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Shadow Work - Tools to support you while doing shadow work

Updated: Mar 26

What is Shadow work?

Shadow work is the process of discovering parts of yourself that you haven’t been aware of and assimilating them into your persona. It’s unpacking past traumas, limiting beliefs and in some cases generational trauma; learning to accept them and assimilate the good and release the bad. It’s the process of healing and growing. In the end you have increased self-awareness, the acceptance of your emotions, develop resilience, improve relationships, release repressed memories, establish healthy boundaries, decrease self-sabotage, and increase self-respect and compassion for ourselves and others. 

While you are doing shadow work, you need tools to support you. Those tools are many and varied. It's important to use as many as you can that feel good. Start with one, add another, rotate them. What makes you feel supported today may not work tomorrow but it might work next week!

Shadow work is often the beginning of your ascension. The expansion of your consciousness, your awakening to understanding your connection to your spirit self, to your creator and the spirit within all living things.

In the physical world shadow work can help you:

  1. Build healthy self esteem

  2. Heal your relationships

  3. Create the pathway for the next generations

  4. Help you set up healthy boundaries

  5. Discover your authentic self

  6. Live a life with more joy and appreciation

The spiritual side of shadow work can help you:

  1. Transcend karma

  2. Release karmic bonds that are stifling both you and the person you are bonded to

  3. Heal generational trauma

  4. Build a greater relationship with your spiritual self

  5. Deepen your connection with you creator 

  6. Experience a deep connection to every living being in this physical world. 

Shadow work is often the beginning of your ascension. The expansion of your consciousness, your awakening to understanding your connection to your spirit self, to your creator and the spirit within all living things.

tools for support while you do shadow work
Healing the shadow self. Tools for supporting you as you do shadow work

How do I know I need shadow work?

We may see the unseen shadow part of ourselves operating in our lives when we:

  1. Self-sabotage: Seemingly do everything right but don’t get anywhere. We may feel stuck or stagnant  -  this can be to the point of desperation, anxiety and hopelessness.

  2. Toxic Patterns: You find yourself triggered by the same things over and over. 

  3. Codependency: Relationships don’t seem to work out. They end the same way, they may remain unfulfilling or you see uncomfortable or unhealthy patterns in all or many of your relationships. 

  4. Judgment: Complaining about the same things year after year, judging others without compassion. 

  5. Projection:  Blaming others for their bad behavior. You may accuse others of the very same bad behavior you yourself possess or are insecure about. 

  6. Anger or Rage: Display a quick temper or become disproportionately angry or aggressive

  7. Seeking: Searching for answers to questions which you aren’t even aware that you are asking. You know you could be doing better but you’re not. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you're doing wrong or what you’re not doing but you want to figure it out. 

How do I come to shadow work?

Shadow work can come to us because the emotions we’ve been repressing become too big to hide any longer. If we keep squeezing down the emotions, eventually the pressure creates cracks in the vulnerable areas of our being and it starts leaking out in unacceptable and sometimes harmful ways just as I’ve listed above, including addictions and codependency.

  1. We may knowingly or unknowingly seek out the revelation of our shadows, searching for answers and by questioning how to make our lives better through

  2. Journaling

  3. Therapy

  4. Psychic readings

  5. Asking for healing

  6. Shadow work can sneak up on you

  7. You may be overwhelmed by emotions like anxiety and depression

  8. Memories of traumatic events may be invading your thoughts

  9. A difficult or traumatic event can trigger the torrent of emotions built up over the long period of time you’ve been trying to hide them. 

When healing starts, it usually doesn't feel good

Sometimes, without realizing that you are actually healing past trauma, you may find that you are prone to weepy outbursts, heightening anxiety, sometimes panic attacks, and or the need to self isolate and recharge. Sometimes you experience all of those in the span of a few hours. This all encompassing rollercoaster of emotions can leave us feeling raw and desperate for someone or something to end the pain. We may think, how can all this pain be healing? It's scary and confusing to allow the feelings and move through them because it feels like it will never end. It is getting to the other side of them that is the healing. Those emotions need to be experienced and integrated. That's what healing is. And there aetools to support you while doing shadow work

I felt so crazy with the range of emotions I felt on a daily basis; my life was in shambles: I had no relationship with my family (I just couldn’t talk to anyone), no real intimate relationships, work was a struggle to just show up and after a year of being deeply depressed with thoughts of suicide, I went to a therapist. Without ever hearing about shadow work, I had a deep, strong desire to make myself better. I really went to find out if I had a diagnosable condition like bipolar disorder. I had generalized anxiety disorder. 

There isn't a magic wand for healing anything especially during shadow work. I had to do the work myself. I had to find a way that would work for me. Because there isn't a magic wand or pill to make it stop. You have to actively engage in the process of sitting with the emotions, finding acceptance for what was and is.

Reaching out to others for help

You may try to connect with anyone who will listen. Anyone who seems to lend a sympathetic ear. Sometimes a friend or relative asks how you're doing and you hope they can help, so you talk about what you're going through. A friendly neighbor stops to chat, trying to get to know you a little better. You can't help it, and open up and talk about your emotions. fears and pain. It can be any person who opens a dialogue with you who seems willing to talk about matters beyond the weather.  

When you start talking about what you're going through -  the fear, the emotions - sometimes you reveal the issue itself. It may feel good to talk about it, although you may not receive the kind of help you're searching for. The responses you get may range from compassionate listening with an occasional “hmm, yes, I see.” To the offering of helpful guidance “have you talked to someone about this?” To nodding and smiling and "oh, just leave it in the past and move on". 

The worst advice I got when healing shadows: “Leave it in the past”

Even though this is the whole point of what you're trying to do, the advice “oh, just leave it in the past and move on” was the most triggering for me. It sent me deeper into the abyss, churning up the idea that there is something truly, deeply wrong with me that I can't just move past it. I would leave it in the past if I could!! I wished I could just chalk it up to experience! The shame evoking response made me feel inadequate. It led to embarrassment and humiliation on top of the wide range of emotions I already randomly experienced throughout the day. The crazy feelings just wouldn't stop coming up. How do I leave the past behind and move on? Eventually, I stopped talking to people and withdrew. 

My first shadow work experience healing deep trauma

When the first deep trauma healing occurred for me (yes it happened more than once but, each time it was easier and easier as the pain wasn't as deep) I had two friends who helped pull me through the first shadow exploration.

I had the desperate need to find anyone to talk to, to listen to me. Many were polite, maybe I misread some intentions, and some may have had no idea what they were getting into when they asked me how I was doing! 

It was in this process of talking to anyone and everyone that I discovered two friends who would be willing to listen. They were excellent listeners simply because they just cared about me. When I withdrew, they just kept reaching out to see how I was because I stopped calling. They were persistent, even when I didn't answer their calls, they kept trying. 

Soon I came around and reached back out to them. One friend would offer their own experiences as a guide to follow, and the other just listened as best they could and talked about other things and made me laugh. They made it clear to me it was not a burden for them to listen. They only wanted to be there the best they could for me and were willing to meet me wherever I was at the moment we were talking. They helped enormously as I did the work.

There isn't a magic wand for healing anything especially during shadow work

I had to do the work myself. I had to find a way that would work for me. Because there isn't a magic wand or pill to make it stop. You have to actively engage in the process of sitting with the emotions, finding acceptance for what was and is. Continue to find your way to forgiveness and then, healing happens. Getting through it, within each stage, each step, takes time and effort. And that supportive someone makes a difference. 

I thought I had a mood disorder 

During that first year I found a therapist. I went because I thought I had a diagnosable disorder like bipolar disorder. I thought “why else would I go through such a dramatic cycle of emotions?”

I had a therapist in the past but it really wasn't helpful. I'm not sure if we weren't a good fit or if I just wasn't ready. Maybe that therapist didn't know what to do with me. In any event, when I was deep into the first round of shadow healing I found a therapist. At that time I was already aware of events from my life that I needed to understand differently and I had the driving need to find out if I was bipolar. If that was true I thought, at least there was medication that might help. 

The therapist listened patiently through many sessions, offered insights into my particular situation and finally told me I was not bipolar. I was healing from the traumatic events I had experienced. Ah, relief! There really wasn't any mood disorder.  Then a feeling of deeper despair washed over me. How was I going to ever be able to stop crying? Was I just not normal - was this who I was? Or was this what early stages of healing looked like?


I turned to psychological and spiritual self-help books. I read anything that hit home. And I kept talking to my two friends who listened. The books were enormously helpful as they gave me a framework for understanding what was happening and tools to work with. 

A therapist who shared my spiritual outlook

Eventually I did find another therapist with whom I could do the real work of lighting up the shadows, of digging up the buried events and accompanying emotions. Being able to see what I thought were normal events were actually not healthy or normal, helped me understand that I actually had experienced traumatic events. My therapist was also on the same page as I was spiritually. They believed as I did -  was not religious but spiritual. As an astrologer, and a therapist we spoke the same spiritual language. They understood when I talked about the spirits I saw and connected with. That we had a shared spiritual outlook made a huge difference for me. I didn't have to keep silent on matters that were part of who I was.

Don't beat yourself up during shadow work. It's helpful for you to remember to forgive yourself when what you're doing doesn't feel like it's working. If you feel you've placed your confidence in the wrong person, recognize not everyone can give us what we need. If you follow good advice and it doesn't work, it doesn't mean you did it wrong, it just wasn't what you needed at that moment. Give yourself a break if you're frustrated that you're not feeling wonderful yet. It takes time, and you will be feeling better. 

Conversations with Source/God/Creator during exploration of your shadow self

While I talked about spirit guides, I didn't communicate with them back then. I felt so disconnected from Source, I felt unseen, unheard and unworthy of God's attention and to that end, I just didn’t believe my guides or angels cared about me. My perception of my guides was that they were there, just there. I later discovered they are there and really can help! I recommend building a connection to Source. Start a dialogue. 

Because I felt so unworthy, I'd beg God for help - and I didn't feel like I got any support in exchange for my prayers. I'd say “Please God, help me!”  Until I learned to talk to my guides and angels as though they were my best friends. 

Learn to construct a positive prayer.

Start with something simple like “Thank you Angels, for reminding me of your presence. I'm ready to feel you.” to help you establish a connection. 

Thank you for supporting me through this transition, I feel so safe knowing you are with me.” 

The three components of a prayer are:

1. Gratitude - a simple thank you

2. Stating what you want - state it clearly  

3. Confirm that they are with you - what it feels like and acknowledge their presence.

An example of a very constructive way to pray

“Thank you Guides for helping me to release all fears that hold me back. Freedom feels so good. I feel so safe with you.” 

  1. "Thank you" places you in gratitude. We usually say thank you after we receive something. This is a positive affirmation of having received what you are about to ask for. 

  2. "for helping me to release all fears that hold me back." Tell them what you want. 

  3. "Freedom feels so good, I feel so safe with you." Tell yourself how it feels to have what you are asking for and acknowledge the presence of your guides and angels.

Don't beat yourself up during shadow work

It's helpful for you to remember to forgive yourself when what you're doing doesn't feel like it's working. If you feel you've placed your confidence in the wrong person, recognize not everyone can give us what we need. If you follow good advice and it doesn't work, it doesn't mean you did it wrong, it just wasn't what you needed at that moment. Give yourself a break if you're frustrated that you're not feeling wonderful yet. It takes time, and you will be feeling better. 

It's a unique combination of healing tools to support you when doing shadow work. 

I learned that “getting over it and letting the past be in the past” is a process. It's not a magic wand, or a pill, it's a process. No one process, person or thing will do it.  

There are a combination of healing tools to help you move through the painful experience of emotions helping you integrate. The combination of tools to use is unique to you, try them. 

For support in this step by step process of healing from trauma, I'm sharing modalities or tools for which helped me during the healing process. I utilized almost all of these to navigate the wild range of emotions at different times. This allowed me to quiet the trauma response of anxiety, depression and the unstable feelings and work my way through the healing. 

I still use them at different points today because sometimes, the journey to healing is more than a moment in time but a lifelong process. Find a combination that works for you. It may be different day to day or week to week. Implement one or more daily and do your best to keep going forward. 

The greatest tools I found tools to support you while doing shadow work

 While this list has helped me and some friends and clients, this is by no means a definitive list. Nor is meant to be taken as professional advice. Feel inspired but seek out a professional counselor for yourself. 

  • A sympathetic listener

  • A good therapist 

  • Talk therapy

  • CBT

  • EMDR

  • Somatic therapy

  • Medication

  • Meditation

  • Energy healing

  • Yoga

  • Reiki

  • IET 

  • Polarity therapy

  • Spiritual support/Law of Attraction support

  • Journaling 

  • Creative outlets

  • Writing

  • Singing

  • Dancing

  • Art

A sympathetic listener while healing

A friend, loved one or another person can support you while healing. Finding a friend to listen to us, to meet us wherever we are is enormously helpful. They can offer their hand when we are sinking into the perspective that we will never pull out of this darkness. They can just be loving, allowing us to feel we are still worthy even when we feel broken. They can share their experiences.  Do make sure they are able to say no when they need to. When we feel desperate we can unknowingly pull another down. Check in with them, make sure they are ready to listen and their needs are being met. It can be really helpful for you to be the listener as well. Being of service is a great healer!

A therapist

  • Talk therapy or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, but it's specially adapted for people who feel emotions very intensely. They help to identify the issues and understand the emotions coming up. It's freeing to be able to talk about what's happening and what you're feeling with a professional who can guide you through it and make sense of it. 

  • EMDR  (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  A psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.

  • CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) is a structured, goal-oriented type of talk therapy. It can help you manage. 

  • Somatic therapy explores how the body retains and expresses deeply painful experiences. Tailored to the individual the therapist applies mind-body healing to aid with trauma recovery. It may include one or all of the methods listed here.

Medication creates a space of wellness allowing for healing 

Medicine isn't always right for everyone. But it may be worth looking at with the right support. It can help you find relief from the pain, hurt or anxiety so you can do the work. Find a qualified practitioner, psychiatrist or other professional to support you while exploring this option. I completely recommend being in therapy or under the care of a psychiatrist who understands the medication and with whom you can talk about your experiences.

Medication can help break the cycle of emotions. If you're stuck in the cycle of fight or flight (which many with PTSD or CPTSD experience) the right medicine or combination of medicines can create just enough relief for you to get out of that cycle so you can effectively do the work.  Remembering it isn't the cure, but it can be a valuable tool. 

A friend of mine was adamantly against medication but opened to it when she found the depths of emotions too overwhelming to manage. She went on just enough to "provide a raincoat" so she still felt the emotions but wasn't lostin the torrent of emotions. She felt this would allow her to feel the emotions so she could actively participate in the healing. She tried several before she found one that worked for her successfully.

Meditation and healing 

Meditation has a profoundly positive impact on our bodies and minds. Immediately, blood pressure is lowered, stress reduced, emotions regulate, immune system is strengthened, mood improves and more. 

Meditation is sitting, engaging in deep breaths, following the breath and allowing thoughts to arise and letting them go. You can't stop thinking, of course, but you can choose what to think about and when and meditation is training your brain in this. In a heightened state of anxiety and emotions it may not be easy to do but so worth reaching for. It will help you turn your thoughts from what was to what you want to create. It teaches you to respond rather than react. Helping you let go of those knee-jerk responses to triggering situations and find the presence of mind to move through. 

Adding prayer to your meditation process is like adding steroids to it. Call in your guides or angels or your creator. Construct a positive prayer, ask. Then sit within this relationship you've opened up with your source. Sit, and soak up their energy. You may feel their presence, you may see images, feel things, it's all good. Soak it up.

While experiencing the range of wild emotions, I just couldn't do a mindfulness meditation for the recommended 20 or 30 minutes. Allowing thoughts to come up and not latch onto them was seemingly impossible. A short mindfulness meditation was what I could do. 5 or 10 minutes but by no means could I do it every day. I found when I could do it, the resulting calm would last a little bit longer each time. 

Focused meditation

I was able to meditate longer by focusing the meditation on something I wanted. Release fear, end toxic patterns, find forgiveness, connect with love.

What meditation does

Among the immediate benefits of meditation like lower blood pressure, general well being; meditation trains your brain to understand that you choose what to think about and when. 

In the long term, meditation continues to help regulate emotions, lead to new perspectives, increased self awareness, clarity, better sleep and patience. Over time, meditation is life changing.

Adding prayer before meditation

Adding prayer to your meditation process is like adding steroids to it. Call in your guides or angels or your creator. Construct a positive prayer, ask. Then sit within this relationship you've opened up with your source. Sit, and soak up their energy. You may feel their presence, you may see images, feel things, it's all good. Soak it up.

Meditation has a cumulative effect

Recently I learned that it takes over 400 repetitions for the brain to make a new connection just to start a new pathway of response. That helped me understand why meditation has a cumulative effect over longer periods of time. 

Keep trying to meditate. Start with 1 minute a day. Set aside the minute every day and show up. Even if it isn't perfect, if you fidget or your mind wanders. Sit, breathe, and try to focus. Show up for it every day.  Before you sip your coffee, or before you leave home in the morning or before you close your eyes at night. 1 minute every day brings you 30 minutes every month. That's spectacular! The good that comes from those 30 minutes of meditation piles up. 

You can try what I did, set aside the time everyday for 30 days. If you miss a day or a week, or two weeks, it's okay - just start again and keep going until you mark off 30 days straight. I did that and discovered that I was changed, my life was changing. I realized with all the stops and starts I had accumulated 5 months of meditation! I kept going.

My experience with medication

During that time we had a loved one staying with us who had severe emotional problems. He and his dad had a codependent relationship and it had a negative effect on all of us. Although it had been more than a decade since that first shadow dive, the anxiety and depression I was experiencing was overwhelming. I went on an anti-anxiety medication and was delighted with the results. It was so much easier to manage the situation and my emotions. It was during this time of lesser anxiety that I was able to establish a meditation routine. About two years into the course of medication, I discovered the pill bottle in my car. I realized I hadn't taken the medication in more than a week and I had no ill effects and did not feel any different for not taking them. It was the steady practice of meditation and focusing on my inner well being that did it.

Spiritual healing

Employing alternative or spiritual healing modalities can be of great support. 

  1. Chakra work for healing 

  2. Massage for healing

  3. Acupuncture for healing

  4. Yoga for healing 

  5. Reiki healing

  6. IET (Integrated Energetic Therapy) for healing 

  7. Polarity therapy

  8. Spiritual support or Law of Attraction guidance while healing

Books that helped me while healing to understand Law of Attraction and make changes

I found books like “Manifest Your Destiny” by Wayne Dyer, “Ask and it's Given” by Abraham Hicks and “Break the Habit of Being You” by Dr. Joe Dispenza very helpful. 

Whether it's books, or teachers like Wayne Dyer, Joe Dispenza, Abraham Hicks, Ekhardt Tolle or Deepak Chopra (find one you vibe with) and let them help you vibe your way forward. 


Creative outlets for healing 

Creative outlets like dancing, art, singing are wonderful ways to connect with emotions, express them and work through them. 

ChakraDance combines spiritual support, healing energies, creative expression and movement to heal

Moving meditation! A dear friend of mine who could not sit very long or frequently to meditate, discovered ChakraDance. A dancing meditation, diving into each chakra and calling in Angelic and or Goddess energy to facilitate healing. At the end of some of the dances the individual is guided to draw a mandala of their process.

I was drawn to it and took a class. I found it to be very helpful. I am not a dancer but found myself mesmerized by moving in meditation to a rhythmic musical frequency specifically tuned for the chakra. And personally, being a channeler, I loved being introduced to new Goddess energy for healing!

Art as a therapeutic tool for healing 

Art is always therapeutic! Make art, ugly art, pretty art, weird art. Take those ugly feelings and channel them into a creation then destroy it. Take those joyous feelings and channel them into something beautiful. Find your unique expression. 

Having sustained trauma to my body, I once made a cast of my torso and used my art to repair and heal those wounds. I made masks of my own pain and joy, my guides and angels and my sources of pain. It was helpful to move through the emotions. I have some of those masks hanging in my home today and continue to make new ones!

Writing to release emotions and create a new emotional blueprint 

Write letters to your guides, Angels or God. Talk about your concerns or your understanding of your issues - release. Depending on where you are in the journey, you might want to write your wish list -  map out a blueprint for where you want to go emotionally. Start a manifest list. Write fictional stories, your life story. Let go and express yourself through the written word. 

Journal the journey

Through it all, journal the process. At first I wrote just to expel the feelings I was experiencing. Whether it was about a specific trauma or what I generally felt and I keep a dream journal to talk to my therapist about. Those were both wonderful insights to take with me to therapy. 

When I looked back on those journals I saw the depths of pain and confusion I was in. My next round of journaling was focused more on acknowledging the progress I made and what I was reaching for. Eventually my journaling evolved into a deeper understanding of myself, awareness of who I am.  It helped me find forgiveness for mistakes I believed I made (and others) and helped me let go of situations from my past to allow the healing. When I was through the worst of the first dive into my shadow self, in a little ritual with a friend around a small bonfire, I burned those journals. It was freeing me, releasing the torment and pain forever. 

The journey to healing is as unique as you are

The journey of healing is as unique as there are people. Employ one or more of the tools listed here to support you in your healing and search for more. Be open to others not listed here. I can’t recommend any one of the above mentioned healing tools for you - but I can say they have all contributed a piece of healing for me. 

If you've used any of the tools mentioned here or discovered others that helped, please reach out to me and let me know your experience! 

Please note: if you're having thoughts or feelings of suicide please find support  - you can call 988 from your cell phone to connect with a local suicide hotline. 

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