How To Start Shadow Work | Integrate Your Shadow

How Do I Integrate My Shadow?

Are you wondering: “How do I integrate my shadow?”

Congratulations! Starting shadow work is a wonderful goal. We all need a little shadow integration to be our best.

Human beings are a complicated bunch. We all contain good and bad, light and dark.

That means that even as happy and spiritually-inclined as you might be, there’s also another side of you.

Your shadow side: that part that rules us subconsciously, that drives us to act in ways we’re not so proud of, those things about ourselves that we’d rather not see.

The Shadow Self represents those unconscious behaviors, desires, and motivations that we all have. Our shadow self controls a lot of what we do and how we operate in the world.

We all have a dark side. We all have thoughts and emotions that we’re not so proud of.

And they’re each an important part of us.

Shadow work is the path of the heart warrior

~ Carl Jung

Typically, when we act from our shadow side, we’re usually reacting. It seems like we’re not actually in charge for that split-second because it’s our subconscious mind taking over. So unless you do this shadow work, you’re doomed to let this part of you control you eventually.

However, these instinctual actions are not intentional and very often not representative of us! Acting out can lead to even more stress. Not only are we hiding away how we actually feel but now we’re also defending our actions. It’s not a good place to be.

Embracing our shadow side involves taking a brutally honest look within and accepting what we find. But doing shadow work will always lead us to a happier state of being. Learning how to integrate our shadow is challenging work but ultimately allows us to lead a more fulfilling life.

So if you’re ready to do some work and take a deeper look at yourself, here are some suggestions to get you started.

What is the Shadow / Shadow Self?

First off, let’s define what our shadow/shadow self is. The shadow the part of us that we have hidden away, hold shame about, or are simply not aware of.

However, there’s no need to feel shame about your shadow! We all have a shadow side and learning how to understand yours will make you feel more empowered and confident.

What Is Shadow Work?

The term “shadow work” was originally coined by Carl Jung. It was all about learning to see and heal those hidden parts of us, especially the parts that are responsible for our negative or toxic patterns.

Shadow work is the process of making the unconscious conscious, shining a light on those parts of us we’d rather not talk about.

Shadow work is also a common practice in the witchcraft/magick community. The purpose of uncovering more of your subconscious mind is still the same. However, the approach is a little different, involving spell work, etc.

What Is Shadow Integration?

Shadow integration is another term for shadow work: the process of healing your shadow. It’s about seeing those hidden parts of us and accepting them, instead of fighting them or hiding them. It’s also about releasing shame and accepting yourself, as the imperfect human that you are.

While shadow work / shadow integration can be challenging, the process ultimately leads to more confidence, self-acceptance, and wholeness.

Signs You Need Shadow Work

  • You have reactions or overreactions that you don’t quite understand
  • You spend a lot of time trying to be someone else or fit in (& therefore avoiding who you really are)
  • You have repeating patterns, especially negative ones
  • You project your own insecurities/fears/beliefs onto others
  • You feel stuck or can’t quite figure out how to move forward

How Do I Integrate My Shadow? | How To Start Shadow Work

Now that you understand more about what shadow work is, let’s begin the process of integrating your shadow:

Start Shadow Work Step #1:

Find The Shadow

Begin by simply trying to figure out where your shadows lie. Look for tell-tale signs of discomfort like guilt or embarrassment or things that you try to avoid. When you really don’t want to address something, you’re probably on the right track!

We all have things that we avoid or put off dealing with. Sometimes they’re things we’re fascinated with but would never tell anyone about. All of these things have a lot to say about us. Do you avoid confrontation with a loved one? Talking about money? Being honest about some area of your life? Lean in and see what you and learn. Look for patterns or similarities in various situations in your life. (Some might have existed for years or even decades!)

You might also find clues to your shadow in other people. Our world is a mirror of us and the things we notice about it are often present within ourselves. So when something about someone else really bothers you, you’re likely to just be focusing on an aspect of yourself. Our own harsh judgments are clues to understanding ourselves.

Start Shadow Work Step #2:

Aim For Understanding

Instead of hiding away our secret feelings, it’s time to find their root cause. The shadow self is typically formed from the things we repress. Whether consciously or subconsciously, somewhere along the way you’ve been taught that some aspects of yourself are bad or undesirable. So you learned how to get really good at hiding them away.

But those aspects of you are still there. They’re real and important. Hiding them away is just a band-aid solution. You deserve to express your true desires and emotions. It takes courage to confront those things in ourselves that we’d rather not see but it’s the only way to gain control over them.

If someone else has triggered you, take a step back and look inside yourself. We might be outwardly condemning the way someone else behaves but we might actually be jealous of that person’s verve or confidence. Sometimes other people acting in ways we only wish we could act makes us go a little crazy! So try to recognize if this dynamic is happening within you.

Start Shadow Work Step #3:

Release Your Guilt

Guilt has a powerful hold over us that is mostly unnecessary. All those “should” thoughts (“I should do/feel/think/be something else”) arise from guilt. Those “should” feelings were imposed on us by society. But guilt is not natural; it’s learned!

We carry around the heavy weight of guilt rather than express what we really want to express or do what we really want to do. And most of the time guilt is much more damaging than our actual feelings! So look at your guilt. Look at your shame. Try to find where it came from. And ask yourself is that guilt really helping you? Is it serving you at all? Is it helping you lead a better life or is it making your world smaller?

Aim to remove your feelings of guilt and shame and accept yourself and all of your uniqueness. We all have dark and light aspects. Integrating the two makes the dark less scary and less likely to have any power over you.

Start Shadow Work Step #4:

Express Yourself

If there’s a safe way for you to let your shadow self out, then it’s time to explore it. Do the things you really want to do or at least try them on for size!

You may have to play with the expression to find something that is safe and healthy. If anger is part of your shadow side becoming angry or violent could be dangerous. But learning to channel that energy safely (by taking a kickboxing class, for example) can safely tame your urges.

Look to your existing creative outlets. Can you write/ draw/ dance out your emotions? Expression is the goal here (not aiming to create master works of art!). Doing something that makes you feel good is all that’s required. (You never have to show your work to anyone else. I promise!)

Start Shadow Work Step #5:

Stay Open

Working with our shadow is not a one-time-only event! It’s an ongoing process. So don’t berate yourself when these moments rise to the surface. The more loving attention you can shed on your shadow self, the less dark and scary that side of you will become.

Just know that the shadow won’t ever go away completely. We all have light and dark sides and both are meant to teach us something. You’ll be triggered over and over again during this life, and every time is an opportunity to get to know yourself more intimately.

Shadow Work Journal Prompts

Ready to take your shadow work a little deeper? Play with these journal prompts to learn even more about your shadow side!

  • What makes you the most triggered? What types of situations/topics do that for you?
  • What were your most shameful experiences? What did those things “teach” you?
  • What happened the last time you got really upset? Why do you think that was?
  • What do you judge the most in other people? And in yourself?
  • Who do you have the most jealousy/envy of? And why?
  • What do you have absolutely no patience with? Why do you think that is?
  • What mistakes do you tend to make over and over again? What do you think is keeping you stuck?
  • What do you tend to gossip about in other people? Do you see those same things in yourself?
  • Who do you admire the most & why?
  • What do you absolutely love about yourself & why?

Shadow Work Do’s & Don’ts

Shadow Work Do’s

Do trust your instincts about what you find. You are the top authority on yourself, so there’s no need to second guess yourself.

Do the work slowly, especially if you’re triggered. This is not a race so give yourself grace while you heal!

Do remember that you’re doing the best that you can at all times. Shadow work is not here to make you feel worse.

Shadow Work Don’ts

Don’t try to rush through shadow work. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Don’t try to be “done”. As you go through life, this practice will move with you. There’s always more to uncover.

Don’t act out the lower impulses of your shadow. (teaching someone a lesson, getting the last word in, etc.) Choose to act from your higher self always.

Don’t try to be perfect. That only creates more shadow, ironically! Perfection never exists, especially when it comes to your shadow!

Don’t shame yourself, no matter what happened to you. No one is perfect. You are human, just like everyone else, and you deserve love.

Learning how to integrate your shadow is an important step to leading a more aligned and fulfilled life! I hope this article helps you on your journey to self-discovery. Please remember to share it if you found it useful!

Jenn Stevens The Aligned Life

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How To Start Shadow Work | Integrate Your Shadow


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    1. You’re so welcome Kyle! ????

  1. Thank you for sharing an incredible wisdom here. This article has high resonance of truth intertwined with spiritual concepts and practical ones. This allowa the resonance to meet oeople where they are at in their Journeys quite beautifully!

    1. Awww thank you so much Suzie!! ????

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