What is shadow work? The psychological practice trending on TikTok

·3-min read
Photo credit: Cosmopolitan UK |  Getty Images - Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Cosmopolitan UK | Getty Images - Hearst Owned

Shadow work has been quite the thing on TikTok in recent months. From videos exploring ‘inner child’ wounds to self-care advice on processing painful memories, or acknowledging traits in yourself that are a tad, well, shady.

The concept of the ‘shadow self’ originally comes from 1900s psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who wrote “there is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” The goal, and process, of shadow work is fundamentally about bringing the unconscious mind to conscious awareness.

Our shadow self tends to be one we shun, or suppress with our more social and pleasing versions. The kind of traits that bubble and burn in the shadow pool of personality are:

  • Anger

  • Self-centredness

  • Shame

  • Envy

Because we disown these traits, we struggle to see them in ourselves, and likely project them onto others. But, when we do this, we’re really looking in the mirror.

Consider the people who rile you, the social media interactions that set your teeth on edge, the arguments you have (repeatedly), and the groups you disassociate with actively. Consider if there are patterns or trends across this landscape - traits, behaviours, outlooks and characteristics that reoccur in the things you avoid or dislike. Consider, if you dare, what that projection of rejection might possibly stem from within you. What lies beneath your disgust? The main takeaway of shadow work is it’s not you, it’s me.

This little guided meditation is designed to help you greet your shadow self. If you’re into the tarot, then do pick out The Devil from the deck and keep it next to you - this is your talisman for this ritual. If you’re not into tarot then skip that bit, that’s okay.

Shadow Work Guided Meditation

There are two ways to control someone - through greed or fear. The Devil tarot card represents both, and our shadow self’s attempts, through greed or fear, to surface and control us, to sabotage our happiness or peace.

Your shadow self craves your attention. So, give it what it wants.

Photo credit: Arterra - Getty Images
Photo credit: Arterra - Getty Images

Labradorite and lapis lazuli are great crystals to help unlock the door between you and your needy shadow. Black tourmaline or obsidian will keep you safe and grounded in this exercise.

Close your eyes, take several deep and slow breaths.

Imagine you are sitting on a bench in a peaceful garden. Behind you swirls a purple, misty void. You hear, coming from deep within it, the sound of footsteps approaching, and you recognise them as your shadow self's gait. You know it well, because it has walked beside you many times.

The footsteps get louder and nearer and your shadow arrives at your bench, taking a seat next to you.

Turning to face it, you feel no fear, only curiosity and sympathy. It wants to talk. It wants to tell you its story, where it came from, what awakens it, and what it is sorry for doing to you. It wants you to help it find peace.

Show your shadow self understanding and compassion. Shame cannot survive in the face of true empathy.

What does it say? Listen carefully.

When you've finished, thank it for the visit, and let it retreat. Take a deep breath and leave the garden.

Open your eyes and write down what you’ve learnt. If you need to go back and talk more, do.

For your own unique and personal tarot forecast, visit Kerry's TarotBella page.

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