Doesn’t it seem like everyone is talking about Shadow Work at the moment? Like it’s the hot topic of the year and yet it also seems to be one very few actually understand or advise on correctly. I have noticed the rise on various groups on social media channels where the popular question appears at least once daily – “What is Shadow Work? And how do I do it?” Well just like any practice, doing your own research is a good place to start. With the access we have to information and resources of knowledge today, the sky is the limit on any topic you can imagine! While getting feedback on others’ experiences is not a bad thing, it often leads to us having expectations of how we should be feeling, thinking, behaving, etc.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR SHADOW SELF
Your Shadow is made up of all the things you are ashamed to show the world. All the little parts of you that have been hurt, humiliated, shut down, abused, ridiculed, etc. It’s the part of you that acts out and causes you to react poorly / defensively / victimized by people and situations. In Shadow Work, the only expectation you should have is that stuff’s about to get real! It is not for the faint-hearted or those who deny their true selves/nature. Not for those who are not ready to face themselves and heal their deepest hurts. The only thing you should be doing is, allowing the process to unfold naturally and doing things at your own pace.
Shadow work is simply healing the innermost parts of ourselves and embracing self-acceptance at its core, no matter how ugly we think that may be. It is not a one-day commitment, or even a 6 month one. Shadow work is a lifestyle, not a chore to be done. It’s a daily practice of recognizing your thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to be your best self. Dealing with issues, past traumas, hurts, belief systems, triggers, and recognizing them as and when they arise. The more you do it, the better you feel, the more changes you will notice, and old patterns and behaviours will no longer be a theme in your life because you have managed to learn from these lessons. So the actual process is different for everyone.
SHADOW WORK: THE MIRROR TECHNIQUE
So, now that we know what shadow work is, where do we start? Another dangerous question; as many are offered the mirror ritual which is not for everyone and certainly not a must-do if it makes you uncomfortable.
This ritual involves sitting with a lit candle, in the dark in front of a mirror and staring at yourself without blinking until you see something. Your face is supposed to change and reveal your inner demons… again I repeat this is not shadow work. It’s an exercise some prefer to include but is by no means a requirement.
While it is hard to narrow down a specific practical starting point, I have listed some helpful exercises and tools below that are the foundation of Shadow Work and will be helpful in getting you started.
STARTING SHADOW WORK: SHADOW JOURNALING
This is a fun starting point to help get you comfortable with better analyzing your own thoughts and emotions. You can keep a small journal in your purse or even your desk at work and jot down these things throughout the day. In the evenings when you have some alone time, it’s helpful to sit quietly and go through each one you wrote down and see whether you notice any themes that start popping up over the next few days or weeks. It is also helpful to use an Emotion Wheel for this exercise as it assists us in narrowing things down and deeper exploring the root cause of our emotions and reactions to certain situations.
USING AN EMOTION WHEEL
EXAMPLE – Today I drove past a homeless person on the street corner and it made me feel sad. Upon closer inspection, I can see this could be stemming from my own guilt at having more than this person. Which in turn made me feel remorse and empathy. However, I was able to give him a donation and some food when I drove the same route home, which made me feel happy because I was able to do something nice for someone less fortunate. It made me thankful for what I have and that I am able to share with others.
Another great technique with journaling is noticing triggers from our past that may be seeping into our current realities. A perfect very relatable example would be when starting a new relationship. If you were previously very hurt, traumatized, betrayed, etc. in your past relationships, you are obviously more likely to be triggered in your new relationships until you manage to work on those triggers and release them. There is a quote that that explains this simply and perfectly –
“Until you are able to heal the source of your pain, you will continue to bleed on those who did not hurt you.“
WRITE IT OUT
Journaling is useful in teaching us a better understanding of our emotions and reactions to situations and people around us. When we are put in a trigger situation, it is sometimes harder to stop and think about why we are actually getting so upset. Or why this action or the words of someone else have the power to impact us this much. So this exercise is to teach us to be able to separate the incident from the feeling itself, in order to clarify if this reaction stems from past traumas.
Did this incident or person make you feel a certain way that you felt with someone else? Or are you actually upset with the person in front of you and what they have done right now? After a while of doing this exercise and making a conscious effort to be more mindful and understanding with yourself, you won’t even need the wheel to refer to anymore. These realizations will come naturally and you will be able to better recognize and heal the source of your triggers and feelings, ie – your shadow.
SHADOW WORK: GETTING STARTED WITH MEDITATION
Meditating is an important practice for numerous reasons. In Shadow Work it’s beneficial in slowing down your body and mind down and allowing you to go deeper within, learning to let things go. While meditating (especially in the beginning) it can be hard for many to sit quietly and not think or clear their mind. That’s not really the goal of Meditation. The goal is to allow your thoughts to flow but not to take on the emotions or fixate on that thought. To basically sit back and simply observe your own thoughts and emotions as if they were floating bubbles. Notice them and let them go. This teaches us how to better control our own issues or trigger points and to alter our perception of things, so we are looking at situations as observers seeing the whole picture and not as a victim under personal attack.
CRYTALS TO USE FOR SHADOW WORK
There are many tools to aid in meditating and shadow work. Here are a few crystals to use that can assist in removing those negative patterns/ beliefs and transforming your thoughts to focus more on self love and worth.
- Onyx – Aids the user with past life traumas and past-life recall. It is beneficial is self-healing and recognizing the issues that are holding you back.
- Jet – Accepting emotions, unblocking your emotions, and stirring hidden or blocked memories.
- Black Tourmaline – This is a powerful stone for releasing old beliefs, negative thought patterns, and other issues that stem from your self-worth and esteem issues.
- Kyanite – Helps to break through our own barriers and remove negative thoughts patterns and obstacles we have created that prevent us from moving forward.
- Unakite – A powerful stone for balancing emotions and promoting healing. It helps break down our barriers and open up psychic doorways.
- Rose Quartz – For promoting self-love, self-worth, self-acceptance. To gently support you through your emotional healing.
SHADOW WORK: RELEASING OUR FEARS
A huge chunk of Shadow Work is releasing everything within you, that’s holding you back. Including our FEARS. Everyone has fears no matter how irrational they may seem and no one is telling you to be fearless and act as if you are invincible. But most of the time we find that fear is the source of what’s holding us back. Underneath all the emotion and overthinking, there’s fear of whatever first started this thought, emotion, or reaction. Which has now been made into a crippling manifestation or repeat pattern in your life that you have given your power to.
FINDING THE SOURCE OF OUR FEARS
Fear of failure, embarrassment, of others’ opinions and thoughts, of never finding love, fear of abandonment, the list goes on… These all have a root cause, mostly stemming from our formative / foundation years on this Earth. The only way to release these is to recognize and heal them. Now you know why I said before, it’s about to get real! Exploring these memories and sometimes reliving these hurtful past events, can allow someone to get trapped back in that emotion or horrible phase in their life, that’s where the healing comes in. In order to stop a destructive pattern or belief, we need to change it. Do something different the next time we notice it popping up again. This time you will know better, this time you will see the outcome before it has even happened because you’ve already done it and you’ve made a conscious decision to not repeat self-destructive patterns. This is when you know you have learned the lesson. In order to properly HEAL, we must let go of our FEAR.
As souls, we all have certain lessons to learn in each lifetime. If we don’t learn them, we will continue to repeat them in this and other lifetimes until we have. We all have these self-destructive blocks and fears that we cannot seem to get through. Well, instead of trying to get through, why not try to understand and find the source. That way you can heal it, learn from it and move on. These exercises are personal and can be done in meditation or reflection time. Remember to be gentle with yourself and keep journaling!
THE JOURNEY BY BRANDON BAYS- INNER CHILD HEALING
A wonderful tool that I found so very helpful is The Journey by Brandon Bays. This is not a new book or meditation but it is a highly effective and easy method for self-exploration and real inner healing if you are unsure of where to start.
Brandon Bays created this process of shadow work through healing the inner child herself. Using it to heal her own stomach cancer in just 6 weeks without the use of drugs or surgery! After having a tumour the size of a basketball in her abdomen, she was able to heal those traumas within, which in turn healed her physical body as well.
Take a listen to her book on Youtube.
EXPLORING YOUR CREATIVITY THROUGH SHADOW WORK
Art is a fantastic way of expressing your emotions and channelling your feelings in a physical way. Even if you are not artistic or particularly creative, sitting with some colours and a blank piece of paper and just starting can often lead to beautiful works of expression and a wonderful release for the artist.
I find music assists with relaxing your mind so you can get in the zone and relax. Play some in the background or sing along while you paint, draw or colour and just let your feelings guide you and see what comes out. This art is personal and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone if you don’t want to. It also doesn’t need to be a prize-winning piece or even kept by you, unless you want to of course.
ART AND CHANNELING
Sometimes it’s a nice exercise to do in the form of channelling, except you’re not calling in a different energy, you are accessing your higher self. If you would like to take it to a deeper level, try placing your pad and colours in front of you and sitting at a table while you meditate and ground yourself. Speak with your higher self and try to channel any messages that it wants to share with you at this time. Once feeling connected, keep your eyes closed and start drawing, writing, or colouring until you feel you are finished. Sit and analyze once you are done, most importantly have fun!
DANCE IT OUT, TRANCE IT OUT
Another creative method for releasing and moving and releasing stagnant energy is through Dance. Music and dancing uplift the spirit and connect us to the rhythm of life. Dance also leads to trance, so if you have a few hours to spare, try putting on some Shamanic, African, Haitian singing and drumming or any tribal music and start dancing! Just feel all the sounds and vibrations and dance until you’ve had enough. Take notice of messages, visions, sensations, or feelings while in this state and record and analyze them later.
*Those of you in SA please take a look at my Magick Shoppe page for my potent Protection and Banishing Spiritual Bath mix (perfect for releasing work and cord cutting) available to purchase and courier anywhere in SA – collection from me is also an option if you reside in JHB.*
Also available to purchase through Hello Pretty.
I really hope you enjoyed the read and look forward to hearing any questions or your stories on how these methods (and others) have worked for you!
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Shadow Work is healing and working through our innermost fears, traumas and guilt. All the parts of ourselves that are deemed unacceptable or ‘bad’ by society and ourselves. It is getting to the root of our triggers and recognizing the patterns in our lives in order to heal and grow. It is accepting yourself for exactly who and what you are.
Shadow work is all about healing so the first step would be looking at what inside you needs healing. What inside you is crying for attention or has been hurt so badly that part may even be closed off. It is about going back to your inner child and making them feel safe and loved again by working through unresolved issues and traumas. While there are many techniques and ways in which one can do this, there is no right or wrong way to go about it.
Sometimes due to the name, Shadow Work can leave some feeling fearful or uncertain as to what to expect. Shadow work is by no means evil and there should be no dark practices associated with it that make you uncomfortable. This is then not true Shadow Work.
Yes and no. Shadow work is facing the traumas and figuring out where they stem from, most do come from our childhood and early expereinces. So in that way, they are definitely linked as you cannot do one without the other. Doing shadow work will heal your inner child and vice versa, Inner child healing is looking for parts of ourselves that require some extra attention and care. Most of the time it is that love and nurturing that we did not receive in our own childhood which causes us to act out and behave in what is deemed as irrational or sometimes immature ways. Both are paths to the same destination but many people see them as and do them separately.