Ultimate Guide to Shadow Work for Beginners!

The path to your unique, inspired, and authentic life is through your shadow work. The parts of us that are hidden in the shadows need to come to light in order for us to grow, evolve, and create lives that feel inspiring and exciting. 

But looking at your shadow can be scary! Your shadow is the part of yourself that you’ve disowned or cast away out of shame or fear. This part of you is born from the grief, guilt, shame, and pain that has accumulated throughout your life. Over time, it surfaces through your traits and patterns.

Shadow work is the less fun, less glamorous side of personal and spiritual growth and transformation. Diving into your shadow work isn’t always easy or enjoyable, but on the other side of it is a life where we get to be our true, unique selves. 

In this Ultimate Guide to Shadow Work for Beginners, I’m going to give you a taste of how to start shadow work – including why you might decide to explore shadow work on your spiritual journey, what’s in it for you, and a few ways you can dip your toes into the shadow work process. 

So let’s dive in! 

In this Ultimate Guide to Shadow Work for Beginners, you will find:

  1. What is shadow work?
  2. Shadow work in the spiritual journey…
  3. How do I know if need shadow work?
  4. How will I benefit from doing shadow work? 
  5. How to start shadow work…
  6. Spiritual tools for exploring your shadow work… 
  7. Forgiveness meditation for shadow work 
  8. Shadow work prompts for journaling 
  9. Crystals to use for shadow work
  10. Shadow work prompts for Oracle Cards 

What is shadow work?

Shadow work is a form of contemplative work where you are confronting, exploring, and discovering who you really are based on traits that you have disowned. At its core, shadow work is about self-reflection and self-examination. It’s really getting to know yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The traits and patterns that form your shadow self usually stem from traumas you’ve experienced or ideas you’ve had about yourself that are challenging or untrue. Some of these may be conscious, but many won’t even be in your conscious awareness until you begin to get curious and explore them. 

The shadow is essentially the part of ourselves we don’t want to acknowledge. It’s the dark side of our personality that is based in envy, greed, compulsion, shame, fear, or other negative qualities. The reason we’re often blind to these parts of ourselves is that we learn from a young age to reject them.

No matter how scary and icky it feels to look at, you have to remember that your shadow isn’t your fault!

We all have one, and it makes us human. Some of our shadow traits may have been inherited, and they all come from our innate human impulse to self-protect and survive in the environment we find ourselves in. But if we want to live full, happy, and inspired lives, we need to look at this aspect of our makeup in order to grow, develop, and ultimately attract more of what we want. 

Shadow work in the spiritual journey… 

When I was in recovery getting clean and sober from drug and alcohol addiction 35 years ago, my work with my shadow self began. I saw early in my healing journey that in order to move beyond the destructive patterns that had defined so much of my life up until that point, I had to be willing to take an honest look at my role in those patterns. The ways I had actually perpetuated and created my own challenging experiences and circumstances. 

I’ve long been a student and follower of Jungian psychology,  and there’s a quote from Carl Jung I love that says, “That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.” 

This is to say that as long as our shadow goes unexamined, we will continue repeating the same patterns and experiencing the same triggers over and over again in our lives.

If you’re on a spiritual journey and craving awakening, shadow work will inevitably be part of your path. The sooner you turn inward and look at your shadow intentionally, the sooner you can overcome the patterns and triggers that keep you in unprocessed and distorted pain or at the very least keep you feeling stuck. 

How do I know if I need shadow work? 

Here’s the simplest test to know if you need shadow work… Do you ever get triggered in your life? 

If you answered, “yes,” you can benefit from shadow work! So in other words, we ALL need it. 

We are human and as humans, we have a shadow side. If things, situations, and people in your life trigger you, these are all clues to the parts of yourself that need more love, illumination, and acceptance.

Another sign you could benefit from shadow work is repeating patterns in your life – if you find yourself in the same situations over and over again that you’re unhappy with, there’s information for you from your shadow. 

A great example of this is someone who has been victimized in a relationship and keeps finding themselves in the same situation again and again. Maybe they leave the relationship and always end up going back, or perhaps they find someone new but somehow play out the same story again with their new lover. 

When this happens, the person has the choice to keep living their life and wondering why this keeps happening to them, or to step back and ask the difficult question – What is my role in this? In what way am I contributing to this pattern? 

Illuminating the fact that we are unconsciously contributing to our own suffering and challenges doesn’t mean we WANT those things, it means there is a part of us that needs compassion, love, and healing. 

Again, the shadow comes from our wounding. So if we were raised in an environment where we were taught to be seen and not heard as children, we might develop ways to manipulate situations so we can be heard. Unconsciously, we will have developed patterns and traits that help us get our needs met, but that might not be serving us anymore in our quest for transformation and a life we love. 

How will I benefit from doing shadow work? 

I get it, looking at the dark, rejected, shameful parts of yourself isn’t exactly exciting. But part of the spiritual healing journey to becoming your highest self is to look at the stories you tell yourself about yourself, life, and other people and be willing to move beyond them.

When you do the work of deep self-exploration and reflection, you’ll begin to see all of the challenging areas of your life become easier. You’ll have an easier time setting healthy boundaries and making healthy choices, you’ll love yourself and see yourself more holistically, and you’ll stop repeating old patterns that have potentially held you back for years. 

Often in life, we know on some level that something feels off, we just don’t know exactly what it is or where to begin the journey of exploration. If you feel this nudge, it’s a great opportunity to dive in and see what kind of growth is available to you through examining your shadow. 

The benefit of doing shadow work is that by looking honestly at these difficult truths, we gain the freedom to change the trajectory of our future. 

How to start shadow work…

This all might sound fine and dandy when you read it, but the question is, how do you begin the process of identifying and healing the shadow parts of yourself? 

Well, the first thing I’ll say about diving into shadow work is that I’m a huge proponent of getting professional support. When I was on my journey to recovery and exploring my shadow, I worked closely with a therapist. The support of a professional can be the difference between our new awareness sending us down into a hole of negativity, despair, and self-hate and us claiming, healing, and loving the parts of us that have been cast away. 

Over the years, I’ve worked with therapists, support groups, and even shadow coaches to move through the patterns, stories, triggers, and traits I discovered and I highly recommend anyone who is curious about shadow work for beginners do the same. 

Remember that the purpose of shadow work is to have greater self-compassion and grace, not to feel worse about ourselves! The support of a professional can help us frame and process what we discover and channel it into greater love for ourselves. 

Spiritual tools for exploring your shadow work… 

Beyond getting professional support, getting started on shadow work is about identifying the parts of ourselves that haven’t been illuminated. The parts we would rather deny. The easiest way to start finding them is by paying attention to what triggers you and why it triggers you. 

Identifying, accepting, and releasing these challenging things isn’t going to happen overnight. Think of it like peeling back an onion. One layer at a time, you get closer to the true, authentic self in the center. 

In order to begin peeling the very first layer, try out a couple of these tools.

1. Forgiveness meditation for shadow work 

Meditation can serve us in so many aspects of our spiritual journey to transformation, and shadow work is no exception! If you want to find a loving way to begin exploring the parts of you that need illumination and compassion, click here to try out this guided meditation for forgiveness available in my store. You can listen to a preview of this 17-minute long guided meditation before you buy it.

2. Shadow work prompts for journaling 

Journaling is one of my favorite spiritual tools because it gives us the opportunity to explore and self-reflect in the safety of our own presence. To begin journaling for shadow work, try using some of these prompts and notice what comes up: 

  • What triggers me most in my life and why? 
  • What do I overdo or overcompensate with? When do I feel unworthy?
  • When are my boundaries unclear with others? 
  • What do I do to protect myself and why?

3. Crystals to use for shadow work 

Working with crystals can be a sweet way to complement the work you are doing on your own growth and development. If you’re beginning your shadow work, you might enjoy holding hematite or rose quartz while you meditate or journal to take advantage of their energy. 

Hematite has a grounding energy, which can keep you feeling centered even when triggers arise, and rose quartz can support you in feeling more self-love and compassion. 

4. Shadow work prompts for Oracle Cards 

Another great spiritual tool for self-exploration during your shadow work journey is Oracle Cards. Pulling a card can help you get clarity around how to take care of yourself as you dig into this work. 

To use Oracle Cards for shadow work, simply choose your favorite deck (or if you don’t have your own yet, check out my FREE virtual decks), say a prayer or do a short meditation to reach an emotionally neutral state, and ask one of the following questions before pulling an Oracle card: 

  • How can I have a healthier approach to meet my needs?
  • How can I better love myself through the process of shadow work? 
  • What do I need to focus on as I uncover shadow content that needs healing within me? 

Once you pull a card, read the message in the corresponding guidebook, and spend time reflecting on the answer. 

When you first begin dipping your toes in and discovering how to do shadow work, remember to be gentle with yourself. The purpose of shadow work is to help us live more authentic and inspired lives through loving and illuminating the parts of ourselves that have been cast aside. 

If at any point in this process you feel yourself experiencing self-judgment, getting down on yourself, or spiraling into guilt, shame, or other challenging emotions – get some support!

Shadow work is best approached in a container where you can be guided and held as you love yourself through the process. We were never meant to do our spiritual work alone. Seek out a therapist, coach, group, or community to be with you through this journey and you’ll be amazed at how much you can heal. 

Spiritual growth and transformation is a journey and you are exactly where you need to be. Another wonderful way to feel supported on your spiritual path is to align yourself to the spiritual cycles of nature. My Free Guide to Manifesting With The Full & New Moon will show you how to use the cycles of the moon to support you as you heal, grow, and create the life of your highest good. Download yours here! 

 

 

Showing 15 comments
  • Robyn
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this!!! I’ve been doing shadow work for years (I mean, does it ever really end?) and this is one of the gentlest, most succinct yet absolutely useful guides on the topic I’ve seen. Also, your oracle cards have been hugely instrumental to me in my shadow work journey. Thank you.

  • Judith Aldape
    Reply

    Thank you for this concise and illuminating blog….. it demystifies this work and makes it a lot more “practical”.
    This has been very helpful for me.
    Judith Aldape

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      happy that you find this helpful, Judith! thank you so much for taking your time to read this! 💗💗

  • Exklusive Jewels
    Reply

    This was a great read. Thank you!

  • Samantha Merrick
    Reply

    Thank you Collette…I have never done shadow work.. so this as a beginner to all things woo woo…is a perfect guide…x

  • Eric
    Reply

    Colette,

    I had an amazing night with you and John Holland last night. There were some hiccups at the beginning of the evening but things eventually sorted themselves out. I actually waited until the day before the event before I signed up. I don’t know what I was waiting for, I had a great time at Oraclepalooza so why would this night be any different? There were lots of laughs to be had and, well, just moments that reminds us that we’re human. I think that is the one thing that we’ve lost over the last two years: the shared human experience. We have been isolated from each other for so long that human socialization has become a challenge. When you look at the news and social media channels most of the chatter is filled with hate and vitriol, and if you’re not careful it can consume you. So, this was a good night to take a break from it all, to sit back and enjoy each other’s company and share the human experience. The funny thing is that we share the human experience with our relatives on the other side as well, and it was very evident!

    As a reminder the night got off to a rough start because of storms/Retrograde/IT and then you talked about your visitor. It through me for a second, but the person you were talking about was me 😊 The thing was I could hardly believe where my relative made contact with you! Why would spirits from the other side interrupt you while you were . . . well, you had to be there 😉 I guess they don’t really care. I was lost when you mentioned the “L” name. “Who is Linda?” you asked. I had no idea who that was. Being the family genealogist, I figured I knew everything about my family, but didn’t remember a Linda. After you had moved on and given the message, I looked in my family tree and had a “DUH” moment! The name you were looking for was not “Linda”, but it was “Lena”, who was my great grandmother. My grandfather was the one who came through but Lena was his mother. My grandmother passed when my father was young so Lena, my father’s grandmother, became the mother-figure in his life. There were some things that were said that I have to verify because he passed when I was young. The biggest shock was when you said he was showing you the boat and then I mentioned that I was in the Navy. My grandfather had already passed when I joined the navy! I guess that’s a validation that our relatives are watching us from the other side (eek!). You said that he was a handsome man and wondered if I was, well . . . not sure if you remember, but as I said above, I was at Oraclepalooza. You called me to the stage on the last day and I wrote about my Palooza experience in your blog. Yes, I’m that same Eric who used to write in your blog religiously while recovering from my illness, the same one who you asked about his writings when you were writing “The Map Uncharted”. So, you have seen me; whether or not I’m handsome is up for debate 😛 And while I’m still looking for my life partner, I received some MASSIVE cledons about meeting her last night. I laugh because sometimes I’m so slow on the uptake that Spirit is going to have to show me a massive neon sign with an arrow on it pointing to her saying “HERE SHE IS!” before I get the hint! 😀

    Before I knew it you had moved on, and while I wished there was more, I was not really disappointed because I was grateful for the message that I did receive. I really wasn’t expecting much, I just needed a break from my current reality and was trying to reconnect with my humanity. Remember, I decided at the last minute to attend, so how my grandfather knew I was going to attend was a big mystery and why he decided to bother you while you were . . . (again, you had to be there). I talked to my friend, who has been a spiritual advisor for many years and now who is helping me develop my own intuitive skills. I told her what happened via text while I was still watching others get their readings. She asked me, “What does that mean to you?” Now I didn’t know if she meant the information that my grandfather had given me or the whole evening, but as I thought about it something came to me: breadcrumbs. Now my great grandmother Lena was known for her biscuits that she cooked every morning in a wood burning stove even in the summertime, even though I would love to have her recipe because no one had bothered to write it down, the breadcrumbs meant something different. Now even though I believe in “woo” I haven’t been active “wooing” for some time, not since I was laid up recovering from my illness and writing in your blog (you might say I was “undercover wooing” :P). My current job is probably the most “non-woo” job known, and while I do like what I’m doing I feel that I’m being shown a little bit of “woo”, just enough to make me want to see more. From my early life I had gone from wondering about the things that I saw, not having an outlet to explore them or trying to find out what they were, to getting occasional readings, studying astrology, participating in two “woo” events and getting called up at both of them! I don’t know if that is a subtle hint or not; remember, I’m a little slow on the uptake 😛 I guess in order to see what this is about I might need to just join your circle or go to O school next year. Either way, now that my relatives know that I’m wooing I hope I haven’t opened that door so that my family line is camped out in your living room waiting to give messages! 😀 I think of Whoopi Goldberg in the movie “Ghost” with all of the spirits camped out, waiting their turn only to have Patrick Swayze’s character cut the line and poor Whoopi has to direct traffic! 😛

    All in all, I had a great time connecting with people last night. Both you and Mr. Holland are top notch in your field. If you happen to think of it, please pass on my appreciation to him as well. To anyone else who is deciding to participate in one of your gatherings I’d highly recommend it. You may not get a reading but if you pay attention, you may get some cledons that answer some of the questions that you have been wondering about. Now I used to be a “pick me, pick me” kind of guy at Woo events, but if last night showed me anything its that your mantra, “What is for you won’t go past you” is very true. Sometimes I’d rather not know what’s coming; it’s like sneaking and finding your Christmas gifts before Christmas. Now I won’t use the “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, and today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present” cliché (oops, too late), but persevering in the face of adversity is rewarding in itself and sometimes it makes it sweeter when you finally arrive when you don’t know how really close you are. Yes, it is nice to get a nudge in the right direction and we all have those “jump or be pushed” moments, but that’s life. The beauty of it all is knowing that you’re not alone in going through the human experience, both here and on the other side. Besides, if you go to Colette’s events you’ll know where spirits are watching you, even at the most inopportune times, those “you had to be there” moments. Plus, you’ll get to meet some awesome people, from around the globe, from all walks of life.

    Getting back to what my friend asked me “what does it mean to you”, I pulled a card from “The Enchanted Map” deck that we got from Oraclepalooza and asked, “What should I get from this event tonight?” I pulled: 44 – Strength. I thought it was quite appropriate there is strength in numbers, you don’t have to do it all by yourself, and your relatives, both here and on the other side give you the strength to get through this thing called life. Thank you again, both you and Mr. Holland, for a wonderful event!

    Best wishes,

    Eric

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      ERIC!!! gosh! this is such a treat to read! I’m so glad that you’re able to join me and John(sure! I’ll extend your greetings to him 😉)! you are such a beacon of light and I’m so grateful that we crossed paths. please keep on shining! hope to hear more of you! I always enjoy reading what you have to say! much love to you! 💗

  • Liese
    Reply

    Colette, thank you for the journaling prompts and the Oracle Card prompts (questions). I have always had a hard time “getting into journaling”, something just never fit quite right for me. But your questions/prompts seem to be easier for me to flow with. If that made sense lol. Thank you.

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      so happy that you loved the prompts, Liese! much love to you! hope you’re having an amazing week! 💗

  • Diana Davis
    Reply

    Thank you for this article about the shadow self. I have used the Oracle cards to work on myself. I journal. This has helped me a lot.

  • Lynn Day
    Reply

    After reading this article I used the three questions and pulled cards from the new “Enchanted Map Oracle Cards” for insight into beginning my shadow work. What was chosen was spot on! Here is what I chose:

    How can I have a healthier approach to meet my needs?
    #20 – Flying – I need to be clear on my thoughts, feelings and beliefs. I have invisible wings that will swiftly bring me into alignment with my highest power. (Side note: I have this saying on my computer as a reminder to me: “With brave wings she flies”.) I will reap what I have sown. Oh. So. True!

    How can I better love myself through the process of shadow work?
    #54 – Encouragement – I am gently being encouraged to step into my power. The nurturing power of the Universe is nudging me in the right direction. I am supported by the Universe as I travel this new, right path and am not alone in my quest.

    What do I need to focus on as I uncover shadow content that needs healing within me?
    #30 – Making a Choice – I need to continue to feel the support of the Universe as I make choices that continue to lead me on the right path. Trust my intuition and remain conscious and aware of all that I have learned and that I will learn along this journey. My choices need to be made as conscious choices guided by my intuition and the Divine Spirit.

    The messages from the Oracle Card readings never cease to AMAZE me! Thank you Colette for sharing your gift with the world.

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