Exactly how to do shadow work (an easy 6-step process)
Even considering years of therapy, a much-regretted stint of medication in college, hours upon hours of mindset work in my journal (affirming positive thoughts and beliefs), nothing has healed me more than shadow work.
Shadow work refers to the process of understanding (and loving) the rejected pieces of ourselves, our darkness.
This includes emotions viewed as negative like hatred, anger, jealousy, greed and neediness.
It also includes the most pained, injured parts of ourselves, the parts most vulnerable, those we wish didn’t exist and that we often pave over with facades of toughness that often end up sabotaging our happiness.
As a love-related example, think of a woman who longs for a very masculine man to love, but interacts with men from a place of masculine energy because of unhealed trauma.
Unhealed trauma increases a woman’s masculine energy because she feels she has to protect herself. She doesn’t feel safe.
In this example with love, the woman would lead from her masculine energy, therefore repelling masculine men while attracting more feminine men, (or pulling feminine energy out of a man she's already with).
Attraction requires polarity, and a masculine woman will always attract a more feminine male.
(I realize there’s a lot of gender descriptions in here that may offend some people, but that’s not my intention. I’m speaking very specifically to one type of relationship, understanding that not everyone desires that type of relationship.)
These unhealed wounds would ultimately compel this hypothetical woman to continue protecting herself or mothering the man, which results in her never receiving the kind of love she so deeply desires.
This is one example, but unhealed inner pains and the ways we have adapted in response in order to feel safe affect every area of our lives, including love and romance, work, money, friendships and health.
Another example, one common reason that people struggle to lose weight is because they are protecting themselves from past painful experiences. A sexual assault survivor may pack on pounds in a subconscious effort to feel unattractive and less targeted.
Of course sometimes people eat to avoid feeling, but I’ve often heard of people who can’t lose weight even if they’re ‘doing everything right.’
If a part of you feels unsafe in receiving the thing you most desire, your subconscious will not, under any circumstances, let yourself create it.
Science has discovered the our decisions are mostly made by our subconscious minds and rationalized by our logical minds.
This is how unconscious, unhealed pains affect our decision making, behaviors, attitudes, and ultimately our lives. This is also why shadow work is in my view non-negotiable, not only so you can feel happy, but also so you can achieve your goals.
Shadow work helps you release past pain so you can feel positive about the future in two main ways:
1. Healing requires feeling the original pain
When you were young and felt shame, fear, anger or sadness, you didn’t have the tools to process that pain.
We idolized our parents and saw them as the source of everything. When bad things happened, or we felt painful emotions, our natural response was to blame ourselves.
Unfortunately, when pain isn’t processed, it stays in your nervous system. (This is why some people cannot relax. They're constantly guarding themselves against unhealed past pain.)
I’ve heard it said that we continue re-creating similar experiences in an effort to close the loop, that is to properly process the emotion and release it.
Either way, unhealed pain causes us to spend our lives stuck in trauma responses disguised as seemingly unsolvable problems. The problems become solvable once we heal the original pain.
For example, in high school I feel very isolated after my dad and sister died. This opened the door to a very toxic friendship my senior year during which I allowed a woman to isolate me from my other friends. She eventually hurt me very deeply.
In my adult life, I often veer toward solitude. I’ve also had problems making female friends, mostly because I’ve turned into a hermit.
And I am introverted...
But not too long ago I realized that I’m continuing to act out the trauma of my youth by staying home so much. A part of me was still that teenage girl, shut inside, feeling alone and unworthy of friendships.
After doing shadow work around this, I found the courage to contact one of my old friends, and the conversation was so healing!
Healing the original pain through the shadow work processes I’m going to teach you was DEEPLY painful.
These are pains I’ve avoided for 20 years. But it was also incredibly freeing.
Aftewards, I felt weightless and connected to my worthiness in a whole new way.
I know that as things calm down with the pandemic, I will be really excited to go out and meet new people because unhealed past pains are no longer keeping a part of me stuck in the past, subconsciously replaying it.
This is one reason why talk therapy isn’t always effective. Talking about our problems doesn’t necessarily solve them.
Feeling the pain at the root of our problems is what solves them.
Exploring your inner mysteries, working to unravel them and understand yourself, is the adventure of a lifetime. Which brings me to the next reason why shadow work is so powerful —
2. The soul speaks in symbols, not logicWe often try to figure things out: ourselves, our problems, why we do or don’t do certain things. But the only time things make sense is when we look backward, after knowing the reasons why.
We must feel our way into understanding ourselves and our problems. Figuring things out leaves us at the mind level, the world of logic and reason, but the soul speaks to us through symbols and emotion.
Shadow work allows you to follow the trail of emotion to the source of your problem. This is what I'm going to teach you how to do.
After unhealed painful experiences, the resulting beliefs and behavioral patterns invade every corner of our psyches like a weed, impacting our ability to realize our desires.
The problems these pains cause can be understood symbolically, but not logically.
Look back to my example with my problems with making friends. For a long time, I worried I had trouble making friends because I was a bad person.
After healing that, I still felt nervous around new people, wondering if I was doing or saying the right thing. Deep down, I still didn’t feel worthy of friendship.
One could easily have said I had social anxiety, but that would be a symptom, and not the cause.
Even after realizing that I had problems with female friendships because I had a troubled relationship with my mother (just like troubles with male relationships typically reflect issues we have with our fathers), that awareness in itself wasn’t enough to make me feel confident around other women.
It took going back and feeling into the pain, doing the shadow work processes I teach, to understand what specific events in my life were affecting my ability to make friendships and — most importantly — to feel and heal the original pain.
After you heal things within, things outside change — fast.
Just the next night, my husband and I went to dinner with a couple, and I enjoyed making an amazing connection with a possible new friend.
There is a very targeted, powerful way of working with the shadow that I'm going to teach you.
First, why is my shadow work process so effective?
It just so happens the brain stores memory and emotion in the same place in our brain, the amygdala.
Part of the reason the painful past sticks around so long is because emotion has literally encoded it into our brains.
But this is a good thing, too.
The shadow work process I’ll teach you rides this association so you can identify (and heal) the true source of your suffering.
This is powerful because as mentioned earlier, the soul speaks to us in symbols rather than logic.
You may be experiencing a problem that’s a symbolic representation of an earlier pain that you cannot, for the life of you, ‘figure out.’
With shadow work, you don’t have to. There’s nothing to figure out, only to feel. If you can follow the trail of emotion and work with your original pain, you can heal.
During this process, you'll discover a lot about yourself. As you do shadow work, the reasons why you're experiencing suffering or roadblock after roadblock while trying to acheive your goals will become obvious.
Our addictions, bad habits and other frustrating patterns all exist on some level to keep us safe.
As you discover your inner self's reason for keeping you safe in this way, you give yourself the freedom to find that safety in other ways, freeing you from being held back by things that don't make any logical sense.
As soon as you release a past pain, you will feel so weightless and at peace. Your energy changes, how you move and hold yourself changes. What you do changes. And then your results change.
Because everything is related in the deep, symbolic recesses of our inner worlds, healing one thing often creates positive changes in unrelated areas.
For example, I've been doing a lot of shadow work on self-worth, especially related to friendships, and it's helped me own the value of my gifts more.
It’s not always this effortless of course, but the true hard work is in excavating deep in your soul and feeling very painful things. It will not be fun.
Some people avoid it, but that's no good because then you never expand beyond your current problems. You can either face your pain or allow it to control you forever. Either way it's painful, so you may as well face it head on.
Shadow work is the true work that will change your life.
Here is my signature 6-step shadow work process to heal original wounds:
As a beginning access point (the shadow work workshop gives you four different ways to enter the work), identify a difficulty you’re having that you want to work with.
1. How does it feel? Sit and breathe into that emotion.Anchoring into the present-day feeling will help you follow the trail of that feeling to its origin.
2. What word, memory or image first comes to mind?Don’t push yourself too heavily here to come up with something that feels overly meaningful. Just notice the first thing that comes up. Whatever comes up has meaning.
Sometimes multiple things show up.
In the Shadow work workshop, I tell you exactly what to do when that happens. It's important to know this because it's common to spin around in circles and never get anywhere.
3. Go into that memory or image. Connect with your inner child.Simply set the intention and energetically reach out to the essence of whatever appears in your inner awareness.
4. Allow her to speak to you and you to speak to her.A lot of people skip the step of allowing your inner child to speak to you. But I love having back and forth conversations. It’s very healing.
Here is another place where people tend to get stuck a lot and potentially churn in circles without making progress.
In the Shadow work workshop, you'll learn what those mistakes are and what to do instead.
5. Continue this dialogue until you feel a sense of completion.Follow your intuition on this! A lot of times people want specific guidance, but it’s truly different every time.
Sometimes people hit a wall here, too. They're still at the level of their inner child and don't know how to move beyond this, or how to see it differently.
In the Shadow work workshop, I give you exact guidance for moving past that roadblock to healing and transformation.
6. Sit with any residual feelings and allow them to dissolve.
(Sometimes simply feeling your feelings is enough to create healing.)
This is SO powerful. Sensitive people in particular NEED to have a daily feeling practice.
In the Shadow work workshop, you'll receive extras including a 20-minute Feeling Awareness meditation to process your emotions. I recommend doing this daily if you're processing a lot, or as needed whenever you feel emotional.
Just like you need to sweep the floors often, you also need to clear emotional debris from your being. The FA meditation is the technique I recommend to do this.
Within the workshop extras, I also share my favorite yin yoga practice to move painful emotional energy through your body, based on the chakra system. This is SO healing.
Problems you may encounter along the way:
You can definitely do shadow work on your own, but many people encounter situations they aren't sure how to navigate through.
What do you do if multiple memories pop up?
What if you can't tap into a memory at all?
What happens if you don't know what to say to your inner child, you get stuck and you don't know how to proceed?
How does the process really work? It'd be helpful to hear an example of an actual session.
The most difficult time for me is to find the entry point. Could you give some suggestions about that?
You will find the answers to all of these questions and a ton more inside the Shadow work workshop.
This workshop gives you a complete and total system to let go of the past and feel more hopeful about the future — even if you've tried other methods and they haven't worked.
This is the main work I do on myself all the time, and what helped me heal from trauma and depression to feel worthy and love myself.
It's time to let go of the past and feel more positive about the future.
The video workshop is on sale right now, so check it out!
All the love,
Founder, Soul Scroll Journals