Most of us have a part of ourselves that we keep secret. It was depth psychologist Carl Jung who coined “the shadow self,” giving a name to what most of us might call our “dark side.” Our shadow often develops in childhood as a response to our environment. We keep certain parts of ourselves hidden in fear of not being accepted, but in the process, we end up exiling these parts.
30 Shadow Work Prompts for Healing and Growth
What Is Shadow Work?
Though we refer to our shadow as our dark side, there’s nothing inherently bad about it. In many cases, our shadow self is holding onto the desires of our inner child and just wants to be seen in the same way as our other parts. Shadow work helps us uncover these repressed feelings, thoughts and memories so we can accept and heal our shadow, bringing it into the light. Integrating these parts back into our conscious life helps us to live more fully.
How to Approach Shadow Work
There are many different methods for shadow work, but journaling is a great way to begin. We’ve developed a list of 30 prompts to get you started. We recommend setting aside a specific time each day to go through these prompts, allowing space for revelation. You’ll want to use a pen and paper—rather than typing on a phone or laptop—for these prompts so you can really let your thoughts flow and connect from your body to the page. You might even want to get a special notebook just for this practice. You can tackle these prompts in order or skim through and begin with one that grabs your attention.
As with any deep, reflective experience, some of these prompts might bring up some very heavy feelings so know that you can always walk away from the work and come back to it later. The key to shadow work is to have compassion for yourself and to sit with your feelings without judgment. Doing this work alone is also not a substitute for therapy, which is a wonderful way to begin shadow work if that’s available to you.