If you’re just starting out with shadow work, one of the first things you’ll do is work to find your shadow self. But that can be easier said than done.
For beginners of shadow work, you might be wondering how you find your shadow self and what that process is like. We break down commonly asked questions about finding your shadow self you can start implementing today.
Table of Contents
- What is the Jungian Shadow?
- Does everyone have a shadow self?
- Can the shadow self be positive?
- Can the shadow ever be beneficial to personality development?
- The Relationship Between The Shadow Self and Trauma:
- A brief word on the risk of shadow work and trauma:
- How to Find Your Shadow Self
- 1. Use shadow work prompts.
- 2. Pay attention to your dreams and nightmares.
- 3. Talk to a therapist or counselor about what bothers you.
- 4. Look for patterns of behavior that you don’t like in yourself.
- 5. Identify your fears and insecurities.
- 6. Ask yourself tough questions about the things you’re ashamed of.
- Learning to Ask Questions and Observing in Shadow Work
- Examples of the Shadow Self
- Remember, the goal is not to get rid of your shadow.
- Is the shadow self the ego?
What is the Jungian Shadow?
The “shadow self” is a concept coined by the famed psychiatrist Carl Jung. It’s part of our conscious mind that we repress because it houses all of our dark qualities that we’re ashamed of.
The shadow exists in everyone, and it is both a positive and negative force. It contains our repressed emotions, primal desires, undeveloped qualities, and unacknowledged aspects of the self.
When we face our shadow, we can begin to integrate these qualities into our conscious selves. This is a difficult but rewarding process that leads to greater self-awareness and wholeness.
The first step in that process is finding your shadow self.
Does everyone have a shadow self?
Yes, everyone has a shadow self. It’s an integral part of our psyches, and it exists in everyone, regardless of whether they’re aware of it or not.
The shadow is often referred to as the “dark side” because it contains all of the qualities that we consider to be negative: anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, and so on.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s an inherently negative or bad thing that we should fear. In fact, our shadow self serves an important function. Our shadow self, despite its name, is a great tool for shining a light on the parts of ourselves that need healing and improvement.
The contrast between the parts of ourselves we like and accept and those we keep buried can provide us with valuable insight into ourselves and each other, as well as provide us with a vehicle for personal growth.
Can the shadow self be positive?
Yes, the shadow self can be positive. In fact, it contains many aspects of ourselves that we consider to be positive, such as our creativity, intuition, and sexuality.
It’s only when these qualities are repressed or denied that they become negative or shadowy. For example, if you’re not allowed to express your anger in a healthy way, it can lead to destructive behaviors like lashing out in violence or passive-aggressiveness.
On the other hand, if you’re able to express your anger in a constructive way, it can be a powerful force for good in your life. The same is true of all the qualities contained in the shadow self.
Another example is that a person may repress their creativity or assertiveness because they fear criticism or rejection. Still, these qualities can be channeled in positive ways when they are acknowledged and embraced.
Ultimately, whether the shadow self is positive or negative depends on how we perceive and use those aspects of ourselves. By integrating and accepting our shadow self, we can become more whole and authentic individuals.
Can the shadow ever be beneficial to personality development?
While the shadow self is often seen as something negative that we should try to get rid of, it can actually be a helpful tool in our personality development.
By facing our shadow, we can begin to understand the parts of ourselves that we’ve been suppressing. We can also start to integrate these qualities into our conscious selves.
This is a difficult but powerful process, one that can lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth. So let’s dive into how to access your shadow self.
We’ll talk about ways to embrace and integrate your shadow self in a minute, but first, let’s talk about about how to find your shadow self.
The Relationship Between The Shadow Self and Trauma:
Now for a more serious consideration when talking about shadow work and identifying the shadow self.
The shadow self can be closely linked to trauma, especially when the trauma is not dealt with properly.
When you experience trauma, it can cause a split in your psyche where parts of yourself are fragmented and pushed into the unconscious. These fragmented parts can become aspects of your shadow self, representing the unacknowledged or denied parts of yourself that are associated with the trauma.
How this works:
For example, if you’ve experienced childhood abuse, you may have repressed emotions such as anger, fear, or shame that become part of your shadow self.
These repressed emotions can manifest as self-sabotage, relationship difficulties, or other problematic behaviors. By denying or avoiding these aspects of yourself, the trauma can continue to impact your life in negative ways.
Working with your shadow self can be a crucial part of healing from trauma.
By acknowledging and integrating the fragmented parts of yourself, you can begin to heal the split created by the trauma. This may involve exploring and processing difficult emotions, developing self-awareness and self-compassion, and working with a skilled therapist or healer to address the underlying trauma.
This last part is particularly important. Trauma-inflicted people need to be aware of the risks of shadow work and should strongly consider working with a trained therapist when doing this work.
A brief word on the risk of shadow work and trauma:
While shadow work can be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-awareness, it also comes with potential risks and challenges.
For example, shadow work can sometimes trigger re-traumatization or bring up intense emotions that can be overwhelming to process.
Additionally, there is a risk of spiritual bypassing, which involves using spiritual practices to avoid or deny difficult emotions and experiences.
Shadow work can also reinforce harmful patterns of self-blame and shame if approached in a punitive or judgmental way.
To approach shadow work in a safe, responsible, and compassionate way, I recommend the following:
- Work with a skilled therapist or healer.
- Approach shadow work with self-compassion and non-judgment.
- Practice self-care and establish healthy boundaries.
- Take breaks and slow down the process if needed.
Ultimately, shadow work can be a powerful tool for personal growth and healing when approached with intention, self-awareness, and compassion.
How to Find Your Shadow Self
Getting started with shadow work is all about finding and getting to know your shadow self. This requires engaging in shadow work – exercises that help you understand your shadow self.
You can do this through a variety of methods. Here’s a brief overview of common shadow work strategies people employ:
1. Use shadow work prompts.
Working through shadow work prompts in a journal can you help you understand your core beliefs, thoughts, and feelings.
Here are some ways that shadow work prompts can help you find your shadow self:
- Encourages self-reflection: Shadow work prompts encourage you to take a deeper look at your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By asking thought-provoking questions, prompts can help you gain insight into your unconscious mind and explore aspects of your shadow self that you may have been avoiding or denying.
- Identifies patterns: Shadow work prompts can help you identify patterns in your thoughts and behaviors that may point to aspects of your shadow self. For example, suppose you consistently feel angry or resentful in certain situations. Maybe you’re ready to explode with rage whenever your partner leaves their things out. A prompt may ask you to explore why that is and what underlying emotions or beliefs are driving those feelings.
- Provides a safe space for exploration: Shadow work prompts can create a safe and supportive space for exploring your shadow self. By providing a structure and framework for self-reflection, prompts can help you feel more comfortable and less vulnerable as you explore your unconscious mind. Plus, they help narrow the scope of your exploration so you don’t end up all over the place.
- Encourages self-awareness: Shadow work prompts can help you become more self-aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They say sunshine is the best disinfectant. By shining a light on aspects of your shadow self, prompts can help you understand yourself better and make positive changes in your life.
Overall, shadow work prompts can be a powerful tool for exploring and integrating your shadow self. By asking the right questions and encouraging self-reflection, prompts can help you gain insight into your unconscious mind and become a more whole and authentic person.
2. Pay attention to your dreams and nightmares.
Dreams can be a powerful tool for exploring your unconscious mind. Keep a dream journal and pay attention to any recurring themes or symbols that may point to aspects of your shadow self.
You can even apply some of the insights you glean from your dream journal to your shadow work prompts.
3. Talk to a therapist or counselor about what bothers you.
Working with a therapist can be a powerful tool for uncovering and working with your shadow self. Here are some ways that therapy can help:
- Provides a safe and supportive space: Therapy provides a safe and supportive space where you can explore and process difficult emotions, experiences, and aspects of your personality. A skilled therapist can help create a non-judgmental and empathetic environment that encourages openness and vulnerability.
- Offers a trained and neutral perspective: Therapists are trained to recognize and work with the shadow self. They can help you identify patterns, triggers, and blind spots contributing to your difficulties. They can also provide a neutral and objective perspective on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This is honestly so helpful when you’re dealing with deeply emotional topics.
- Offers specific therapeutic techniques: Therapists may use various therapeutic techniques and modalities to help you work with your shadow self, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and mindfulness-based approaches. These techniques can help you explore and process difficult emotions, shift negative thought patterns, and develop self-awareness and self-compassion.
- Can help you integrate your shadow self: A skilled therapist can help you develop strategies for working with difficult emotions and behaviors and help you cultivate self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love.
4. Look for patterns of behavior that you don’t like in yourself.
Spend time in quiet reflection, journaling, or meditation to explore your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Pay attention to patterns or recurring themes that arise, especially those that bring up feelings of discomfort or shame.
5. Identify your fears and insecurities.
Your fears and insecurities can be a clue to unresolved issues or beliefs driving your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
By acknowledging and exploring these fears and insecurities, you are creating a pathway to a deeper understanding of yourself and your shadow self.
For example, if you have a fear of rejection, you may avoid putting yourself in situations where you might be vulnerable or risk being rejected. This fear may stem from a belief that you are not worthy of love or acceptance, which can be an aspect of your shadow self.
By acknowledging and working with these aspects of your shadow self, you can start to shift your beliefs and emotions towards self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love. This can ultimately lead to greater confidence, resilience, and personal growth.
6. Ask yourself tough questions about the things you’re ashamed of.
Asking yourself tough questions about things you’re ashamed of can be a powerful way to uncover aspects of your shadow self. Here is an example of how you can use this approach:
Let’s say you feel ashamed about your tendency to procrastinate. Instead of avoiding or denying this behavior, you can ask yourself some tough questions to explore the underlying beliefs and emotions that drive it. For example:
- Why do I procrastinate? What am I avoiding or afraid of?
- What beliefs do I have about myself and my abilities that contribute to my procrastination?
- How does procrastination make me feel about myself and my accomplishments?
- How has procrastination impacted my relationships, work, or other areas of my life?
These questions may be uncomfortable to answer, but they can help you uncover aspects of your shadow self that you have been avoiding or denying.
For example, you may discover that you have a fear of failure or success that is driving your procrastination. Or you may have a belief that you are not capable or competent enough to accomplish your goals, which can be a core aspect of your shadow self.
Learning to Ask Questions and Observing in Shadow Work
We are all so busy.
Our attention is constantly tugged on and pulled throughout the day. Whether it’s our devices, our friends and family members, our work, or a world that is perpetually “on”, it can be easy to slip into autopilot mode.
Finding our shadow self requires us to do the opposite. It forces us to slow down and ask, “Why?”
Why do I want to blow up in rage at this woman taking forever to pay at the register? Why is it my first instinct to make fun of someone who dresses drastically different than me? Why do most of my conversations with others involve complaining and commiserating?
The more you stop to observe your behavior and reactions to the world around you, to question the thoughts that pop up into your head, and your instincts in certain situations, the more you will understand your shadow self.
It requires a lot of patience, honesty, and ownership over your own thoughts and behavior – a tall order for a lot of people!
Examples of the Shadow Self
In order to better understand the shadow self, let’s take a look at some common examples:
1. The perfectionist who can never relax because they’re afraid of making a mistake.
2. The people-pleaser who bends over backward for others but never says “no” for themselves.
3. The control freak who tries to micromanage every aspect of their life but can’t stand to let others make decisions.
4. The passive-aggressive person who reacts to conflict by behaving in passive or manipulative ways.
5. The workaholic who is constantly focused on achievement but never seems to have time for family or friends.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of qualities that might be found in someone’s shadow self. Who is your shadow self?
Resources for finding your shadow self:
- Shadow Work Prompts for Beginners
- Is Shadow Work Dangerous?
A video that helps further explain shadow behaviors:
Remember, the goal is not to get rid of your shadow.
The goal is to understand it and learn how to integrate it into your conscious self.
Even when we recognize that our behaviors are negative or unhealthy, we might not understand why we do them. Where did we learn these things? What shaped us?
Finding the ‘why’ is at the crux of all shadow work.
If you’re unsure where to start with this process, we have 65 unique shadow work prompts for beginners that can help you get started.
Is the shadow self the ego?
No, the shadow self is not the same as the ego. The ego is the “I” or self-consciousness that we identify with. It’s the part of us that’s aware of our thoughts and feelings and makes decisions based on them.
The shadow self, on the other hand, is the hidden or unconscious part of us that we’re not aware of. It’s the parts of ourselves that we reject or deny, such as our desire for power, sexuality, and aggression.
Although the ego and shadow self are related in some ways – both are aspects of our consciousness – they are distinct from each other. While the shadow self may contain qualities that also exist in the ego, they are not the same.
Some people may define the shadow self as a type of ego or “false self,” but this is not accurate and may have to do with the ways we use the term “ego” colloquially. There’s nothing false about our shadow self, just hidden.
When people talk about the ego, they are referring to this sense of self that is separate from who we “truly” are. People like to conflate the word ‘ego’ and ‘shadow self’ because we like to believe that we aren’t our dark side.
But shadow work is all about understanding and accepting your dark side so that you can learn from it.
Where do we go from here?
As I mentioned before, identifying your shadow self is really just the beginning of this process. Shadow work takes time. The important thing is that you now have a solid grasp of what your shadow self is and some tools in your toolbox for identifying your unique shadow traits.
The next step will involve learning to integrate your shadow self into your everyday life so that you can break old behavior patterns and see some positive growth.
How well do you know your shadow self? Tell us in the comments below!
What more resources on shadow work?
- Become a curious observer.
- Practice nonjudgment toward yourself.
- Work with a professional.
- Try shadow journaling.
- Try past-life regression therapy.
- Label your emotional experiences.
- Think about someone who triggers you.
For example, if you are a perfectionist and have a lot of self-criticisms, you may repress your anger and frustration. This will create a shadow side that is angry and aggressive. Another example could be someone who is secretly struggling with sexual desire and may repress those thoughts or feelings.How do I find my Jungian shadow? ›
Look at each positive quality that you wrote down – describe its opposite (e.g., unfeeling, stingy, dull, etc.) Picture a person who embodies these negative qualities vividly in your mind. Roughly, this is your shadow.Can you meet your shadow self? ›
The meeting of the shadow self is known as shadow work. This process can be done alone or through the help of a professional, or someone you trust. It doesn't have a specific timeline as it's journey of coming back to your self and reclaiming the parts that you've rejected.Is your shadow self your ego? ›
According to Eastern and Western psychology, we have an ego/persona, a shadow, and a self. The simplest way to understand them is: Ego is your identity, while the persona is the mask you wear to survive and thrive – your social personality. Shadow is the aspect you hide so that you can integrate and find acceptance.What should I ask my shadow self? ›
- What Do I Want To Get Out Of Shadow Work? ...
- What Was I Brought Up To Value In My Family? ...
- In What Ways Am I Like My Parents? ...
- What Family Patterns Do I Fear I'm Repeating? ...
- How Would I Describe My Life To My Child Self? ...
- When Was The Last Time I Felt Truly At Peace?
Embracing the shadow self can lead to a greater understanding of our whole self, as it helps us to understand, control and integrate it. Because when we shine a light on our shadow, we become conscious of the unconscious and gift ourselves with the power of conscious choice.What are 2 examples of shadow? ›
Noun The tree cast a long shadow across the lawn. You can see your own shadow on a sunny day. Part of the valley was in shadow.
The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung first coined the term Shadow to refer to the hidden, dark side of the human psyche. I think of the Shadow as an archetypal figure that lives in the unconscious and stores the unwanted, unprocessed qualities of the Self, including the life experiences we ignore in order to survive.What is my shadow function? ›
Based in Jungian Psychology, the shadow functions are an unconscious part of our personality. The shadow appears when our dominant functions are having a hard time solving a problem or coping with stress.
Shadow work involves exploring those thoughts, feelings, and experiences that have been suppressed or remained hidden so that one can understand themselves better, improve interactions with others, learn more about themselves, and heal past traumas.Is Your shadow always behind you? ›
Your body blocks some of the sun's light, causing a shadow to form in front of you. The shadow takes on the shape of your body. When the sun is in front of you, the shadow forms behind you. If the sun is to your left, then the shadow forms to your right.What is the opposite of your shadow self? ›
The "shadow self", as he called it, is one aspect of our unconscious - the instinctive part of our psyche that we try to repress. It represents the direct opposite of our "persona" - the public face we like to present to the world.Is your shadow self evil? ›
The concept of a shadow self emerged from a psychologist named Carl Jung. All those aspects of our repressed selves form our shadow self. Some like to refer to this as our 'dark side'. However, the shadow self is not morally good or evil.What is the golden shadow method? ›
The Golden Shadow Method is a path of awakening your hidden potential and manifesting your dreams. It shines a light on your talents, creativity, and intuitive power that has been buried and forgotten. Each one of us has a giant reservoir of possibilities waiting to be discovered.What personality is shadow? ›
In analytical psychology, the shadow (also known as ego-dystonic complex, repressed id, shadow aspect, or shadow archetype) is an unconscious aspect of the personality that does not correspond with the ego ideal, leading the ego to resist and project the shadow.What is light vs shadow self? ›
The term “light,” however, does not necessarily connate a positive demeanor. Instead, it only describes the ego of a person that they present to the outside world. It is a form of outward psychological projection. Meanwhile, the shadow represents a person's unconscious thoughts and behaviors.What are shadow questions? ›
Shadow work prompts are questions that help you tap into the emotions, beliefs, perceptions and sometimes dark thoughts that are repressed within your subconscious. The purpose of these questions is to help you start the process of healing and living a fully integrated life.Is your shadow your inner child? ›
Our Shadow Self is our neglected inner child. And our greatest opportunity for building strength comes from the work of healing our woundedness. The shadow is where our pain hides, waiting for the light of our attention. It lies beneath the distractions of workaholism and comparison and bravado.What are your shadow beliefs? ›
A term originally coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, and later adopted by thought leaders such as Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and Debbie Ford, a shadow belief is an unconscious limiting belief that influences our entire lives – telling us what we can and cannot do and drives all of our behaviors.
Generally, there are three types of shadowing: natural (no-interference) – where the design researcher only observes the research subject for a set period without interference; controlled – where the researcher designs a task and observes it being carried out; and participatory – where the researcher performs the ...What are shadow side behaviors? ›
Shadow Behavior is simply a negative – and often automatic, unintentional and unconscious – response to events, people and situations. Different people exhibit different Shadow Behaviors. You may act defensively, resist change, manipulate others or act aggressively.What abilities does the shadow have? ›
Expert detective. Skilled marksman and hand-to-hand combatant. Master of disguise and stealth.What is the shadow manipulation power called? ›
|Ability To||Psychically generate and manipulate darkness and shadow|
From the traditional symbols of light and darkness, the shadow emerges as the embodiment of the dark side of human nature. In many works of fantasy, the choice of a character to act out of selfishness, greed, or arrogance often gives birth to the physical presence of a shadow.What does the human shadow symbolize? ›
A shadow person (also known as a shadow figure or black mass) is the perception of a patch of shadow as a living, humanoid figure, sometimes interpreted as the presence of a spirit or other entity by believers in the paranormal or supernatural.What are the two main characteristics of shadow? ›
- The shadow always seems to be black, regardless of the coloration of the substance or entity that casts it. ...
- It depends upon whether the flashlight (source) comprises planar parallel beams but rather spherical.
He said, “My greatest desire is that whenever my shadow falls behind me as I walk, may whatever it falls on be blessed.” “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust.What does living under your shadow mean? ›
be/live in someone's shadow Definitions and Synonyms
phrase. DEFINITIONS1. to feel or seem unsuccessful in comparison to someone who is very successful. He's always lived in the shadow of his brother.
Answer: Answer: The correct one is Walks. "A person's shadow always walks beside him, no matter what".
The tilt of the Earth's axis affects the length of our shadows. During the summer, our location is tilted towards the Sun, so our midday shadows are very short. During the winter, our location is tilted away from the Sun, so our midday shadows are longer.What personality type is the demon? ›
What 16 personality type is Demon? Based on his personality traits, [Demon] from [Silver Fang Legend Weed] could be classified as an ISTJ (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) personality type. This is seen in his practical approach to problem-solving, attention to details, and his loyalty to his pack.What is my trickster function? ›
The trickster is like the older brother of the tertiary function, but an older brother who protects the younger brother through sly jokes, malicious pranks, teasing, and breaking rules that the tertiary would never break.Where is trauma stored in the body? ›
Trauma is not physically held in the muscles or bones — instead, the need to protect oneself from perceived threats is stored in the memory and emotional centers of the brain, such as the hippocampus and amygdala. This activates the body whenever a situation reminds the person of the traumatic event(s).How do you release old trauma? ›
- acknowledging your feelings.
- working through trauma.
- trying shadow work.
- making intentional movement.
- practicing stillness.
Shadow work is a process of inner alchemy in which you bring those unwanted parts to the surface to purify, heal, and integrate into yourself. Your shadow isn't something to be ashamed of or something to hate. It simply points to where you have work to do and where you gotta give yourself more love.What is the rule from the shadow? ›
The shadow rule indirectly determines the sun's altitude by observing the length of a person's shadow during the time course of a day. When the shadow on a horizontal surface in the sun is equal in length to height of the person casting the shadow, then the altitude of the sun above the horizon is 45 degrees.Does shadow mean the dark side of the personality? ›
The traits deemed as unpleasant or inappropriate tend to get hidden away. This dark side of the personality is known in psychoanalytical theory as the “shadow.” Whether you know it's there or not, it can influence your life in a number of ways.What does Carl Jung say about the shadow? ›
Jung wrote: “The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one's own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is.”Can your shadow self be positive? ›
Yes, the shadow self can be positive. In fact, it contains many aspects of ourselves that we consider to be positive, such as our creativity, intuition, and sexuality. What is this? It's only when these qualities are repressed or denied that they become negative or shadowy.
What is it? The 'dark side' is the part of the self that lies hidden in the shadows of our personality. We are often surprised to learn that it exists and it is usually a part of ourselves that we would rather deny – a sort of motived forgetting.Where did the shadow self come from? ›
The idea of the shadow self was first conceived by Carl Jung, a 20th-century psychologist from Switzerland. In his field of psychology, often referred to as Jungian psychology, the word 'shadow' refers to hidden parts of our being.Is shadow a good person? ›
Despite Shadow being considered neutral in terms of alignment, he is considered an anti-hero by the most part with his overall motivation, which is dedicating his life to protecting mankind. He has also been selfless and altruistic, such as nearly giving his life at the end of Sonic Adventure 2 to save Earth.What triggers the shadow self? ›
A person's shadow self may appear when they are triggered, such as in certain situations that arise in relationships or when experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression.What does it mean to be a shadow of yourself? ›
A person, group, or thing that has become weaker in physical or mental capacities or in power or authority. For example, After that long battle with the flu, he was just a shadow of his old self, or This new administration is but a shadow of itself, or The revised constitution is a shadow of its former self.What is your shadow self in astrology? ›
A shadow self encompasses all parts of your personality and identity that you don't want to identify with and admit to having. It's the parts of ourselves that bring up feelings of guilt, shame, anger and jealousy.What three things are needed to form shadow? ›
- A source of light.
- An opaque object whose shadow has to be formed.
- A screen on which shadow is to be formed.
In the print adventures, The Shadow is Kent Allard, although his real name is not revealed until The Shadow Unmasks (1937). Early stories explain he was once a famed aviator who fought for the French during World War I, known by the alias the "Black Eagle" according to one character in The Shadow's Shadow (1933).What are the three things to a shadow to form? ›
- There should be a source of light.
- An opaque object.
- A screen.
- The opaque object is placed between the source of light and the screen.
The expression to be afraid of one's own shadow describes a person who is very timorous and frightened of everything. 1 Afraid of Your Own Shadow Meaning.
The shadow appears when our dominant functions are having a hard time solving a problem or coping with stress. Depending on how it expresses, your shadow might feel like the complete opposite of your “normal” self, or like a critical parent, trickster, or even demon.