I have a confession to make. As I began to connect with my spirituality, I was convinced that to be “spiritual” I only needed to “embrace love and light.”I didn’t know then that I was essentially practicing spiritual circumvention, that is, using spirituality to avoid or reject complicated feelings I had.
Thanks to close friends and mentors, I began to understand the important role that “Shadow Work” plays in personal growth, liberation and understanding of ourselves. If you’re ready to dive into your own journey with shadow work, here are some pointers to get you started.
But first, what is shadow work?
Kristin delves deep into shadow work in this full article, but in a nutshell, this practice is about understanding the parts of ourselves that we usually push into the subconscious due to societal expectations and pressures. It can be our insecurities, our shame, or whatever we suppress.
Sometimes we can easily identify these things, and sometimes we wonder where to dig out our Shadow ourselves. The process of bringing these aspects of who we are to the surface is an effective way to free ourselves from the self-judgment that holds us back in life. These directions can help you get started:
Identifying the shadow itself
Before we start the nitty-gritty of freeing ourselves from our shame, let’s start by identifying the shadow itself with these diary prompts:
1. When was the first time you felt like you were being wronged? What was your reaction to this feeling, and how does this moment affect you as a mature?
2. Who was the first to betray you? What happened and how did they break your trust?
3. What are your parents ‘ core values different from yours? How are they different and why do you think this difference exists?
4. What is in your deep self that no one knows about you? Why did you hide this?
5. Did someone in your life disappoint you as a child? What do you mean? How did you feel about this disappointment?
6. Why do you think too much?
7. How do you know that your mental health is deteriorating? Identify the emotions that indicate that you need support.
8. What triggers jealousy or envy for you? Why do you think this trigger exists?
9. Are you always as kind to yourself as to others? If not, why?
10. When do you feel you are hardest on yourself? Why?
Once you’ve managed to identify the parts of yourself that are repressed or avoided, it’s time to dive a little deeper by asking yourself difficult questions and working on your answers with patience and kindness:
11. What toxic trait of yours has had a negative effect on your relationships (friendships, family, romance or others)?
12. What negative aspects of your parents do you see in yourself? How does it feel to see that part of you?
13. What review of others is most difficult for you to hear? Why is it hard to hear them?
14. Do you know your attachment style? How has this manifested itself in your relationships?
15. What negative emotions do you tend to avoid? Why are you avoiding them?
16. Is there someone you can’t forgive? What did they do to break your trust, and why didn’t you forgive them?
17. How did you deal with negative emotions in your childhood? Do you treat them differently now? If so, how?
18. What is a lie you tell yourself on a regular basis? Why are you telling yourself this lie?
19. When did you ruin it, hurt someone and ask for forgiveness? What did you apologize for? Has the other person forgiven you?
20. Why do you need to forgive yourself?
Now that you’ve gone deep and discovered parts of yourself that you may not have known existed, it’s time to find some acceptance. The work of the shadow is to see what is inside us, to accept all our parts and love ourselves through them. Use these journal prompts to find acceptance:
21. How have you applied your boundaries? How did it feel for you to do it?
22. What would happen if the people closest to you could see the deepest parts of you?
23. What would it take to fully embrace yourself as you are now?
24. How did you fix it after hurting someone else? How did it feel to be forgiven by them? Have you forgiven yourself for what happened?
25. What is the deepest secret someone has ever told you? Have you ever paved this road for someone else? How did it feel to be vulnerable?
26. Why do you deny that? Why?
27. What is the hardest part of yourself to accept? What would happen if you accepted it?
Never forget that as human beings we embody a whole spectrum of emotions. Within each person there is an immense depth of darkness and a total expansion of light. The more we understand our duality, the more we can accept ourselves as we are and practice more self-pity. The world could use a little more, right?