppressing this aspect, Shadow Work encourages them to explore the root causes of their anger and learn healthier ways to express it.

In essence, shadow work teaches us that our shadow self is not our enemy but a part of who we are. By integrating and working with it rather than against it, we can navigate life with greater authenticity, self-awareness, and inner peace.

This heals the inner self. It heals the inner child.

Shadow Work in Action

When it comes to tools and practices for shadow work, several powerful methods stand out:

Shadow Work Journaling:

  • Offers a structured way to delve into your inner thoughts and emotions.

  • It helps you identify your shadow traits, track patterns and behaviors, and identify areas for personal growth.

  • Promotes self-awareness, self-expression, and emotional well-being.

Art Therapy:

  • Provides a creative outlet for exploring the depths of your shadow self.

  • Utilizes various art mediums like painting, drawing, or sculpting.

  • Allows for non-verbal expression, fostering healing and emotional release.

Chakra Work:

  • Focuses on the energy centers (chakras) in the body.

  • Identifies and releases blockages contributing to shadow issues.

  • Techniques such as chakra meditation and energy healing through Chakra Readings

Tarot Readings:

  • Offers a symbolic and introspective approach to understanding your inner psyche.

  • Utilizes tarot cards as a tool for self-reflection and gaining insights into hidden aspects of your personality.

  • A reading provides guidance and clarity on shadow aspects, helping you navigate through challenges and obstacles.

Shadow Work: What's the Point?

The benefits of shadow work are numerous, offering transformative experiences that lead to profound personal growth and healing. Embracing and working through our shadow selves can unlock a range of advantages, including:

  • Increased Self-Awareness: Shadow work illuminates our hidden aspects, allowing us to understand our motivations, fears, and desires on a deeper level. This heightened self-awareness helps us make conscious choices and break free from unconscious patterns.

  • Healing Past Traumas: By confronting and processing unresolved traumas stored in our shadow, we can release emotional wounds and find closure. This healing journey paves the way for emotional resilience and inner peace.

  • Decreased Mental Health Issues: Shadow work provides a safe space to explore and address underlying mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma-related symptoms. By acknowledging and working through these challenges, we can experience improved mental well-being.

  • Enhanced Self-Care and Self-Love: Engaging in shadow work fosters a compassionate relationship with ourselves. As we learn to accept and integrate all aspects of our being, we cultivate self-love, self-compassion, and a deeper sense of worthiness.

  • Authentic Self-Expression: By embracing our shadow traits and reclaiming suppressed emotions, we unlock greater authenticity in our self-expression. This newfound authenticity allows us to live more aligned with our true values and aspirations.

  • Improved Relationships: Shadow work leads to more authentic and fulfilling relationships. As we become more aware of our shadow dynamics, we can communicate more openly, set healthier boundaries, and cultivate deeper connections with others.

  • Creative Potential: Integrating our shadow aspects unlocks creativity and innovation. By embracing the full spectrum of our emotions and experiences, we tap into a rich reservoir of creative energy that fuels artistic endeavors, problem-solving, and personal growth.

These benefits of shadow work illustrate its profound impact on our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. By embarking on the shadow work journey, we embark on a path of self-discovery, healing, and transformation that leads to a more fulfilling and authentic life.

Next Steps

The benefits of shadow work are profound and transformative, offering a pathway to self-discovery, healing, and personal growth. If you're ready to embark on this journey and need support, consider exploring the available tools and resources.

You can start by getting your hands on the Shadow Work Journal: Soul Stitches, designed to guide you through the process of acknowledging, understanding, and integrating your shadow self.

Alternatively, if you prefer personalized guidance and support, feel free to reach out to me at for one-on-one sessions. Together, we can navigate the complexities of shadow work and unlock the profound insights and healing it has to offer. Don't wait any longer – embrace your shadow and step into a brighter, more authentic version of yourself today.


What is Shadow Work, and why is it important for personal growth and healing?

Shadow Work involves exploring and integrating the hidden aspects of our personality, such as fears, insecurities, and limiting beliefs. It's crucial for personal growth and healing because it allows us to address unresolved issues, gain self-awareness, and cultivate greater authenticity in our lives.

How does Shadow Work help in addressing past traumas and mental health issues?

Shadow Work provides a safe space to confront and process past traumas, releasing emotional wounds and promoting healing. It also helps in identifying and working through underlying mental health issues by bringing unconscious patterns and behaviors to light.

Can Shadow Work improve self-awareness and self-acceptance?

Yes, shadow work promotes self-awareness by uncovering hidden aspects of ourselves and how they influence our thoughts and actions. Through self-acceptance, we learn to embrace all parts of our identity, including the shadow, leading to a more integrated and authentic self.

What are some common shadow traits and limiting beliefs that people may encounter?

Common shadow traits include fear of failure, self-doubt, perfectionism, and inner criticism. Limiting beliefs often revolve around feelings of unworthiness, scarcity mindset, and fear of rejection or abandonment.

How can tools like a Shadow Work journal or art therapy aid in shadow work practices?

A Shadow Work journal provides a structured approach to exploring thoughts and emotions, tracking patterns, and fostering self-reflection. Art therapy offers a creative outlet for expressing and processing shadow aspects through various art mediums, promoting emotional release and healing.

Is Shadow Work suitable for everyone, or are there specific prerequisites or considerations?

While Shadow Work can benefit many individuals, it's essential to approach it with self-awareness, readiness for self-exploration, and a willingness to confront difficult emotions. It may be helpful to seek support from a therapist or guide if dealing with intense psychological issues.

What role do self-care and self-love play in the Shadow Work journey?

Self-care and self-love are integral to the shadow work journey as they support emotional resilience, nurture inner healing, and reinforce positive self-image. Engaging in self-care activities and practicing self-compassion create a nurturing environment for shadow work.

How can Shadow Work enhance creativity and authentic self-expression?

By integrating shadow aspects, individuals can tap into their creative potential and express themselves authentically. Embracing all parts of their identity, including the shadow, fosters creative inspiration, innovation, and a deeper connection with artistic expression.

What are some strategies for navigating difficult emotions and inner conflicts during shadow work?

Strategies for navigating difficult emotions include mindfulness practices, emotional regulation techniques, seeking support from a therapist or support group, and engaging in self-care activities. It's essential to approach shadow work with patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to explore.

How can individuals access support and guidance for their Shadow Work journey, such as through one-on-one sessions or online resources?

Individuals can access support for their shadow work journey through one-on-one sessions with therapists, counselors, or shadow work guides. Online resources such as books, workshops, and forums also provide valuable guidance, tools, and community support for shadow work practitioners.


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