How To Start Shadow Work Journaling

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How To Start Shadow Work Journaling

A Muslim women journaling, and sitting on her window sill

What Is Shadow Work?

You may be wondering, what is shadow work?

Shadow work is based on the two sides (as defined by the psychotherapist Carl Jung) of the human personality: our light side, and our dark side. These thoughts and feelings are often suppressed by us.

The dark side is parts of our personality we’ve stuffed deep into the “shadows”, or the back burner of our minds. It consists of thoughts and feelings that are linked to emotions like fear, anger, and sadness. Meanwhile, for the light side of our personality, feelings of joy, love, or even the urge to laugh are suppressed.

The goal of shadow work is to become aware of the thoughts and feelings on the dark side of the personality so that they can be accepted and processed rather than suppressed. Shadow work is most often done through journaling.

There are other methods to do shadow work, and these methods can be combined with the journaling aspect.In this article, we discuss shadow work and how to start a shadow work journal.

Is Shadow Work Dangerous?

Shadow work isn’t dangerous, but it can feel scary and triggering. Shadow work is all about looking at the parts of yourself that you have been avoiding—the ones you don’t want to pay any attention to. Often, we like to think of ourselves as being a certain way, and we often don't want to look at our other sides. We're afraid we will discover something terrible about ourselves.

But the truth is, in order to grow as a person, you need to take a good look at all of your parts: the good ones and the bad ones.

A women standing with her hands on her chest and eyes closed

Benefits of Shadow Work

·      Shadow work makes you more conscious and aware. It puts you in the truth, providing you with a more objective perspective.

·     It empowers you. The axis of your power is based in reality and you can’t be in reality unless you have awareness.

·    Shadow work can recover your artistic talent and your life purpose. You may have suppressed your talent because you were born to a family that was obsessed with academics and discouraged art. And get closer to your family, you'll reject that part of yourself.

·     It helps you to become your authentic self. You become aware of the parts of yourself that are hidden or that you've suppressed, and by knowing about these parts of yourself you'll start living a life that feels right. Or even make decisions that are better for you.

·    Shadow work unsticks you; it helps you understand what's happening, as to why you're feeling stuck, and once you know this then you'll be able to move forward. Or solve the problem.

·     You'll change beliefs or behaviors that don't benefit you, to ones that do. You'll be able to consciously choose your beliefs, your actions, and your life experiences.

·     It helps you achieve your goals and access your desires. You'll learn about what goals, beliefs, or desires have been pushed onto you from a young age. Like your parents want you to be a doctor, you'll grow up thinking this is what you want. But in the meantime, it makes you unhappy and you would prefer to be a florist.

·     You to become aware of your trauma, and understand the underlying issues that have created the current patterns in your life that hurt you. Once you understand the reasons behind these patterns, you have the ability to make real connections with people around you.

·     It allows you to create and manifest what you want consciously. By becoming aware of the contents of your subconscious; you'll be conscious of who you are, you will be consciously creating when you think, speak, and act.

·    Shadow work enhances your mental, emotional and physical health by preventing you from suppressing. You free suppressed energy and by allowing it to flow throughout your being, your health drastically improves. You won't struggle with fatigue and you'll feel more stable.

A women watching a man and women walk down a tunnel

Guide To Shadow Work Journaling

Recognize Unhealthy Habits and Behaviors

Observing these patterns in your behavior, thoughts, or feelings can help you begin to see how they may be rooted in fear. You can use these habits as a guide to help you uncover the shadows. From there, you can begin to work on transforming them into healthier habits and behaviors.

Look Out For:

  • People-pleasing
  • Self-sabotage
  • Blaming others for your problems
  • Having zero boundaries
  • Overreacting/being too emotional
  • Triggers
  • Coping mechanisms
  • Dissociation
  • Projection
  • Damaging habits, eg. going to bed too late, nail-biting
  • Abusing yourself physically & mentally
  • Areas where you procrastinate

Step One: Gather Materials

  • An empty notebook
  • Pens or pencils
  • Highlighters
Step Two: Choose What You’ll Write About

  • What do you want to write about?

It can be about anything, you can write about how your day went and anything upsetting that happened. Or how grateful you feel about your job. It’s recommended for beginners to start here.

Experienced shadow workers already recognize areas that they need to work on, or go back through their writings to find something to work on.

Step Three: Go into Depth

  • Ask questions

Ask questions about what you’ve written, explain things in detail, and recognize contradicting patterns. For example, you no longer draw anymore. Why don’t you draw anymore? What did your sibling say that made you feel bad about it? Why did it make you feel bad?

And be sure to answer any questions, even if it's vague or you don’t know how to answer. Write what comes to mind when you think about the question and if you’re really stuck, then make a note. And come back to it later.

Step Four: Review Your Writing

  • Go over what you’ve written

By reading through what you’ve written, you’ll recognize unhealthy thoughts and remember them more easily while going about your day. This will help to work on what needs work and you’ll become aware of yourself, your thoughts, or behaviors.

Shadow Work Prompts for Beginners

Shadow work journal prompts are a great way to get started with shadow work. They help you focus your energy on specific aspects of yourself and life, guiding you to the root of your pain or suffering.

So if you’re new to shadow work and want some guidance, these shadow work journal prompts will help you get those creative juices flowing. For more prompts, have a look at our other blog Shadow Work Prompts.

  • What kind of relationship do I have with my body?
  • How connected am I to my body
  • What’s something I used to love doing as a child that I don’t do anymore? Why don’t I do it now?
  • What’s one thing I would change about my appearance? Why?
  • What triggers me in conversation or social situations?
  • How often am I stressed or anxious throughout the day?
  • Do I have any addictions or unhealthy habits? If so, what are they and why do they serve me?
  • Do I judge others based on their appearance or action? 

Three images. One of a journal with pictures, another of someone writing and the last of 3 pens

Tips for Shadow Work Journaling

Start with one shadow trait or emotion that you would like to work with. When you have noticed this trait or emotion arising in yourself, take time to reflect on where it might have come from, why you are carrying it today, and what other emotions are close by (for example, anger, jealousy, sadness).

Reflect on the ways that this trait or emotion has caused suffering in your life and the lives of others. When you have a clear understanding of this suffering, ask yourself if you are willing to let go of this trait or emotion.

If so, learn how to release it through breathing and visualization techniques that help release these energies from the body. You can also use journaling to help bring about greater awareness of this trait or emotion and its effects on your life.

Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you encounter parts of yourself that need healing and integration. Take the time to become acquainted with these aspects of yourself before attempting to integrate them into your psyche and release them from your being.

Other Methods for Shadow Work Journaling

·    Use tarot cards

Ask your spirits guides what areas you should focus on, and ask yourself questions according to the cards that you pull.

·    Use a pendulum

Write down a list of topics or questions, separate them into a circle and hover your pendulum over the pieces of paper. Ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions to your spirits about them, and decide from there where you should focus your attention.

·    Meditate

After you’ve finished journaling, meditate on what you’ve written. Or meditate beforehand and journal about things that your mind keeps returning to.

Shadow work kind of takes the cake in terms of self-improvement projects because it's a project that will naturally evolve as you do. Think of your shadow work journal as anything that helps you move forward in your goals. This could be writing out some affirmations, setting new goals and working towards them, or simply writing new habits into your daily routine.

There are no rules for shadow work. 

Follow your intuition and you'll be fine.

How do you start a shadow work journal?

The best way to start a shadow work journal is to simply start writing. Set aside some time each day, or each week, to sit down and write about what's going on in your life. Write about your joys and your sorrows, your triumphs and your challenges.
Be honest with yourself, and don't try to censor your thoughts or emotions. Just let it all out onto the page.

What should you write in your shadow work journal?

You can write about anything you want in your shadow work journal – there are no rules. Some people like to use their journal to keep track of their progress in shadow work, writing down what they've worked on and how it's impacted their lives.

Others use it more like a traditional diary, recording their thoughts and feelings about different aspects of their life. Some people even use it as a creative outlet, writing stories or poems based on their experiences with shadow work.

How can you use your shadow work journal to improve your life?

Your shadow work journal can help you improve your life by serving as a tool for personal growth and self-awareness. By regularly writing in your journal, you can gain insight into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and you can begin to understand how they influence your life. As you become more aware of yourself, you can start to make changes in the areas of your life that need improvement.

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