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5 Free Shadow Work Prompts + Tips
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5 Free Shadow Work Prompts + Tips

[6 Minute Read]

The practice of “shadow work” has been increasing in popularity across psychotherapy and spirituality in the last few years, with its emphasis on exploring your subconscious and diving deep. A greater movement towards wellness and de-stigmatizing mental health care has created awareness around this unique practice.

In this brief blog, I'll share 5 of my favorite shadow work prompts from my best-selling Shadow Seeker card deck.

In analytical psychology, the “Shadow” is an unconscious aspect of the personality that has not been brought to awareness (such as destructive patterns). The origin of this concept is a theory by psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. The "shadow" may also refer to an individual’s subconscious as a whole. This kind of work — diving into the subconscious — is commonly referred to as shadow work.

5 Free Shadow Work Prompts

(From the Shadow Seeker deck)

1. A Day As My Shadow

Write a short story with your Shadow as the main character. How do they behave? Where do they go? How do they get what they want? How do others treat them, and how do they treat others? Does this character have redeeming or positive qualities? Remember, nothing is “too weird”. Afterwards, reflect on what feelings came up for you while writing. Do you see any of these as wrong, unacceptable, or negative?

2. Flip Your Flaws

Write some of your “flaws” down. What’s their positive counterpart? Maybe you’re quiet in groups but think deeply about what is being said, giving you time to know your own thoughts. The next time you find yourself stuck on a negative belief, don’t deny its existence, but try to come up with a gentle, positive side.

3. Control and Letting Go

Create a sculpture (or some other creation) representing something that means a lot to you. Now the hard part: let it go. Gift it, donate it, delete it, or destroy it. It’s hard to do this! Be kind to yourself when you let it go.

4. Accept That You Can't Accept

List the things you’re struggling to accept right now. Lean into the honesty of your real feelings and write how you really feel about each thing. After each thing, write (or say aloud) “I accept that I can’t accept [your thing] right now.” Take a few deep breaths in and out and try to sit with this statement silently for a minute.

5. Embrace Your Inner Child

Whenever you’re feeling alone or overwhelmed, give yourself a big hug. Imagine you are holding your child self tightly. Repeat a reassuring, gentle statement to yourself. What would you say to your child self?


4 Tips for Your Shadow Work Journey

1. Set Up Your Space

Preparing your space for healing work is always a good first step. You can do this in a number of ways, and what is most effective really depends on the individual. It may be helpful to devote a quiet corner or room in your home for your inner work — a space where you can journal and reflect in peace. Decide on whether you want it to be in the same room as you sleep (you may feel more comfortable separating your shadow work space from your sleeping space, since being in the same space may stir feelings associated with shadow work rather than rest). Consider exploring tools such as crystals, herbs for burning, soothing aromatherapy oils, or incense. Crystals that support grounding (such as obsidian) and self-love and compassion (such as rose quartz) can be soothing to have in your space (even if you don't really consider yourself a "crystal" person).

Black sage (also known as mugwort) is often recommended for introspection and reflection and can promote restful sleep. Burned in preparation, it can complement your shadow work beautifully. Homeopathic supplements that promote relaxation and help with stress can also be helpful. You can find these at places like Whole Foods or your local grocery store vitamin section.

Ultimately, whatever helps you get in a good headspace for healing work is dependent upon you. Different things work for different people. Perhaps you're less inclined to use material objects but you're very soothed and centered after being out in nature. You can start and finish your shadow work with a walk somewhere calming and quiet.

2. Respect Your Pace

Go at whatever pace feels comfortable. Do not rush yourself through this (or any) healing work. Practice mindfulness and listen to your own personal cues on when it feels like it's time to do some shadow work. It's an ebb and flow. It's common for people on a healing journey to at times see inner work as a road to some kind of specific destination. You do the work, you get "there", you're healed, and life is easy breezy.

That's not the case. Personal growth and navigating life's struggles is simply part of the everyday experience, a facet of the human condition. It's a very beautiful thing when you step back and look at it from a distance. Respecting the ups and downs is just another way to respect your own rhythm and humanity.

There may be days where you're doing a lot of journaling and feeling a lot of emotions. There may be days where you're just burnt out and tired and you don't want to do much work. Being very compassionate towards yourself and your feelings throughout the whole process is key. Speaking to yourself kindly, asking for help when needed, and knowing that you're safe with yourself slowly builds your self-trust that you are your own safe space.

3. Have a Support System

It helps tremendously to have a support system that you trust and can rely on. Good friends, mentors, a supportive online community, or a therapist. Don't isolate yourself during the work, even if shutting down or withdrawing may be a natural response for you. Anxiety and depression thrive in isolation.

A lot of shadow work is rooted in adverse experiences or things that originated in your childhood, which can be difficult to address. So my biggest recommendation to people is always to seek the help of a mental health professional. Not because you have to, but therapy will help you create a safe and secure space within which you can explore all the different topics that shadow work addresses. My therapist is my go-to when I'm struggling the most with trying to process certain feelings or if I'm in a "funk" or feeling stuck.

4. Self-Soothing

Self-soothing just means ways to keep yourself emotionally regulated when strong emotions arise. It differs for everyone. If you're not sure where to start, think of a young version of yourself. What kinds of things would have been comforting or soothing to you when you were distressed? You may enjoy warm baths or hot showers, repeating positive and calming phrases to yourself, being alone for a little while, or wrapping yourself up in a blanket and watching a feel-good movie.

Many people struggle with self-soothing because they didn't really have good models for it growing up - no one who could be present with them while they had their feelings, to help them "come down" from those feelings in a secure environment. Being told to "grow up", "stop being sensitive", or that you're throwing a tantrum or overreacting is not an effective way to teach someone to sit with their own feelings. If this sounds familiar — you're not alone. Take comfort; it's a learned skill, which means you can start learning it now!

I'll also share a technique I learned through therapy called the Butterfly Hug. You can see a more detailed post and video about how to do it here on the Vox Intra instagram:

Butterfly Hug self-soothing technique


Our Shadow surfaces when we try very hard to push certain parts of ourselves down – things that we may consider “bad" or even scary...But the best parts of ourselves and the parts we're trying to change are often one and the same.

Shine a light on these parts. Embrace your Shadow and all of who you are. You are beautiful and worth loving.

Woman holding a card from the Shadow Seeker deck by Vox Intra, the ultimate tool for shadow work

Want helpful prompts and guidance on your journey to self-discovery? See if our personal development card decks are right for you! Or read reviews from others on journeys like yours.

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