As the founder and sole writer of aimlief, my mission is to give you all the tools you need to get unstuck in life.
That may be a guide on finding your passions, a huge list of things you can do to organize your life, or, in this case, prompts to help you heal whatever’s blocking your progress and keeping you stuck.
This time you’ll learn about a fascinating psychology theory that deals with the hidden self; those parts of you that you don’t want others to see.
So in this post, you’ll learn what shadow work is, how it can benefit you and how to get started by using shadow work journal prompts.
The reason why reading this post might be beneficial for you if you’re unsatisfied or stuck in life is that there might be some unresolved issues from your past that are stopping you from:
- taking action
- believing in yourself and trusting you can make it
- being honest with yourself
- focusing on what you want instead of pleasing others.
If you want to work on your personal development and don’t know where to start, shadow work might be exactly what you need.
What Is Shadow Work?
According to psychologist Carl Jung, we all have a “shadow self” that represents all those parts you don’t want others to see or things about yourself you don’t even want to acknowledge because you disapprove of them.
This shadow includes:
What happens is that you end up (sometimes consciously and sometimes not) hiding and repressing those parts of you.
The problem is that burying a feeling in the deepest part of your brain won’t cut it; it’ll come out eventually anyway.
And the interesting (and not at all beneficial) part of this is that the more repressed a feeling or desire is, the more likely it is to come out during “inappropriate” times.
Now, listen, you need to know that these hidden parts aren’t necessarily negative.
You may be repressing your dream of becoming an entrepreneur because you were told it’s better to keep your head down and work the way everybody else does.
Does that mean it’s wrong to want to become an entrepreneur?
Of course not.
Or maybe you’re repressing your feelings for a coworker of the same sex because you were taught those feelings are wrong or immoral.
These “hidden” parts of yourself are always there with you, unresolved unless you heal them, and they can lead to:
- limiting beliefs that block your success
- auto-destructive behavior
that eventually creates a snowball effect that permeates your decisions and your whole life.
The point of shadow work is becoming the best version of yourself by seeing the parts you like and the ones you don’t like about yourself as a whole.
Another important thing to note is that we all have a shadow.
This isn’t exclusive to people who were abused as children or went through a very traumatic event.
We all have a shadow, and we can all benefit from doing shadow work.
In Jung’s own words:
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one has always a chance to correct it. […] But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected…”
This “shadow” develops as a mechanism to protect you from harmful and overwhelming emotions related to beliefs or past trauma.
Types of Shadow Work
There are several ways in which you can do shadow work:
You can look for a therapist who specializes in shadow work or tell your therapist you’d like to try it.
However, getting therapy might be expensive, so that’s not always an option for everybody, and that’s where other types of shadow work come into play.
2. Art therapy
There are some art therapy exercises you can do for shadow work specifically.
If you like to express yourself through art and want to try this, you can either look for an art therapist or search for art therapy exercises.
3. Journaling using shadow work prompts
By definition, shadow work is about acknowledging the parts of yourself you’ve become too good at ignoring.
So it’s challenging to do shadow work on yourself and your own.
However, you can use journal prompts to guide you through the process and some tips at the end of this post that’ll help you make the most of the prompts.
24 Shadow Work Journal Prompts to Heal, Grow and Get Unstuck
Here are over 20 shadow journal prompts that’ll help you:
- know yourself better
- accept yourself
- improve your life
- let go of painful memories.
You can answer them however you want, but I recommend you follow the order in which they’re presented here.
1. What got you interested in shadow work in the first place?
Answering this prompt can give you an idea of which episodes of your past you’d like to explore first and which parts of yourself you’d like to work on.
2. Are you similar to your parents in some ways? Which one? How do you feel about that?
They can be as fantastic as they can be traumatizing.
Part of shadow work is understanding them better, seeing them in you, and forgiving them.
3. Do you tend to feel better than others or less than others?
How do you feel about yourself when surrounded by other people in different environments?
Why is that? And what do you think about it?
4. How do you feel when you think about the most hurtful thing you went through as a child?
Painful, I know.
But keeping these emotions hidden only makes them bigger and more uncomfortable.
Use this prompt to look straight through those hurtful memories and give yourself permission to feel your feelings.
5. Which parts of you do you dislike? In which moments do those parts come out?
Is there a personality trait or behavior you’d like to improve?
Are there specific situations when you behave that way?
6. What problems tend to repeat in your relationships?
Can you spot patterns in every type of relationship you have?
Is there a problem that keeps popping up with either family members, friends, love partners, or coworkers?
7. How do you react to criticism?
How do you feel when someone gives you feedback?
If you get defensive, is it because they’re overly critical and hurtful, or do you not know how to accept criticism?
8. What’s something you dislike about your parents?
And also: is there something about your parents you criticize that you’ve done too?
9. What’s a secret you wish you could share without being judged?
Is there something you wish you could tell others, but you’re too afraid of what they’d say?
What makes you think they’re going to judge you?
Is it that they’ve judged you before, or is it you’re the one being too hard on yourself?
10. What would you do if nobody could ever find out about it?
Is what other people think stopping you from doing something you want to do?
11. What’s unfair to you, and how do you react to it?
What’s “unfairness” to you?
Have you been a victim of injustice lately?
Use this prompt to explore your idea of justice and see what that tells you about your mindset.
Take this opportunity to explore the way you stand up for yourself (or not), and see if there’s room for improvement in that area.
12. What haven’t you forgiven your parents for?
Use this prompt to not only make lists of all the grudges you hold but also to move towards forgiveness.
Being mad at your parents for their mistakes is only hurting you.
Let go of resentment and take this opportunity to put painful memories down to paper and out of your heart.
13. After learning about shadow work, how would you describe your shadow?
Think about situations in which you could have reacted better or more maturely.
List some shadow parts you’ve noticed, like aggressiveness, judgment, or selfishness.
14. Do you need constant praise to value what you do?
Have you ever done things expecting others to notice and congratulate you?
How do you react if they don’t?
15. Have you ever noticed a lie you tell yourself? Which lie is it, and why do you lie to yourself about it?
Whether it’s an “I’ll start going to the gym on Monday” while being absolutely sure you won’t or setting new year’s resolutions you know will never happen.
What do you think is hiding behind those lies?
16. How do you come across to others?
Has someone told you what they first thought about you when they met you? Why or why not?
Do you think that reflects how you see yourself?
17. What do you judge others for?
Judging others have nothing to do with them and everything to do with you.
What do you tend to judge people for, and what do you think that says about you?
18. Do you tend to engage in an activity or set of activities when you’re feeling something you don’t want to feel?
What do you do when you want to distract yourself from your feelings?
Do you like being busy because you don’t want to sit with your emotions?
Take your time to think about this because it may be hard to spot.
19. Do you feel guilty about something constantly?
Is it reasonable to feel guilty about it?
Why do you feel that way, and what can you do about it?
20. What do you expect to get out of shadow work? Which issues would you like to solve?
By now, you probably have some idea about what you want to heal.
Use this prompt to become even more aware of those things.
21. How do you act when you’re angry at someone?
Do you think that behavior is healthy? Why or why not?
22. What’s holding you back from pursuing the things you want to pursue?
What’s standing between you and your dreams?
If it’s yourself, what exactly are you doing to block your progress?
Why do you think you’re interfering with your own growth?
23. Do you trust your gut? Why or why not?
When you have a gut feeling about something, do you ignore it, or do you pay attention to it?
24. What do you want to do about the things you’re uncovering about yourself?
You can either accept things as they are or do what you can to change them if that’s within your control.
If you’ve uncovered things about yourself you don’t like and want to change them, design a plan to do it.
You can either use the tools you already have or seek help by:
- reading books
- taking courses
- hiring a coach
- going to therapy.
Benefits of Shadow Work
Self-realization is one of the top benefits of shadow work.
Doing shadow work will help you own who you really are, boosting your confidence.
You can make better choices when you see and celebrate for who you are.
On top of that, acknowledging what has been keeping you stuck is a powerful tool to start building your dream life.
Plus, doing this type of work can help you see how much in control you are; you’re not a victim of your circumstances. You have the power to change what you don’t like.
Another benefit of shadow work is that it can make you more compassionate towards others.
We’re all fighting our own battles, right?
And when you understand that what other people do has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them, you’ll be able to let go of the things that are out of your control.
Top 6 Tips to Make the Most of These Shadow Journal Prompts
Here are some things you can do to make the most of the prompts and supercharge your shadow work.
1. Accept your shadow
For this to work, you have to accept that there are parts of yourself you’re not exactly in love with.
Making peace with the fact that you’re a flawed human being will not only help you love yourself as you are, but it’s also a necessary step to tame your shadow.
Accepting you’re aggressive, for example, is way more effective if you want to be calmer than staying in denial.
2. Have compassion
If you’re thinking and writing about things you don’t like about yourself, that doesn’t mean you’re going to punish yourself for it.
Give yourself the compassion you wish you’d receive whenever you’re being vulnerable with somebody.
3. Be honest
These prompts won’t work unless you are completely honest.
Looking back at traumatic events from your childhood, for instance, will hurt, but the only way out is through.
4. Give yourself time
Getting stuck in shadow work is okay, so be patient with yourself.
You’ve been hiding your shadow your whole life, so it is no surprise that you’re very good at it.
Take all the time you need to answer prompts, and if it takes you longer than a day to answer a single one, that’s okay too.
You can start answering and keep revisiting the same prompt for as long as you need to.
5. Make time for self-care
Make sure you do something nice for yourself after sitting down with these journal prompts for shadow work.
6. Take breaks
Shadow work is hard work, and it can drain you.
To prevent it from becoming something you hate with all your being, take breaks in between prompts, and avoid burning yourself out.
The Bottom Line
Journaling prompts are a great self-growth tool that’ll help you become more self-aware, and uncover what you want in life.
Taking responsibility for your own life is empowering.
And with shadow work that’s exactly what you’ll do.
Shadow work is a lifelong process because you’re always growing, evolving, and learning new things.
Include these healing shadow work prompts in your journaling routine and you’ll see how they become easier to answer over time.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung