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So… you might have heard about shadow work, and how it can accelerate your growth, but you are still wondering how to actually do this? I got you!
Before I dive into three ways on how to do shadow work, let me first give you an intro to what shadow work actually is.
Shadow work is the practice of acknowledging and loving your shadow. Your shadow is everything that is considered “bad”, so any bad personality traits or bad feelings.
We are taught to suppress our sadness, anger, fear, to buckle up, to not show weakness, to not show our craziness or whatever other trait we have that is not considered “desirable”.
But here’s the thing: Growth does not happen from your good days, it happens in your dark moments and when you overcome them.
And just like that, you will not become happier if you just only focus on the good, you become happier when you learn how to properly deal with your negative emotions.
Shadow work can be done in any area of your life that you view as ‘bad’. It can be painful because we don’t necessarily want to sit with our dark side, but you will always feel better afterwards.
In this blog post, I will be talking about shadow work regarding self-doubt, fear and emotions.
If you want to uncover your emotions, I also have a free workbook for you that guides you through the process in just about one hour. Scroll to the bottom to get yours!
So let’s get into right to it now.
To do shadow work, you only need time, honesty and an open mind.
You need time because it is a deep process, so you don’t want to it when you are under pressure. Get some quiet time, light a candle and do it in peace.
You need honesty because it is not going to work if you are lying to yourself. When you do shadow work, nobody is going to read what you write, or hear what you think. You are in a safe place, so be honest with yourself.
And you need to have an open mind. You might feel resistance around doing the work, or any other doubts coming up or maybe you think that this is all stupid. Try to keep an open mind, commit to the work and see what changes. Don’t pressure yourself though if nothing changes, these things take time.
Now, here are three ways to do shadow work:
1. Shadow work to fight self-doubt
We all have moments when we doubt ourselves, some more, some less. Shadow work around it helps you discover where it is coming from, and by that, you get to change your perspective.
So sit down, grab your journal, and think of one particular self-doubt that keeps coming up for you.
Maybe you think you are not good enough.
Not smart enough.
Not pretty enough.
Whatever it is, let it come up, feel into it, feel into the fear, and then think back to when this emotion first came up. And I’m talking childhood here, not after you gained those 10 pounds when you were 18 or when you failed one of your classes in college.
Our self-doubt is rooted in our childhood, and it was programmed into us by others.
If you think you are not good enough, maybe it was because even as a kid, your mom was never happy with your grades and achievements.
If you think you are not smart enough, maybe it’s because your parents always told everyone how proud they are of your super-smart sibling.
If you think you are not pretty enough, maybe it is because that one guy made a super mean comment back in first grade and everyone starting laughing and it became a ‘running gag’.
Think back as far as you can, and then try to forgive that person. If you can’t, it’s okay, you don’t need to do it right now.
And then you ask yourself: Do I believe this to be true? Can I myself 100% confirm that I am in fact not smart, good or pretty?
You KNOW that this is not true. Your mind might tell you it is true, but deep down, you know you are enough. If you still don’t believe it, or even if you do, write down 10 things you love about yourself. Don’t quit until you’ve finished.
And lastly, create a mantra to remind you of your power whenever you feel that doubt coming in.
It might be:
I am enough.
I am a smart woman and I make all the right moves.
I know I am powerful.
I am gorgeous and I radiate from within.
You can repeat this practice as often as you like, maybe something else comes up for you where you doubt yourself. Do it, sit with it, and notice how your perception of yourself changes.
2. Shadow work to overcome fear
I am not talking about fear of heights or fear of spiders here, I am talking about the fears that keep you up at night. Fear of missing out, fear of failure, fear of losing someone, fear of not living up to your potential. And girl, let me tell you, I was the queen of fears before I got into shadow work, if there was something or nothing to worry about, you bet your a** I worried about it.
I still have fears and I still worry, not gonna lie, but I can now fall asleep peacefully most nights, instead of having fear-driven insomnia.
Shadow work around fears essentially comes down to the WHY.
Why are you afraid you are missing out on life?
Why are you afraid your partner might leave you?
Why are you afraid you will fail if you do XX?
Our brains are amazing, and they are amazing at creating worst-case scenarios. We are trained to think negatively, we are trained to worry, but we can also un-train our brains.
So, what you’ll do is, you let one of your fears come up, and even dip into that downward spiral that your thoughts like to create. Do you notice how easy it is to get sucked into this?
Now, ask the why. Where is this fear coming from? Is it because it has happened before, is it because your family taught you to play small, is it because you get upset by TV? Whatever it is, take some time to get to the root of your fear.
And then, there are two action steps.
1. Ask: “But what if it ends well?”
Turn the worst case into a best case. What if you and your partner have an amazing fulfilled life together, what if you start that business and 2 years from now you are sitting on a yacht in the Caribbean sipping champagne? Train your brain to think of POSITIVE scenarios instead of negative ones.
2. Do the work.
News alert: You have an active role in your life, not a passive one. You are not a slave to your fears, you are actually the one creating your destiny.
Chances are that before you got the root of your fear, you thought of something that has to do with your actions.
If you are scared you are missing out on life, it might be because you feel like you’re wasting it by not doing things that fulfill you.
If you are scared that your partner might leave you, it might be because you know you are (also) not putting in the required effort to keep it happy and going.
If you are scared to fail, it might also because you know you are not putting in the work or self-sabotaging yourself.
Shadow work is not about victimizing yourself, it is about empowering yourself, and that includes taking action. If you can’t get started right away, make an action plan (and commit to it!), get a book or an online course to help you tackle an issue your facing or whatever else you need to do, but DO SOMETHING. Your fear won’t disappear if you don’t work against it.
3. Shadow work to uncover emotions
Uncovering (negative) emotions is incredibly powerful because it gives you power over them.
Before we get into it, I want to make two things clear:
1. This is about emotions that are triggered by an old belief or something that keeps recurring for you, like guilt or shame. This does not include grief or emotions that are triggered by an event like a breakup, or a law being passed or a test that you failed etc.
2. Your emotions are valid. Just because you get triggered into feeling something, does not mean this emotion is not valid. What this shadow work does is helping you to recognize triggers and to make it easier for you to decide if you want to give into this right now or not. Again, this work is meant to empower you.
With that being said, here’s the process:
You start by thinking of an emotion that keeps coming up for you, or you could think of a recent situation that triggered an emotion, like a fight with your partner that made you angry or getting criticized by your boss.
Then you get to the core of this emotion and start tracing a pattern.
For example, let’s say you had a fight with your partner because they didn’t clean the house after you told them, which is a fight that you keep having. Then you think of the core of this. You don’t get angry simply because they didn’t clean, you might get angry because you don’t feel appreciated, or like you are always the one putting in the effort. The emotion lying underneath THAT might be that you feel like you are not good enough.
And then you think of other situations where you felt this way, past and present.
Next step is you go all the way back to your childhood to the first time this emotion came up for you, just as we did with the self-doubt. This might take some time, but let me tell you, this is mind-blowing when you really get to the core of it and noticed how often this keeps coming up for you.
And lastly, you shift your perspective. Now that you know this trigger, next time this situation comes up, you are empowered to make a choice. Do you give into the anger, or will you find a different way of dealing with this? Maybe you’ll have an open conversation, or maybe you decide to show compassion because you know they had a hard week.
It is okay to give into the anger, it is actually important to feel into valid feelings. But more often than not, we once again create negative situations where it is not necessary.
If you need more help in uncovering emotions, enter your mail-address below and get my free shadow work workbook to uncover your emotions in just one hour!
We follow the process that I outlined here, but we go more in-depth and you get journal prompts to help you do the work!
If you have any more questions about shadow work, need help or whatever it is, feel free to message me! Send me a DM on Instagram @souvenirsandsparkles (make sure to follow for more shadow work content) or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’m happy to help!