What is shadow work? Here’s everything you need to know

23 August, 2023 / words by IALH Editorial Team

Written by Kelle Salle

Image by @threadsstyling

If you’ve been on a journey of self-discovery lately, you’ll know that it isn’t always easy. As insightful as getting to know yourself might be, you will discover things that you may not like and in a world where we are constantly being told who to be and what to do with our lives, these truths can be hard to accept. If you are thinking about embarking on a journey of self-discovery, the most important thing that you need to know is that you are enough, flaws and all. Working on yourself won’t always look pretty and that’s ok. There are benefits to wanting to get to know yourself better – the main one being that you’ll be able to show up as your most authentic self, which is something a lot of us want. There are so many things you can do to work on yourself, one being shadow work. We’ve asked Astrologist Sade Jackson to provide some insight on the topic and how it can help you on your journey to self-discovery. Keep reading to learn more.

What is shadow work?

Shadow work is a process that involves addressing the stories and narratives behind our choices and behaviour. In essence, we mine our unconscious mind to understand our conditioning, childhood history, trauma and limiting beliefs. It’s all about being aware of the parts of yourself that you might hide away. For some, shadow work might only involve being aware of the parts of their personality they’ve rejected and trying to accept them.

What are the benefits of shadow work?

When I think about the benefits of shadow work, I’m reminded of a quote by one of the founding fathers of psychology, Carl Jung, who once said ‘until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate’. Shadow work gives us all an opportunity to unpack patterns in many areas of our lives including the relationships we have with people, money and the world itself. Once we’ve done the work (or are in the process of doing the work), we can liberate ourselves from repeating old ways of relating and behaving. We start to live our lives more intentionally because we have foresight on how our choices can affect us and others with more care and consideration. Shadow work can change our view of the world all together and encourage us to take creative control over our own lives.

How can shadow work be done?

If you are thinking about doing shadow work, the first thing you need to consider is the depth of your trauma. If you have experienced a significant amount of trauma, then I recommend doing shadow work with a registered psychologist as they are well informed on the best practices to use when repressed unconscious material comes up to the surface. I also recommend somatic healing practices as shadow work is an integrative approach to healing. Somatic healing practices include BodySoul work, Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). For those who want to practise shadow work in the comfort of their own homes, I recommend journaling. It’s a simple healing practice that can help you see the nuance in your daily lives. I like to think of journals as mirrors that allow us to make sense out of all the grey areas in our lives to unpack the complexity of our emotions and feelings.

When should a person consider doing shadow work?

A person should consider doing shadow work if they notice that there are repeating patterns in their life. That’s when it’s a good time to investigate if there’s a deeper reasoning behind the experience. It can help you make sense of why you may be feeling stuck and can help you to guide the unconscious beliefs that may be influencing your decisions. If you are doing shadow work with a psychologist or your practitioner of choice, it’s important for you to have a good relationship with them as they’ll be supporting you on your healing journey. A degree of trust can make all the difference to the process.

When should someone be aware of before doing shadow work?

Shadow work can be profoundly confronting, so it can feel quite triggering to step into this new level of inner reflection. It’s really important to have an outlet to channel the things that come up after all your sessions. Always keep in mind that it will take time to process potential revelations about yourself. Lastly, give yourself some time to connect with different therapists and don’t be afraid to set up several initial consultations before you make a final choice.

Final takeaway

Shadow work is a part of healing, which is a lifelong process. Not only does shadow work help to heal us, it also heals everyone around us who is witnessing our new levels of inner growth. Sometimes, we are the catalyst to support those around us to begin their road to healing.


IALH Editorial Team


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