VISTA Breathing Room

Doing Shadow Work to

Find Your Authentic Self

The parts of yourself that you struggle with are keys to your wholeness

Are there parts of your personality that you’d prefer to eliminate? Maybe you’ve even learned to deny that they exist? According to the psychotherapist Carl Jung, these parts make up your “shadow,” and embracing them is vital for becoming your authentic self. Shadow work is the practice of recognizing and accepting these parts so that they don’t drive you subconsciously. For example, what if you had a jealous streak that you worked to accept rather than repress? Maybe you would become more aware of when you are being overly protective of your relationships. And perhaps you’d also learn to give yourself compassion over your inherent need for security.

To start doing shadow work, try:

1. Noticing your triggers

Are there particular people or behaviours that really irk you and arouse your judgement? So often, we are angered when we see our “shadow selves” in other people. After all, if we don’t accept these qualities in ourselves, why would we accept them in others?

2. Practice non-judgement and curiosity

To do shadow work, you must learn to explore yourself without judgment, using curiosity as a tool for learning. When you notice yourself becoming impatient with yourself, slow down and ask yourself questions. Be compassionate with yourself. Create a space within yourself to deeply feel the shadow emotion without putting yourself down.

3. Shadow journaling

Writing down your experiences creates a powerful opportunity for deeper reflection. When you observe emotions or behaviours in yourself that might be connected to your shadow, take time to write. Try to describe your emotions in greater detail—for example, instead of just “angry,” you might be feeling “indignation,” “repulsion,” “disappointment,” or “offended.”