Are you aware of your shadow self?
No, not the silhouette cast by the sun.
We’re talking about your inner self – the one that lives subconsciously within you.
The unknown one that’s part of your personality, behaviors, and feelings.
The one you keep hidden from the rest of the world, and often, yourself.
Doing shadow work can help you uncover and face your darker side, allowing you to discover and reveal your authentic self both shamelessly and confidently.
- Why You Should Try Shadow Work Exercises
- 9 Healing Shadow Work Exercises to Be Mindful of Your Shadow Side
Why You Should Try Shadow Work Exercises
Everyone, including you, has behaviors, patterns, and traits that affect everything from how you view yourself and the world to how you interact with others to the feelings you experience.
Shadow work isn’t about “fixing” yourself. It’s about self-discovery, acceptance, and healing.
When you suppress or ignore your darker side, it tends to get stronger and can negatively impact your life and well-being.
Facing it, however, can lead to a magical transformation and the kind of life you dream of having.
Use shadow work to:
- Feel better about yourself. You CAN have healthy levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. And you’re worthy of those things.
- Exist as the best possible version of yourself. Understand and accept who you are and what you want. Then go after it – free of self-doubt and worrying about what others think.
- Have healthy relationships. Rejecting your shadow causes you to project onto others the parts of yourself that you don’t like or that make you uncomfortable. Loving and accepting yourself allows you to love and accept others.
- Heal from past trauma. Past trauma may or may not apply to you, but chances are you’ve experienced it in your life. Working through it allows you to process it and let it go.
- Improve your health and wellness. Exploring your shadow and the root causes of what’s holding you back can allow you to adopt healthier and more constructive habits.
9 Healing Shadow Work Exercises to Be Mindful of Your Shadow Side
Your shadow self wants to be explored and understood.
It wants to be acknowledged and to show itself.
While it may sound scary, this is a good thing as ignoring or remaining unaware of it tends to create more problems.
Here are a few ideas on how to do shadow work to heal.
1. Pay attention to your emotional reactions.
One of the best ways to get to know your shadow better is to notice your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and what triggers them.
Making that connection helps you understand your patterns and how they affect your day-to-day life. Do this objectively, without judging or shaming yourself. Simply become aware.
Once you understand them, you’re better able to spot your inner shadow in action and can reflect on why it exists. Focus on the specific circumstances that caused your reaction to understand where those feelings came from.
Then, when you’re ready, you can address how you can react differently in future similar situations.
2. Write it down.
Perhaps one of the most beneficial shadow work examples is journaling. It’s a safe way to express all of your thoughts, both light and dark, to resolve internal conflict.
Reflect on topics like:
- Your childhood and any abuse or neglect you’ve experienced
- How you believe others see you and how that makes you feel
- Memories that bring you shame
- The worst traits you see in others and times you’ve expressed those traits
- Things that scare you or make you feel unsafe
You don’t need a fancy journal (unless you want one.) A simple notebook or GoogleDoc will do.
Whatever you use, make it a regular practice, be honest, and don’t censor yourself. It will likely feel uncomfortable at first but will get easier over time.
3. Embrace your creative side.
Art, in varying forms, is a powerful way to express yourself and explore your shadow self. It can assist with healing and mental well-being by helping you gain personal insight and understanding of yourself.
If journaling isn’t your thing, consider other artistic ways to express yourself. Try things like drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, or singing. Allow your inner self to create whatever it wants to create without censoring or judging it.
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4. Practice meditation.
Meditation can have so many positive effects on your life. At its core, it calms your conscious mind and allows you to explore what lies within.
Expect to feel some discomfort as difficult emotions, unconscious fears, hidden traumas, and negative thought patterns emerge.
Mediation may seem to make your mind busier at first, but it’s really just bringing to light any noise or anxiety that already existed.
To get started, search YouTube for “shadow work meditation” to find guided practices.
5. Get help.
You can certainly do shadow work on your own, but you might want to consider enlisting the help of a trained professional.
Therapy can greatly benefit you, especially if you have unresolved trauma like loss, abuse, neglect, or generational issues.
Therapists can help you dive deep into your shadow self to develop an awareness of the emotions you tend to shrug off or ignore.
Once you establish trust, they can help you work through complicated feelings constructively to determine the root of your reaction.
6. Use the mirror technique.
Typically, when you don’t like certain traits and behaviors in other people, it is because your shadow self holds the same. You don’t fully own or accept these characteristics of yourself.
Think about someone you dislike or have a complex relationship with. List the top traits you despise about them and the traits you love about them. The traits you hate are the ones you need to address.
Conversely, the traits you admire indicate what you strive to be.
7. Communicate with your shadow self.
If ignoring your shadow self gives it power, but confronting it takes away its power. Refrain from silencing it but have a conversation with it when strong emotions occur.
Ask questions and wait for your shadow to answer. Remain objective and listen open-mindedly to its answers.
Repeatedly ask “why” to uncover the layers of your shadow self. “Why was that a trigger?” “Why did I feel that way?” “Why does it bother me?”
It may feel weird or uncomfortable at first but stick with it. It will feel more natural over time.
8. Use affirmations.
Affirmations are a powerful tool that you can use to rewire your brain to improve your mindset, confidence, and self-esteem. They can also soothe and comfort you during stressful times.
Here are a few to get you started:
- My past does not define me.
- I am a stronger person for facing my emotions.
- I am choosing to accept my past for what it is.
- I accept and love my true self as I am.
- I forgive myself for my mistakes.
- I forgive others who have treated me poorly.
You can find many more shadow work affirmations with a simple Google search.
9. Practice acceptance and compassion.
You can’t change your past, even if it has brought about some unpleasant thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and characteristics.
What’s done is done. You can’t change the way you were brought up or how your parents or caregivers treated you. Everybody is doing the best they can, and it’s likely that their past influenced their actions.
What you can do is explore the contributing factors and view them objectively. Work to accept what was and what is and how you can improve moving forward.
Don’t make yourself wrong, but rather show yourself grace and compassion.
Shadow work activities are not easy. Facing your demons and the hidden parts of yourself is often painful. It takes courage and persistence, but it’s worth it. Remember to show yourself grace and compassion and be patient with yourself and the process.