Shadow Work

5 Tips for Beginning Your Journey Through Shadow Work

Shadow work is an intrinsic part of living our most authentic lives. It asks us to dive into the depths of who we are and examine the root of our activations.

Each and every one of us carries both light and shadow, but facing our darker side can be nerve wracking and uncomfortable. Truly looking at WHAT and WHY something triggers our anger, our envy, our insecurities is a vulnerable task to take on. After all, the things buried by our subconscious are usually put away — and sometimes even repressed — in order to help keep us safe.

But the safety we required at one time in our lives, the coping skills we developed, and the way of being we created is not meant to carry us for all time. We are meant to grow.

With the proper approach, we can do the work and blossom into fuller versions of ourselves. Leading with light and moving from a space of compassion.

In episode 120 of the Moon + Manifest podcast, I explain what exactly our “shadow” is and share some tips on how to begin shadow work.

This episode is definitely one you’ll come back to as you embark on your journey to transcend your darker side. Grab a pen and paper before listening because you’ll want to take notes!

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

Carl Jung

So how do we actually go about illuminating the pieces of ourselves that we’ve hidden away? What should we be aware of as we move through this practice?

It’s almost too easy to imagine sitting in a dark room, circled by candles, with incense smoke billowing and soft music playing in the background. But shadow work, like any personal growth or mindfulness practice, requires only YOU. If you’d like to create a ritualistic atmosphere or if setting a mood is helpful for you, go for it! Just remember that your tools can only do so much without your accompanied actions.

Tip #1: DON’T BEGIN YOUR SHADOW WORK PRACTICE DURING A CRISIS

You wouldn’t plan a hiking trip with a broken leg, would you? The same goes for shadow work and your mental and emotional health.

It can be tempting to jump right in when our bodies are pumping with adrenaline after a stressful day. But in order to give yourself the best chance at a healthy practice, it’s most beneficial to do the work when your inner world isn’t too stormy.

Ideally, shadow work is not a desperate act. Rather, it’s a conscious choice and mindful addition to your adventure here as a human. Learning, growing, and discovering beautiful new ways of being.

Tip #2: ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE GUIDED BY A PROMPT

There’s no reason you should stumble around blindly in the dark. Knowing where you want to go will offer you a stronger foundation to build upon. There are plenty of brilliant shadow work prompts all over the internet! Here are a few examples you could try:

  • What emotions do I try to avoid? Why do I try to avoid feeling this way?
  • What are my “bad” habits? Why don’t I break them?
  • If I could get rid of a memory, which would it be? How would being free of this memory affect me?
  • What is my definition of failure? How do I move forward from failure?
  • What is one trait you see in others that you wish you had? Why don’t you have that trait?
  • What behavior makes your stomach churn? How does that behavior show up in your own life?
  • What aspects of yourself would you like to improve? Why do you feel this way?

This is also a great chance to work with tarot or oracle cards for an extra boost of wisdom and spiritual guidance.

Tip #3: BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Shadow work is hard! There’s a reason our subconscious has hidden away certain things. Deciding to embark on this journey most likely means you’re ready to accept the full version of yourself. So be kind and show yourself some love before and after your practice.

Remember to stop if it gets too heavy. Shadow work is a lifelong journey. You don’t need to learn everything in one night and you definitely don’t want to exhaust yourself to the point of thinking that you could never try again. Leave room for growth!

Tip #4: PAY ATTENTION TO THE THOUGHTS THAT COME FORWARD, THE EMOTIONS THAT ARISE, AND THE SENSATIONS THEY BRING TO YOUR BODY

Through my work in Empathology, I help Highly Sensitive People and Empaths move back into their bodies and get out of their own way. Identifying the physical sensations that accompany your time in shadow work — and your everyday existence — can guide you toward reprogramming your nervous system toward more beneficial patterns!

Episode 107 of the Moon + Manifest podcast is all about the nervous system and stopping negative self-talk! Check it out and gather some great insight to support your shadow work.

Tip #5: BEAWARE OF SPIRITUAL BYPASSING

The term spiritual bypassing was coined in the early 1980s by psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher, John Welwood. It is described as a “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks”.

At its core, spiritual bypassing is a way to avoid experiencing discomfort. Shadow work might just be the exact opposite of this!

That being said, stay wary of anyone showcasing toxic positivity or using spirituality as a way to hide from their own shadow.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
Carl Jung

I wish you all the best on your journey! Be well, my love, because you matter.

Through her courses and programs, Lola Pickett empowers empaths and sensitive folk to rewire their brains, bodies, and behavior for internal & external resilience; shifting from self-repression to soul-expression.

She is the published author of the Wild Messengers Alchemical Tarot, host of the Moon + Manifest podcast and founder of Empathology™—an emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual resiliency training program.

Lola’s a Communication Empath. What kind of Empath are you?
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