5 Shadow Work Exercises That Will Change Your Life

Shadow Work Exercises

Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered what it is that makes you, YOU?

What is this person I see when I look at myself? Why do they act the way they do? How can I be less judgmental towards them?

Jungian Shadow Work is a practice that helps individuals understand their darker side, the parts of ourselves we push away, ignore, or don’t want to admit. 

It’s about integrating those parts into our consciousness so that we can work with them instead of against them.

This blog post will explore five shadow work exercises that will change your life. We’ll talk about what shadow work is, how it works and why it matters. We’ll also share some tips for how to do it every day!

What is Shadow work?

Shadow work is the process of integrating our shadow self.

The personal Shadow is a term coined by Carl Jung that refers to the unconscious aspects of ourselves that we try to ignore, disown, or project onto others.

The personal Shadow includes our basic fears and desires as well as emotional reactions we have difficulty owning, like envy, anger, and competitiveness.

When we’re in conflict with another person or a situation, we react from our shadows; when someone else has a negative response toward us, or something else comes up that triggers anxiety or defensiveness inside us (e.g., being late for an appointment),

it’s often because they triggered something within us first that we hadn’t yet addressed (i.e., “Wow! Did he just show up late? That makes me feel like crap!”).

When these parts remain unconscious, they are projected onto others who seem unreasonable; when they are conscious, they can be integrated into who you are.

So you no longer project them on others but instead own them yourself and thus develop more empathy for others’ shortcomings.”

Shadow work can be challenging, scary, and uncomfortable.

It’s often easier to blame someone else for our shortcomings than it is to admit that we are responsible for them.

But by being honest about what triggers us and taking responsibility for our reactions (instead of others), we can become more conscious, self-aware people who are less likely to project onto others what belongs inside us.

How the Shadow Comes into Existence

The Shadow is the hidden side of ourselves that we’re often unaware of.

It contains everything we have repressed or denied about ourselves, the parts that don’t serve our self-interest.

For example, this could include feelings of guilt and shame, anger, violence, envy and jealousy, and fear, all of which make us uncomfortable with our own personalities.

We all have a personal shadow; it’s part of being human!

Everyone has two halves: an inner darkness where we keep our deepest secrets hidden from others (and sometimes even from ourselves).

But if you want to be truly whole, then you need to acknowledge your personal Shadow and, by doing so, bring balance into your life.

The more aware we are of our dark sides, the happier and more fulfilled we will be overall because these negative traits are just as important as positive ones in shaping who we are today.

Ignoring the Shadow will only bring you more darkness in your life.

Shadow Work

It takes extraordinary self-discipline to own one’s Shadow and keep it under control.

A disowned part of yourself turns against you and causes you pain, confusion, and problems.

The personal Shadow causes us to do things we don’t want to do (like lie or cheat) because we are not conscious of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they arise in us or others around us.

When we are not conscious of our own Shadow, we become vulnerable to others who have a strong personal shadow; these people may manipulate us for their own gain with little regard for what is best for us.

The personal Shadow makes us say and do things we don’t believe (because we are unaware of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors).

So when people project their shadows onto others through criticism or judgmentalism, they often create conflict, leading them further into isolation rather than fostering a connection between them!

This is especially true when the person being criticized feels attacked by another person’s projections without realizing its origin within himself/herself; then he/she might react defensively either verbally or physically, which escalates tension between both parties involved.”

Nine Surprising Benefits of Jungian Shadow Work:

It helps you become more self-aware.

self-aware shadow work

As you reflect on your Shadow, you will see yourself and your life more clearly. You’ll be able to understand why you do things, not in line with who you genuinely want to be. 

This can help guide you on a path toward self-compassion and authenticity.

This self-awareness also gives rise to an honest understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as values or beliefs that may not have been expressed yet but are still crucial for personal growth and development.

Increased Energy and Wellness

What happens when you are in a better emotional place? You have more energy, which is required for any activity requiring physical or mental exertion. 

This includes things like getting out of bed, talking to your partner about something important, going to the gym, and working out, which requires using your body or mind. 

In fact, most people even refer to this as “having energy” when they feel good and ready to take on a task because they have become mentally and emotionally healthy enough to do so!

Understanding the Shadow may help reveal purpose in life.

Jungian shadow work is a process of self-discovery through which we come to know and accept our dark side. 

It’s also one of the most important ways to make better choices because it helps us understand what motivates us and why we do things that may be harmful or destructive. 

By exploring your Shadow, you can gain insight into what drives your behavior and how it affects those around you, thus allowing for more informed decision-making.

Shadow work is an essential part of the process of individuation, which involves the integration of our conscious and unconscious minds.

 This process is essential because it allows us to live a whole life free from inner conflict and self-deception.

Better relationships

Better relationships

Although we all wish for the perfect partner, we often find ourselves in relationships with people who are incompatible with us. 

When the opposite happens, and you get a partner you feel connected to on a deeper level, it feels like something is missing from your relationship. 

This may be due to the Shadow being projected onto your partner, making them appear as someone who does not support you or care about your needs.

Identifying these projections and then bringing them into consciousness helps dissolve any negative feelings towards your loved ones so they can become more like themselves again. 

By allowing yourself to accept your faults and virtues instead of projecting them onto others, positive interactions will begin to happen naturally without having any further influence over our future actions towards others because there will be no need for projection anymore!

You’re free to be who you are.

The Shadow is like a treasure trove of what we need to work through and heal. When we embrace our Shadow, we can become the whole person who can experience love and happiness in our lives.

We’re free to be who we are, not who others expect us to be. We can be honest with ourselves and others about how we feel, what we want out of life, and what obstacles are standing in our way without fear or shame holding us back from being authentic.

More confidence and self-esteem

More confidence and self-esteem

Self-esteem is a measure of your overall self-worth and the way you perceive yourself. 

People with high self-esteem feel good about themselves and have confidence in their ability to meet challenges and achieve goals. People with low self-esteem are often more insecure, anxious, or depressed.

While it may seem like having low self-esteem is no big deal, research has shown that it can actually lead to serious mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders.

There’s also evidence that shows how people with low self-esteem tend to be less successful in life; they get lower grades at school and perform worse at work than those with higher confidence levels.

The good news is that our level of self-esteem isn’t fixed: It’s an ongoing process where we can change our thoughts about ourselves over time.

This means that even if you feel like there’s no hope for improving your situation now, you can still do things today that will help boost your confidence!

Happiness and well-being

When you heal your Shadow, you connect with that part of yourself that holds your hidden potential.

You stop fighting against who you are and start accepting yourself for who you are by default: an imperfect human being with more goodness in them than badness.

Happiness is a byproduct of self-acceptance; when we let go of judgment about ourselves, we can be happy for the first time without having to force it or pretend to be something else (like successful).

One reason why healing the Shadow makes us happier is because we no longer have to deny who we are.

When we accept ourselves for all our past mistakes and what is happening inside us now (good or bad), healing can happen naturally because there will be nothing left out of the equation anymore! 

This means less stress overall, which directly leads to feeling better emotionally while also increasing physical health!

Develop emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. 

When you explore your Shadow (the aspects of yourself that you dislike or don’t want to acknowledge), you can understand yourself better. 

By understanding these parts of yourself, you can develop emotional intelligence, which will help in all areas of your life, from work to relationships with others.

Shadow Work Exercises You Can Do Right Now

Shadow Work Exercises You Can Do Right Now

Now that you know what shadow work is, let’s get started!

I want to make it clear that these exercises shadow work for beginners, too.

​​Here are exercises you can do right now to explore your shadow side.

Exercise 1: Notice Your Emotional Responses

When someone says or does something that triggers an emotion in you, notice that feeling and observe it. 

Where do you feel it in your body? 

How intense is the feeling? 

What thoughts go through your head when you experience this emotion? 

Do these thoughts have any impact on how intense or how long-lasting the emotional response is?

Can you connect the two, the thought and its effect on how long and hard a feeling lasts?

This exercise shows just how much power we give our emotions by letting them dictate our actions without thinking about them first. 

Still, it also helps us become aware of whether we’re being defensive because of something else going on inside us (i.e., a reaction based on past trauma) rather than reacting based solely on someone else’s words or actions alone.

Exercise #2: Listen to Your Inner Voice

Listening to your inner voice is a very important part of shadow work, and it’s the first step in becoming aware of the parts of yourself that have been hiding from you.

Shadow work can be scary, but it can also be gratifying. If you’re interested in understanding yourself better and learning how to integrate your Shadow, then shadow work is for you!

To begin shadow work, all you have to do is begin by listening to what’s going on inside of you. 

The first step is being honest with yourself about what happens in your life.

Then, talk to your parts, ask them questions, tell them things you want to hear, and write in a journal.

You can think of any event in your life and ask: “What’s underneath this event?”

You will see how much of yourself is hiding from you.

Some aspects of yourself might be afraid or unwilling to face certain things because they are painful, difficult, etc., even though these may present no real barriers for the rest of you in other circumstances.

This helps us understand why we behave the way we do and whether or not those behaviors are healthy for us.

Exercise #3: The 3-2-1 Shadow Process

If you’re interested in learning about your shadow side, one of the exercises we recommend is called the 3-2-1 Shadow Process. It was developed by integral philosopher Ken Wilber and is a part of his Integral Life Practice.

Step 1: Decide what you want to work on.

For this exercise, choose someone who evokes strong emotions in you, positive or negative. This person may irritate, disturb, annoy or upset you; conversely, they might be the object of your attraction and infatuation.

This person could be a family member or friend; it might even be an ex-lover. 

This person must be someone who impacts your life in some way.

Step 2: Face it now.

Think about this person. Describe the qualities that most upset or attract you, using third-person language (“he,” “she,” and so on).

Talk about them out loud or write them down in a journal, and express your feelings!

You don’t have to hold back; say exactly what you think! The person won’t ever see this, anyway. 🙂

Step3: Ask it anything.

Now that you have a clear idea of what you want, it’s time to speak with this person in your imagination.

In this step, we’ll speak directly to them as if they’re there. 

We’ll talk about what bothers us about them and why? 

And ask questions such as: 

Why are you doing this to me?

What do you have to teach me?

Often, just having this conversation with someone can help us understand what is happening. 

It’s important to remember that the other person might not know how they affect us; they may be oblivious or not care; either way, it’s up to us to express our needs clearly and assertively.

Step #4: Become this person!

Understand the qualities that annoy or fascinate you in other people. Then become more like them, or less so, if their behavior rubs you the wrong way.

Project the traits you described in Step 2 onto yourself. Use 1st person language ( I, me, mine).

This will feel awkward, and it should. You are adopting the very traits you have denied in yourself.

Use statements such as:

  • I am angry.
  • I am insecure.
  • I am greedy.
  • I am jealous.
  • I lie.

Fill in the blank with a quality that you would like to embody: “I am __________.”

Step 5: Notice the disowned qualities that you see in others.

To become more aware of this trait within yourself, you will need to develop the ability to experience it consciously.

This may seem challenging initially, but you will improve with practice. Don’t think or conceptualize; BE it!

Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted the quality in yourself, then it can become a part of your personality.

Exercise #4: Understand the Shadow Archetypes

If you’re interested in Jungian Shadow Work, you must familiarize yourself with the work of neo-Jungian Robert Moore.

In his exploration of the structure of the psyche, Moore suggests four primary archetypes—the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover.

All archetypes contain within them the best attributes of mature adulthood, but they also possess their particular vulnerabilities.

Recognizing your shadow qualities is essential for understanding how they impact your life.

Think about how you behave when you’re feeling insecure or threatened; how do you act?

What thoughts go through your head?

How do you act when you feel comfortable and confident in yourself?

What thoughts go through your head?

Identify your thoughts and behavioral patterns by observing what happens when they show up in your life.

I highly recommend Moore and Gillette’s King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Mature Masculine Archetypes.

This book is among the most important I have ever read.

Exercise #5: Challenge the Good Part

We usually consider ourselves to be “good people.”

Our parents praised us as children for being “good boys” and “good girls,” which caused the praise to stick in our minds.

This increased the conflict between our conscious identity and our dark side.

Make a list of all the things about yourself that you like. Then, highlight the opposite.

For example, if you define yourself as a compassionate person who cares about people and is empathetic, then try to identify the opposite within yourself.

Are there times when you are cruel to others? Do you ever feel like being selfish?

The goal is not necessarily to overcome these tendencies; that would be impossible! But instead, be aware of them, so they don’t control your actions without your consent.

5 More Books to Read When You Need to Understand the Shadow

The following books can help you understand the Shadow:

1- King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine is a book that explores how to develop masculinity in our modern world.

It discusses how we can balance our masculine and feminine energies, which are two sides of one coin.

The author, Robert Moore, believes that we can’t be whole without both halves of this coin. To achieve balance, we must connect with all four archetypes of masculinity: king, warrior, magician, and lover.

2- Psychology and Alchemy (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.12)

If you’re looking for a book that combines a thorough exploration of the psychology of humanity and the alchemical process, look no further than Psychology and Alchemy (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.12). 

This collection of essays is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the true nature of alchemy, which Jung defined as “the art of transforming matter.”

3- The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain

The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain by Dr. John Sarno is a book exploring mind-body connections and how they can lead to physical pain.

In this book, Dr. Sarno discusses his theories on how blaming our mindsets for physical pain can be counterproductive and worsen our pain. 

He suggests that instead of focusing on the “why” behind our pain, we should focus on changing our mindsets to heal our bodies.

He uses his personal experiences with healing himself from a back injury and his experiences working with patients who have experienced similar issues as examples throughout this book.

4- Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche

If you’re looking for a book that will help you understand your darkness—and maybe even help you unpack and release some of it—then Owning Your Own Shadow is the one for you.

This book by Robert A. Johnson is an easy read, and it’s got a lot of interesting perspectives on how we can all benefit from exploring our shadow selves. It’s not just about understanding the dark side of our psyche; it also talks about how to integrate those aspects into our lives in a way that makes us more whole rather than less.

5- Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

Feel like you’re stuck in a rut? A dream and an active imagination can help you find your way out.

Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth is all about using your dreams to get unstuck from your life and using visualization techniques to get unstuck from your mind.

This book will teach you how to do both of those things so that the next time you feel stuck or trapped in any area of your life, whether it’s romantic relationships, career pursuits, or even just a general feeling of stagnation, you can use these techniques to break free.


Shadow work is a powerful practice that can help us live more fully and authentically. 

By acknowledging what lurks in the Shadow, we can work toward becoming more whole. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or even possible for everyone! That’s why it’s essential to choose an approach that makes sense for you, whether that means turning inward with meditation or reaching out to others through therapy sessions with an experienced practitioner. 

No matter what path you take, remember: Your dark side isn’t your enemy; it’s actually part of what makes us human beings unique and complex creatures who have both light and dark within us all!