There are a few ways you can perform shadow work, some of which include art, meditation, and journaling.
Shadow Work through Art
There are a variety of ways you can perform shadow work through art. I will go in-depth on how to do this in a future post.
For now, here are three ways to get in touch with your unconscious shadow.
Making art can reveal inner truths.
All artists seek to make art out of the unconscious.
The body can express what the intellect has trouble putting into words. This is why creating art in painting, dancing, etc., is one way of performing shadow work.
For example, you can start painting with no idea of what you will create. From here, the unconscious can take over.
Let your hands move as it wants, and an image is formed. This image will reveal remnants of your psyche and even your innermost truths.
Because you are giving symbolic form to your unconscious experiences.
Bright colors from art stir the unconscious mind.
The shadow is much more easily stimulated when you see vivid colors.
Even Zen cultures have noticed this and put it to use with Feng Shui.
You also want to have patterns in your room. Specifically mandalas.
Chances are, if you're reading this, you already have some sort of mandala design in your room.
Just know that mandalas are a huge part of the historical collective unconscious. It appears in many variations across people's dreams and drug trips.
Mandalas are something humans inherently have embedded deep within our psyches.
The next time you have a lingering problem in your life, go visit an art museum. Pay attention to anything in the art that gets your attention.
If you contemplate the object and its juxtaposition (thinking symbolically), it can resonate with you and actually be connected to a problem you are currently having.
Your unconscious is trying to bring something to your attention by having your project onto this specific detail in the art piece.
Shadow Work through Meditation
Understand that your body is a compulsive thing. One moment it's hungry, and you move towards food. It wants to be stimulated the next moment, so you pull out your smartphone and go on TikTok.
Meditation is refraining from all of these compulsions, including the compulsions of the mind.
Typically your thoughts enter your mind compulsively. These thought compulsions are stemmed from bodily or deep-rooted desires.
For example, using myself as an example—
When I meditate, thoughts will compulsively appear in my mind. According to my meditation journal, in moments of silence, I have ideas with two reoccurring themes:
- Thoughts where I speak to people and share my knowledge (a deep-rooted desire for attention and/or admiration)
- Thoughts where I am provoked and allow myself to get aggressive (qualities I've buried in the past and have currently found a place for expression)
These compulsions run on your fleeting, persistent, or even unconscious desires.
Meditation is the practice of seeing your compulsions and managing the underlying desires.
(The inability to sit down for twenty minutes and while giving in to your compulsion to do something else can say a lot about a person.)
Meditation is essentially putting all of your goals on hold. Desire management. And being in the moment because it can't be more than what it currently is.
Over time you learn to "reel in" your desires, so they no longer keep you in the personal hell that is your unattained expectations of self.
"Reeling in" your compulsive, desiring mind allows you to also channel it inward instead of outward.
This means you can channel your desire to do inner work. For example, making it much easier to do inner work, such as shadow work.
Remember my example from a bit earlier? It took a bit of intention to do that. Which required rechanneling my desires inward.
How to use meditation for shadow work
Here are a few counter-intuitive ways to do shadow work that might surprise you.
I'm already going to assume that you are in a quiet place, relaxed, and without distractions.
Since this website is intended to utilize shadow work as "advanced self-development," the shadow work techniques below are designed to address two of the three pillars I use for shadow work.
Taking back your PROJECTIONS
Understand that when you are triggered into loathing someone or enamored into admiring someone—
There's a very high chance that you are projecting your unowned qualities onto that person.
Don't focus on the person so much as the quality that affects you.
Imagine a person acting out the quality. Then think back to all of the times you suspect you were expressing this same quality in your own life.
Ask yourself why you demonize this quality? Why do you hate it?
(You only disown the parts of yourself that you hate and are ashamed of)
If you look into your own past deep enough, you may find the root of it.
From here, you might want to incorporate Active Imagination for Inner Child Healing.
Then start saying the following:
"Deep down, I am [quality]!"
Recite this until you feel a sensation within your body.
Understand that these sensations are evidence of your inner truths. Because the truth is sensational.
Pay attention to where you feel these sensations.
Over time as you slowly own this quality via meditation and practice, the quality will no longer trigger or be a source of admiration—
Because it's within you. You've integrated the quality back into yourself.
It no longer has to affect you for your attention.
You can learn more about the specifics of triggers and projections in the following articles:
- Projection Psychology: Shadow Defense Mechanism
- Shadow Work for Relationships (Projections, Inner Wounds, etc.)
Embracing your SADOMASOCHISM
This meditation is pretty similar to the last meditation. Except instead of focusing on a quality, we're going to focus on your current way of life.
Ask yourself what current aspects of your life do you wish to change but are seemingly stuck in?
Maybe you're tired of being poor, of never sticking to your diet, or falling for unavailable people.
Assuming you don't need professional help, these should be aspects of your life that you know you should change (for your own betterment), but you keep repeating a cycle that keeps it in your life.
For example, if you find yourself falling for people who are already taken or unavailable, then say this aloud:
"I love [pattern]!"
Having is evidence of wanting.
In this case, you have a thing for unavailable men/women.
But that's not the deepest truth!
You see, you tell yourself that you want a relationship. But the truth is that you don't.
Deep down, unconsciously, you don't.
Otherwise, you'd be able to manifest what you say you want.
This is evidence that your unconscious, or your shadow, will always overpower your conscious desires.
So how do you change these unconscious desires so you can manifest what you think you want?
You honor your shadow desires and admit the truth:
"I love [pattern]!"
It's gratitude for your current life that you give your unconscious mind the acknowledgment and closure it needs.
After genuine appreciation for who you truly are, you can then have your unconscious mind come into agreement with your conscious desires and manifest something different.
You can learn more about your sado masochistic nature and accept all sensations in this article.
Active Imagination for EMOTIONAL MATURITY
You have all the answers you need within yourself.
But sometimes there's too much noise for us to know the next direction on our life's journey.
My preferred method for self-consultation is "active imagination" meditation.
Only because it's very easy to put out your intent and for your mind to organize itself and retrieve an answer.
All you have to do is get relaxed. Close your eyes if you can think in images. If not, you can keep your eyes open and focus on your "inner speech."
State your intention aloud.
If you are a visual thinker, allow yourself to conjure up an image of a being that can reply to you. First, let your mind give it a form, then let it speak on its own accord.
This is your unconscious attempt to bring you the answer you are looking for.
(Remember earlier on when I mentioned your compulsive desires are also a source of your thoughts? Right now, you are channeling your desire inward and leveraging it.)
If you aren't a visual thinker, then you will rely on an "inner voice" to give you a response.
Expect to feel sensations and even exhaustion after you've conversed with your psyche. By then, you will have an answer to your question.
This is a very effective way of consulting yourself. However, this works best with those who have built up an intuition.
A quick note:
You can actually organize and process your thoughts and emotions by talking to another person instead.
But in case you hadn't noticed from the previous two sections—
The subject matter tends to get really personal.
When it comes down to it, shadow work works as a confessional. So it's not uncommon that you will reveal parts of yourself that you wouldn't want other people to know about.
What you learn from your inner work is very personal, and it will bring the worst (and best) parts up to the surface of your conscious mind.
Shadow Work Journaling
Shadow work journaling is a reflective exercise where you uncover the most profound truths about yourself.
Most people do this with the help of shadow work prompts. Which gives you a place to start with your self-inquiry.
How to Shadow Work Journal for Beginners
The purpose of these journal prompts is to stir your unconscious mind until you feel sensations in your body.
For example, I get a nice feeling in my arms and legs when I do shadow work. Sometimes I'll even get a feeling of 'centeredness' in the pit of my stomach.
These bodily sensations typically mean that you've appeased the unconscious.
However, it's not all smiles and good feelings.
People new to shadow work can get emotional since they haven't come to terms with their other half.
If you get emotional or have any sensations, be sure to feel them through.
Go deeper by speaking aloud for your unconscious mind to hear, then pay attention for a 'response.'
Or start writing to your shadow. Then after a moment, write a response you think your shadow would give.
Keep in mind that your unconscious shadow can only reach you indirectly, so you have to trust yourself that you can tap into it.
For an overview of shadow work and integration, you can read our guide here.
That being said—
Try to reach the deepest truths about yourself, even if it goes against what you'd typically expect.
Here are prompts specifically designed to get you in touch with your shadow:
Shadow Work Journal Prompts for Beginners
- When you make mistakes, can you move on from them, or do you punish yourself? How do you punish yourself?
- What is the worst thing you have ever done to yourself? How can you make up for it with self-love?
- Do you find yourself putting a wall up when confronted with certain discussions? What are they, and why?
- What negative beliefs do I have about myself? Are they true?
- Do you stay silent so as not to experience rejection? Where do you think this started?
- What is your most vivid memory of being disappointed as a child?
- What lies are you telling yourself at this time? How can you face this denial and be real with yourself?
- Do you enforce boundaries with others, or do you let people cross lines? How does this make you feel?
Did you enjoy these Shadow Work Prompts? Check out the rest in our Shadow Work Journal!
The Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Shadow Work Prompts contains prompts on relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, etc.
Click here to get your Shadow Work Journal Today!
Here are some resources I recommend:
Shadow Work Course is based on my in-depth research and personal experiences with shadow work, projection, sadomasochism, inner child healing, triggers, and all things shadow. This course is updated every year and gets new content at no additional cost. Learn more here.
A Light Among Shadows is a guide on self-love and being. This short course goes over consciousness, spirituality, philosophy, and makes sense of why people are the way they are. Recommended for people dealing with resentment and self-hate. Learn more here.
Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Shadow Work Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.
Manifestation Manual: The Path of Least Resistance bundle teaches you some holistic and systems thinking along with how to mend your inner child wounds so you can align with your higher self and move forward in life. This includes 20 video clips as a free bonus.
Shadow Play (or “DsR”) is a small sister website that goes over “sensual” shadow work through my BDSM experiences. If you are 18+ and are interested, go here.