Carl Jung was the first psychologist to propose the idea of a ‘shadow self’- those parts of us such as personality traits and core wounds that we deny and hide from.
Everyone has a shadow self, and the more you deny it the stronger it becomes, and the more likely it is you will project it onto others.
Jung believed that we do not see others for who they are, but instead through the lens of our own shadow.
For example, the core wound of abandonment, if suppressed and unaddressed, can be projected onto others – you might assume every person who gets close to you will abandon you, and see all of their actions from this perspective, regardless of that person’s real intent.
Shadow work, then, is taking an honest look at ourselves – at our weaknesses, our faults, our core wounds and toxic behaviours.
It is facing them, learning from and integrating them into our personality so we can be more whole and authentic in our actions.
It also helps us to have more empathy for others – by looking at our own shadow we realise that often the people who hurt us simply cannot or will not integrate their own.
Disclaimer: I am not in any way a certified therapist, therefore all the advice given is from my own experience and should not be taken as medical advice.
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What is shadow work?
We all have our own demons that we fight in an effort to live out the best version of ourselves.
Through our upbringing, life experiences and the healing work our soul needs from past lives, we have shadows, demons, skeletons in the closet, whatever you want to call them.
This may be parts of ourselves we try to repress because they make us feel sad or wounded. They can also reflect how we internally perceive ourselves and ways in which we try to play small in society.
In my opinion, these demons are here are teachers to help elevate our consciousness, help us strengthen our relationship with ourselves, build compassion and help us evolve into the highest and best versions of ourselves.
As we heal and evolve, our ‘dark side’ and shadows become more apparent. If we suppress these demons or let our dark side run without being attended to effectively, our lives will turn into chaos and we’ll remain stuck in our spiritual evolution and physical health journey, keeping our wellbeing stagnant and ridden with toxicity.
Not attending to the healing of our shadows can manifest in mental health issues, diseases, feelings of low self-worth, addictions, scarcity mindset, and other mind/body health issues that affect our quality of life.
Our shadow self often harms our life, in ways that are unconscious to us at the time, as a habitual reaction to particular places, people or things. Our shadow self-blocks us from acting for our own greatest good and can prevent us from reaching our true potential in life.
Through integration of our shadows, fully acknowledging our full self, we can live harmoniously and abundantly in our lives.
Society, especially in the age of social media’s highlight reels and filters, has told us to hide our shadows and show up ‘perfectly’. And often in the programming we received in our upbringing, we have been taught to suppress our pain and darkness.
We began to believe on a subliminal level, that if we experience struggles or pain, we aren’t being ‘good’. Expressing negative emotions isn’t ‘right’.
However, in reality, through acknowledging our darkness and working through the pain, we are able to enhance our sense of self, leading to greater success and living a more radiant and self-actualised life rooted in our truth.
Working with your shadows
Facing our shadows and doing cleaning up the debris is necessary to live a fully integrated life that helps you to continue to evolve and elevate your wellbeing.
Facing your pain takes courage and an open heart. It’s easier to numb the pain, ignore it or suppress it.
Facing it head on and showing up to do the work, allows you to better understand yourself and create more ease in your life.
Is shadow work dangerous?
Shadow work is not dangerous, in fact it will actually improve your mental health and the way you interact with the world. We’ll talk about the benefits of shadow work soon.
Becoming aware of our ‘dark’ side allows us to heal old wounds and to integrate those unconscious parts into our conscious selves in healthy ways.
You can’t fix or heal something if you don’t know it’s broken, right? So, shining a light on your shadow self lets you change or heal it.
It allows you to talk to that hurt part of yourself and tell them they are loved and safe.
Benefits of shadow work
- Spiritual awakening
- Greater authenticity
- Enhanced creativity
- Emotional freedom
- Improved relationships through understanding yourself & others
- Increased energy and improved immune system
- Overall enhanced state of wellbeing and mood
- Better communication with others
- Ability to set boundaries in your life
- Cease the cycle of self-destruction
What are shadow work journal prompts?
Journal prompts for shadow work are essentially questions designed to probe and challenge the most negative traits of your subconscious psyche, such as: anger, fear, doubt, greed, victimhood, lack, distrust, and jealousy.
When you ask yourself shadow work questions, and answer as honestly as you can, you illuminate the side of you that you have most feared and repressed.
Once you are made aware of your shadow self, you can fully accept and unconditionally love it, which takes you off the “wheel of unconscious shadow self-reactions”.
You can then begin to respond to your life, rather than react, run, hide, reject, or push away people or experiences that are healthy for you, or help you grow.
These journal prompts for shadow work will help you with trauma, anxiety, healing, and finally, self-discovery and self-love.
Use these shadow work prompts daily in your journal to get to the root of who you are, and what makes you tick.
These prompts may also help remove blocks that are holding you back from manifesting money and security.
How do you make a shadow work journal?
To make a shadow work journal, you can use any lined journal or notebook as your base. Then, you can write out shadow work journal prompts and answer them as honestly and completely as possible.
You can also buy an already made for you shadow work journal from Amazon. I love this one.
Journaling is an incredible, very healthy way to master of yourself. Most people do not fully know, understand, or accept themselves.
Shadow work journaling is one of the best ways I’ve found to get to know myself, and promote healing and unconditional acceptance within.
Remember, no one else will see this work! This is simply for you to better get to know yourself and what scares you or holds you back.
Revealing your shadow will often heal parts of your inner child, or at least begin the process of healing from childhood.
These particular shadow work prompts are also excellent for healing, trauma, anxiety, and self-love (the place where these prompts will eventually lead to).
This is an excellent journal to log your progress – Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal: Reclaim Your Wholeness
Shadow Work Journal Prompts – 100 Amazing Ideas!
Good shadow work prompts are those that get to the root of many different issues, including those from early childhood that have shaped your current belief system. Many times, this happens without our conscious knowledge.
Here are 100 shadow work prompts that I have put together to help with your journaling.
1. what emotion do you try to avoid (e.g. anger, sadness, jealousy…)? what makes you afraid to feel it? what are you afraid will happen if you feel it?
2. in what ways are you privileged? what do you take for granted?
3. pick an adjective from the list below that would trigger you if someone would use it to describe you and then ask yourself: “why would this trigger me? what would be bad about it being true? is it the accuracy or inaccuracy that bothers me? what could be a positive aspect to being that way?”
list: arrogant, liar, jealous, mean, cruel, possessive, bitchy, bossy, loser, greedy, mysterious, sneaky, co-dependent, sick, fat, disgusting, stalker, stupid, idiot, fearful, unconscious, masochistic, narcissist, insignificant, frigid, sexist, manipulative, racist, victim, egoistic, arrogant, ugly, careless, passive, aggressive, lame, boring, tactless, irresponsible, incompetent, lazy, unfair, childish, know-it-all, insensitive, psychotic, sad, ordinary, hypocritical, reproachful, gloomy, jealous, envious dirty, tyrannical, inflexible, heartless, resentful, dominant, bad, ignorant, uneducated, tasteless, insecure, depressed, hopeless, not good enough, cry baby, paranoid, pushy, stubborn, inferior, weak , impatient, unreliable, self-destructive, over-sensitive
4. what is the biggest promise you made to yourself that you have broken? how does that make you feel?
5. how do you lie to yourself in daily life? what are you trying to avoid?
6. what do you think is your worst trait? why is it “bad”? what positive aspects does this trait bring with it?
7. if you truly loved yourself, what would your life look like? is it very different to how it actually is? and if yes, why?
8. think of a time someone broke your heart. could you have been responsible in some way as well?
9. do you hold grudges against someone? if so, why are you not letting them go yet?
10. what do you need to forgive yourself for?
11. think back on the last time a person triggered you: can you see how the aspects of that person that triggered you are also in you?
12. ask yourself: “if… were true about me/my current life situation, I’d be terrified” (try to fill out this sentence as often as possible)
13. think back on your last argument/fight: did you actively try to see the other person’s viewpoint and would there have been a way to be more compassionate with the other person and yourself?
14. think about a time in your childhood when you felt unhappy (small or big moment) and write a letter from your child self to the present you about how you felt and how you perceived the situation: try to take on that child as much as you can and write from its perspective as automatically as you can then write a letter back to that child, explaining the situation, showing empathy and understanding and asking how you can help now or which needs have to be met for that child to feel good again if you get answers from that child, then try to meet those needs today
15. In what areas of life are you holding back and playing small? (Think about the times you feel weak, small or disempowered.) Write them below and next to each explore why
16. In what ways do you feel judged by others? Write them below. Explore how many of these judgments might actually originate within you first (and are displaced onto others)
17. What negatives or positives do others point out about you that you have trouble accepting?
18. What emotions do you rarely express around others – and when did you first start hiding these emotions from others? (Emotional suppression and repression often point to areas of shame buried within you.)
19. Reflect on a period of life where you were at your worst (i.e. most self-destructive, argumentative, etc.). Write a short, but heartfelt letter of understanding, acceptance, and compassion for that version of you. You can return to this letter later whenever you feel rotten about yourself.
20. What are your “hot buttons” or triggers that cause you to get angry or defensive in the presence of others?
21. What qualities in your family members do you most dislike or have trouble dealing with? What might these qualities in your loved ones secretly reveal about you?
22. In which areas of life do you tend to expect others to conform to your beliefs? (Also, what scares you the most about allowing others to have their own beliefs in that area?)
23. When are you the most critical of yourself? Explore what your self-talk sounds like below.
24. Describe five things you love about yourself and feel gratitude about.
25. How judged do you tend to feel on a daily basis? Explore how much of that perceived judgment is real and how much are imagined.
26. Take a look at the best and most enjoyable aspect of your life right now. What is your underlying fear in that area and why?
27. Write about the last time you tried to manipulate a situation to your advantage and examine how you feel about that in hindsight.
28. If you could say one thing to the person who’s hurt you the most right now, what would it be and why?
29. What do you currently envy in someone else’s life and why?
30. which of my weaknesses could have potential?
31. what makes me feel the happiest
32. how worthy do I honestly believe I am?
33. if I could communicate with the person, I was 10 years ago today, I would say…
34. why do I have issues with trust?
35. the way I spend my daily life is how I will spend the rest of my life. how do I feel about this idea?
36. do I trust myself?
37. how can I have more trust?
38. which situations have shaped my personality and why?
39. while reflecting on my childhood, what makes me extremely angry or sad to this day?
40. my absolute dream life: how does my perfect day begin?
41. do I handle my feelings in a healthy and constructive way?
42. do I project certain aspects of myself onto others?
43. did my parents provide me with everything I needed?
44. what makes me really angry and why?
45. would I describe my childhood as happy?
46. what is it that makes me sad?
47. what do I consider the most challenging for me?
48. have I forgive myself?
49. have I forgiven all the people who ever hurt me?
50. if I were to write a letter to a person who hurt me, what would it say?
51. how do I react when something does not turn out the way it should?
52. if I could write a letter to myself, apologizing for all the self-blame, what would it say?
53. how can I cope with sadness in a healthy way?
54. which behaviour that I know is wrong and has negative effects, do I repeat over and over again?
55.how long do I reflect on failures or mistakes? do I have difficulties in coming to terms with them or vice versa – do I suppress such experiences
56. do I find it hard to forgive?
57. how long do I need to forgive?
58. am I honest with myself about my feelings?
59. am I honest with other people about my feelings?
60. do I completely accept and love myself the way I am?
61. do I reward myself when I accomplish something productive?
62. how do I deal with failures?
63. what is it that I would like to heal from?
64. what are my negative personality traits and, when do they emerge?
65. what is a pattern in my life that keeps showing up.
66. where am I struggling the most?
67. how does the feeling of envy show up in my life? where does it stem from? how would I feel if I obtained the things, I am envious of?
68. in what ways do I consciously or unconsciously punish myself? how can I be kinder to myself?
69. what should I forgive myself for? why haven’t I yet? how can I now?
70. what unhealthy attachments do I hold onto? what fears do I have around the idea of ending these attachments? what do I have to gain from ending these attachments?
71. what negative emotions am I most comfortable feeling? how often and why do these emotions show up in my day to day?
72. in what ways do I hold myself to a higher standard than others? vice versa?
73. what is a grudge/incident I’m holding onto? why do I choose to hold onto this weight? how can I let it go?
74. how do I show up for others and fail to show up for myself?
75. how important am I to myself? how highly do I prioritize myself?
76. what am I addicted to?
77. what are my delusions?
78. how have I been ignorant?
79. how have I been distracting myself?
80. What are some things you’ve said to yourself recently that weren’t so nice? Would you say that to somebody else? How would you react if somebody else said those things to you?
90. Name 5-10 negative beliefs you have about yourself. Where do they come from? Do they have any validity? Why or why not?
91. Do you over-think, what causes this?
92. What are your morals? How do those morals make you feel – do they come from you, or someone else?
93. What are some qualities you wish you had, why?
94. what is my go-to self-destructive act? what is my love language? are they connected?
95. what would I tell my future self?
96. What are some intrusive thoughts you’ve had recently? What triggered those thoughts? What do you think the root cause is?
97. what are my weaknesses?
98. If you had the people who’ve hurt you in a position where they were forced to listen to what you had to say and take everything to heart, what would you say to them?
99. what will I never forget?
100. Think of a person you hate for “no reason”. What are some things about them that bother you? Do these things remind you of yourself or someone who hurt you?
Shadow Work Journal Prompts – Final thoughts
When you make a conscious effort to find and work with your shadow self through the use of shadow work prompts, you take great strides forward in truly understanding and accepting yourself.
You may not think that a time you felt abandoned or unloved as a child is affecting you that much in the present, but could have everything to do with why you have trouble forming healthy adult relationships.
I hope you find and illuminate your shadow self with these shadow work prompts so that you can understand and learn to unconditionally love yourself first, and then others.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you are doing to change your life in the coming days and years!
If you have any questions please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
I really hope you found inspiration in this article.
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Hello! My name is Adam and welcome to my space on the internet. Here you can find me writing about topics such as self-care, self-development and all things wellness. Connect with me on my journey and come and join the community!