Understanding Shadow Work

Understanding Shadow Work

When you look in any direct light you will see that you cast a shadow. It is always beside you or behind you, standing in your path. The term in psychology where you cannot understand yourself or things that you cannot see about yourself is called the shadow.

Many people will do what they can to protect their image and they will not want to look at parts of themselves that are ugly or that are dark. Many people never acknowledge their shadow.

Once you know your shadow you can see why you have poor behavior that holds you back. Everyone is able to find out their shadow self and even though it is challenging, it can give you better energy and can help you to awaken. Looking deep into yourself is how you find your shadow.

What is a Shadow Self?

The shadow self is the dark parts of you that you choose to not know. This can be envy, jealousy, greed, wanting power, selfishness or more.

There are things that are positive about your shadow but when you deny finding out about the dark parts of you, you miss out on powerful healing.

Anything that you keep in your unconscious can be part of your dark side. The shadow self is when you don’t embrace that part of yourself. This is when you do not examine things about yourself, and you repressed them.

You cannot get rid of your shadow and when there is trouble then you don’t understand why it is there because you have hidden things so long.

What Makes the Shadow?

Everyone knows that there should be kindness and love but there are also other feelings such as anger or sadness.

The emotions that you have are part of who you are and part of your childhood but when you grow up you change, and you learn to not be “bad”, but you choose to be good.

Everyone has human basic needs. The needs include safety and security, how you belong and your psychological needs. These needs come from your instincts and when you are a child, you express yourself differently than you do when you are an adult.

As a child, you may get angry and throw a temper tantrum and your parent will punish you or reprimand you because of your actions. Maybe you were silly in your classroom and got in trouble by your teacher.

Whatever happened to you that caused you to question yourself might have hurt your basic needs. What if your parents hurt your safety or your teacher caused you to not feel like you belong?

All the parts of yourself that were discouraged for the first few years of your life are put in your unconscious so that you don’t do them again. A child will put these things out there but when you are an adult, you suppress them.

According to Carl Jung, this is your shadow. He talked about there being a shadow wherever there is light, and this brings out the imperfections that we have.

Ignoring Your Shadow

The ancient Greeks knew that they had to take care of all of their being including their psyche. This is why they felt best to worship different gods. Once the gods ignored you, they would hurt you or kill you.

Any part of your being that you don’t want to use is the part that you hide. When your shadow comes out though, it is parts of you that you aren’t aware of and your conscious being goes into autopilot and you let your unconscious take control of you.

This happens and then you do or say things that you normally wouldn’t say. The shadow part of you can hurt who you are and the relationships that you have with other people.

The good part of your personality is the part that separates your darkness and your light. Just like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll cannot control himself and would do things such as murder others.

Repressing Your Shadow

What happens when you change your views? Whatever the things inside of you that you deny are part of your shadow. Some people will not show these things and will bury them because they don’t want others to see them.

This can happen when you get irritated easily at people or when you are rude because you haven’t learned how to control this.

You might overreact at work because you feel someone is rude to you and even if they aren’t, your shadow self is what is making it seem that they are. This is something that you aren’t used to handling and so you project yourself.

Your ego will be there to protect you and it can cause you to have false senses of who you are and keep you from reaching your shadow. With projection, it distorts your reality and often will change how you view yourself.

Benefits of the Jungian Shadow

The shadow is not something people enjoy talking about. People don’t want to face their weaknesses or their flaws. When you focus on your strengths your life feels better.

But, finding your shadow and fixing it can help you to grow.

Here are some benefits of facing your shadow:

Better Relationships

Once you learn to face your shadow you can have better relationships. You can accept the dark parts of who you are, and the way other people behave will not hurt you or will not cause you to be triggered easily.

This will improve you relationships with people in your life and out of your life.

Different Perception

You will learn to see things from a different point of view. Things will be clearer to you, and you can be your true self.

The more you look at yourself as being too big or too small, once you are aware of this, you can fix it and have compassion with yourself.

Better Energy

Keeping your shadow hidden can cause your energy to lessen. When you suppress things in your life, you will see that you can become tired and mentally exhausted. This can lead your body to experience pain and depression.

There are people that can heal from their sicknesses in their body by working on their shadow self. This can give you inner strength and help you to be able to face life better.


You will become more mature as you learn to face your shadow and work through things. It can help you to have a stronger mind and to help you become whole.


One of the best things about facing your shadow is that you can become more creative. It will help you to unlock your power and to be stronger in who you are.

Tips to Do Shadow Work

Here are some things you can do for shadow work:


You need to center yourself before you do shadow work. Make sure that you are strong and that you are calm.

The hidden parts of yourself can be traumatic and you need to make sure that you are being calm and loving yourself. You need to do this in a place that is calm.


You need to learn to love yourself through the things you learn. You need to see the good parts of yourself. If you are too hard on who you are, you will have a harder time facing your shadow.

If you are used to feeling guilty or ashamed, you will need to learn to love yourself and have compassion on who you are. Accept that you are a human and that we all make mistakes.

Connect with your heart and do some deep breathing.

Become Self-Aware

Looking at your shadow self will require you to look deep and to change your mindset. Look at your behaviors and be mindful.

Try mindful meditation and get rid of your inner critical self and judgements that you have against yourself.

Become aware of who you are and hold on to your feelings without hiding them again.

Be Courageous

You need to be courageous and honest with yourself. Give up things that you don’t like about yourself and embrace them. Be willing to see the dark parts of yourself that you don’t like.

Expect to be uncomfortable with some parts of yourself and do not let this get in the way. Even if you feel insecure, be honest with your feelings and emotions and open yourself up to new things.

Find What You Discover

Once you know what your shadow is, write it down. Write down the steps to find out and learn to start journaling.

Write things down that you know that you need to work on and keep working until you get where you want to be.


There are different shadow work exercises you can do:

Emotional Reactions

You need to learn to look at how you react to things. Pay attention to how you react and what triggers these emotions.

One way to know your shadow is to identify your emotions that you have towards others. You might have aggressive family members but if you don’t have the same qualities then when they do something you won’t react strong.

If you learn to pay attention to yourself then you will learn to see how you react to how people treat you. Even if you do not have time to deal with the emotions right then, write them down and learn to figure out where they came from.

Get to know the dark parts of yourself and accept them. Let your emotions be there but not be in charge of you. Focus on how you can be in charge of these things.

Inner Talk

Start talking to yourself and don’t think you are crazy because you have a conversation with yourself. There are ways that you can identify things and that means paying attention to the way that you influence even yourself.

Look at your behavior and talk to yourself about why you are having it.

Challenging Goodness

You have good parts of your being, and you need to figure out what these things have to do with your shadow. Make a list of things you are good at and the good qualities that you have.

Identify the opposite parts and your shadow self. Find out what you are and who you are.

Know Your Shadow Parts

The best way to work on your shadow is to learn to identify it. Look at what causes you to have the feelings that you have and embrace them.

Know the different feelings that you have and identify the behavior that goes with them.

Shadow Process

Here is a method that can help you to work on your shadow self:

  • Figure out what you want to work with and pick someone that gives you difficulty. This person more than likely gets on your nerves or irritates you. Pick someone you have a strong emotion with.
  • Face this and write down why they bother you. Talk about it or journal it. Express what you are feeling.
  • Talk to yourself and ask yourself things such as:
    • Why does this make me feel this way?
    • What does it want from me?
    • What is this trying to teach me?
  • Become the person that you have the problems with and even if you feel strange, do it anyways. Write the qualities that they make you feel such as angry, jealous, or excited.

Facing the Shadow

Facing your shadow can bring healing to your mind, body, and soul. Learn to embrace this dark part of yourself and work through hard things.

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  1. Oh great, another reason to get introspective and mopey. Next time I snap at someone, I’ll just tell them it’s my ‘shadow self’ acting out and all will be forgiven. Thanks for the new excuse!

    • Sarcasm aside, Tammy, understanding one’s shadow isn’t about finding excuses—it’s about self-awareness and improvement. It’s a way to understand and manage our reactions better, not justify them!

  2. While the argument about acknowledging one’s ‘shadow self’ has merit, it is critically insufficient in explaining the full complexity of human behavior and psychodynamics. It simplifies the multi-faceted nature of our internal struggles into a single concept. The human psyche is far more nuanced and layered than this approach suggests.

  3. Really? So now we have to dig into our ‘dark sides’ to be better people? This sounds like a pseudoscientific excuse to justify bad behavior. Not everyone has some hidden dark side that’s holding them back. Some people are just fine as they are, thank you very much.

  4. This article sheds light on an often overlooked aspect of the human psyche. Jung’s concept of the shadow provides invaluable insights into personal growth. By understanding and integrating our shadow, we can lead more fulfilling and authentic lives. Kudos to the author for addressing such a complex and essential topic!

  5. The notion of the ‘shadow self’ is rooted in Carl Jung’s analytical psychology. It fundamentally addresses the unconscious aspects of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. This unconscious is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, and instincts—potential sources of imagination, creativity, and vitality.

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