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How to Do Shadow Work: Your Complete Guide 

Figuring how to do shadow work is not for the faint of heart.  

First, you have to acknowledge you even have a shadow to work on.  

Next, you have to commit to doing the work, which can take the rest of your life.  

The good news is that while the first step is the hardest, it provides a tremendous amount of immediate relief.  

From there, well, it’s not exactly smooth sailing, but the shadow work road you travel gets easier in many ways.  

shadow work

What Is Shadow Work 

So what is shadow work, anyway?  

Well, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung from the early 1900s was the first to talk about the shadow in our modern times.  

The shadow, he explains, is made up of the darker parts of our humanity, and it is both protected and hidden by the ego.  

Your shadow harbors your anger, frustration, rage, jealousy, manipulation.  

And your ego is at once defensive of this shadow and ashamed of it.  

It helps to understand that all the darker parts of humanity stem from one place – fear.  

Babies are born with only two primary emotions – love and fear, and both then blossom into various parts as we grow and learn how to be human.  

Love stems from our spirits and fear stems from our egos.  

And how we engage with the world – whether from love or fear – all depends on which part of ourselves we fed more during our childhood, and which part we feed more now.  

A baby born into a life of violence and rage, while still even in the womb, is much more likely to live a life based firmly in the ego self, denying or suppressing the loving self.  

A baby born into love and happiness – genuine love and happiness – is much more likely to live from that place of love and happiness in which it learned.  

And of course most of us are born into a mix of both, and the scales could really be tipped in either direction based on our unique personalities and the choices we make in life which either confirm or deny our belief systems about the world as we learned them from our parents and those great influences on our early years.  

The shadow then is all the parts of ourselves we shove down inside without acknowledging us. It is the “dark” part of ourselves because we are hiding it.  

It is the dark part of ourselves because when we feel it, we push it down. 

Or we fight.  

We lash out like wounded animals, thereby creating even more shame to add to our shadows.  

We hurt the ones we love, and then we justify it, adding to the shadow.  

Here’s the thing: unless you are acting from love, you are acting from ego. And most of us do not know how to integrate and work with our ego.  

So we create a bigger shadow.  

How to Work with the Ego 

In an ideal world, we would integrate our ego into our daily life.  

We need the ego. It tells us how to function in society. 

Without the ego, we would likely be walking around naked sprinkling pixie dust on everyone and likely levitating from a place of pure joy and bliss.  

One, it would be hard to get anything done. And two, unless we were all in that state, it would be hard to play well with others.  

The ego also provides a healthy dose of fear – don’t walk down that dark alley alone; don’t touch the hot stove; don’t say everything that comes to your mind.  

You get the idea.  

So when we are in balance with our egos, we listen to what the ego, or fear, has to say, and then we make a decision based in love.  

For example, when you are in a relationship with someone who hurts you repeatedly, and you love that person – be it your mother or your lover or anyone in between – your ego will give you advice based on your own personal experiences and qualities.  

Your ego may tell you to stay and fight, and you get caught in a cycle of violence and rage.  

Your ego may tell you to fix it, and you get stuck in this cycle of narcissist and empath.  

Your ego may tell you to run away, only to have you hooked up with someone else in the same pattern, over and over.  

This is all a result of your shadow having been left undealt with, your trauma being unresolved, your cycles remaining unbroken.  

When you do shadow work and have an integrated ego and shadow, your spirit is in charge, and you come from a place of love.  

You set boundaries with the person who has hurt you, and you either leave and use that experience as a lesson moving forward, or, perhaps in the case of a mother, you change the nature of your relationship so that you can no longer be damaged, you speak your truth to her, and you keep those boundaries firmly in place, revisiting them as often as you have to.  

Love comes first, and love for yourself is paramount.  

How do you get to this balance, integrated place?  

How to Do Shadow Work 

friendship spell

The first decision you have to make is whether to do shadow work alone or with a therapist.  

I have many friends who have been helped both in short term therapy and, in the case of severe trauma and major shadow work, in longer term therapy.  

I personally have done so much self development work on my own that I am far beyond the basic, “count to 10 and take deep breaths” type of therapy, and my work is so deeply entrenched in my witchy spirituality that if I ever do find a therapist it will have to be some anointed priestess of the church of religious science and witchcraft or something.  

I’m open to it, but I’m not sure he or she exists.  


Who knows, maybe I’ll become the therapist I’m seeking.  

I also have a huge friend and family group who are incredibly supportive, so I don’t need a therapist just to talk out my issues.  

In any event, I’m telling you all of this to say that doing shadow work on your own is totally possible, and, if you are in the beginning stages of your work and do not have a great pool of resources in terms of friends and family, therapy might be right for you.  

It is a personal decision best left to the person on the journey.  

Do note that finding a good therapist is like dating. You have to see how you feel, in the first session, or first few sessions, trust your energetic reading of the therapist, and make a decision based on that.  

It’s pretty rare for clients to fall in love with their first therapist.  

But it happens! 

With or without therapist, you can follow these steps to do shadow work:  

Bear Witness 

Eckhart Tolle tells us that the most important thing you can do to begin your shadow work is to witness yourself.  

Recognize that you are not your thoughts, you are not your body, you are not your actions.  

You are the spirit that is witnessing all of that.  

You are the higher consciousness.  

Think of your body and your mind as your avatars in a video game called life.  

Once you can detach yourself lovingly from your body, mind, thoughts, and actions, you can hold space for your pain and your shadow.  

This is that first hardest step I mentioned above.  

It is brutally hard for many of us, so hard that it is beyond conception.  

I would argue that if you are here, still reading this blog, it is not beyond conception for you, but that does not mean it will not be hard.  

Bear witness to all the times you think, speak, or act from a place of fear and ego rather than love.  

That’s shadow work.  

Connect to Your Shadow 

Now, begin to identify where those thoughts, speeches, or actions come from inside of you.  

Remember, all ego comes from fear.  

So, what are you afraid of that is making you jealous, angry, frustrated, irritated, annoyed, etc.  

Why are you taking this personally?  

Confident woman

What story is in your head from your childhood or other past experience that is triggering you to think or behave in such a way?  

This is shadow work. You are literally shining light on your shadow.  

And a shadow with enough light will eventually – eventually – disappear. We call this the integrated shadow.  

These two steps are the most important parts of shadow work, and build toward reprogramming your subconscious entirely to integrate your shadow so that you can live happy and free.  

For some, shadow work takes much longer, and for others, it is a much quicker process.  

The timing has much to do with the level of resistance you have built up and continue to put up against doing the work.  

It is hard work, but it is so worth it. 

Happy manifesting! 


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