Deep within all of us lies parts of our past that may be difficult to face. From harsh words spoken to us as a child to traumatic events that changed the course of our lives, there are more than enough reasons to avoid facing life’s most challenging moments straight on. Still, some self-help practices have found that approaching the “dark side” of our early development can be the key to unlocking the light within our future selves.
Popularized by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in 1930, ‘shadow work’ is defined as a practice of tapping in with your unconscious mind to reveal the deep, inner parts that have been hidden or repressed over time. It’s the process of exploring and working with the aspects of ourselves that we tend to ignore, deny, or suppress. These aspects are often referred to as our «shadow,» which includes traits such as fear, anger, envy, and other emotions or behaviors that we may not have the tools or capacity to acknowledge and accept.
Your shadows are the traumas, memories, or aspects of your personality that you’ve attempted to run from because they’ve been perceived to be undesirable or bad. But according to Jung’s work, utilizing our unconscious mind to reveal and work through our shadows is essential to our journey toward wholeness.
Everyone has a dark side, but contrary to popular belief, this aspect of who we are isn’t inherently negative or something to be ashamed of. Our shadows have served an important role in forming who we are and according to Connie Zweig and Steven Wolf, authors of Romancing the Shadow, our shadow is “not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be faced.”
Taking time to uncover the pieces of yourself that have been hidden away can serve as a powerful pathway to unmasking and accepting the highest version of yourself.
How To Start Shadow Work
Approaching your shadow work first begins with self-acceptance. Making a note of the qualities and quirks about yourself that you have avoided or suppressed is essential to confronting the fears, insecurities, past traumas, and negative thought patterns you want to heal and accept.
By shining a light on these parts of yourself, you can begin to understand them, show yourself self-compassion, and know that you are worthy of love and acceptance regardless of your past. And with tools like therapy, meditation, and journaling, you’ll be equipped to delve deeper into the hidden parts of yourself and gain the answers you’re seeking.
Curious about who you really are at the core? To help you start pulling back the layers, we’ve shared 15 shadow work journal prompts that will get you to the root of your being.
Shadow Work Prompts for Healing
- Which feelings or emotions do I try to hide?
- What do you believe to be true about yourself?
- How do I define freedom? What makes me feel trapped?
- What do I wish I could change about myself?
- What made you start doubting yourself as a child?
- What does it look like to have a healthy boundary with someone or something?
- Who is someone that has betrayed or hurt me? How do I feel about them right now?
- Write a letter to your younger self, what do they need and how would you comfort them?
- What situations make you feel less than or not good enough? Why do you think this is?
- What do you need to forgive yourself for at this moment?
- What is a quality or personality trait that you try to avoid about yourself?
- Where do I show up for others but fall short for myself?
- What dreams or goals have you let go of and why?
- Write about a time when you messed up and needed forgiveness. Did you ask to be forgiven? Did you apologize? How did it play out?
- What quality about yourself would you like to love more?
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Olga Rolenko/Getty Images