An Intro to Shadow Work — Witchy Ways of Understanding Your Mind & Mental Health

Shadow work is a buzzy word in both the mental health and spiritual realms. You’ve probably seen a number of social media posts asking you to tap into your “shadow self” and learning to love your “dark side.” While it sounds like something related to Darth Vader, the term “shadow self” was first popularized by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and refers to a side that you may have learned to suppress as a child due to shame.

For example, maybe you were taught that expressing anger was unsavory, so you’ve been conditioned to bypass your volatile emotions, always keeping the peace with others. Or maybe you learned early on that your needs wouldn’t be met by your parental figures, so you’ve grown into a hyper independent person who never asks anything from anyone. Most of the time we don’t even know we have a shadow side since it’s so linked to how we live life. 

No matter how much you try to suppress it, however, your shadow self will be triggered — especially in our relationships with others, and has a habit of leading to more heartache and stress if you don’t deal with your seemingly dark side. While anyone can do shadow work, typically, a licensed mental health expert is the traditional option for treatment. However, since shadow work means intense introspection, linking the conscious with the unconscious, and requiring you to “own your sh*t” on a highly evolved level, there are a number of spiritual “witchy” practices that can help you heal and integrate your dark parts with your whole self. 

“From my own interpretations, shadow work is the attention we pay to the parts of ourselves we may otherwise wish to ignore,” says Mystic Michaela, aura reader and psychic. “Shadow work involves willfully embarking on the journey within to uncover the unhealed parts of us which our ego hides. It’s important to uncover these places, for within the shadows all our wounds are left to fester, and healing first begins with recognizing.” 

Here are some tips and tools from some witchy practitioners on how to fully accept and alchemize your shadow self. 

Mystic Michaela, aura reader and psychic, host of “Know Your Aura with Mystic Michaela” 

How does shadow work relate to your work?

When I look at the aura, or the energy signature around every single person, there are rips, tears and imbalances in it. These are the indications that I see someone is using a lot of their energy in order to suppress a shadow self. The energy used, the many ways in which we subconsciously alter our lives in order to avoid healing these wounds left in the shadows, can distract from the real work we are meant here to do. When I do a reading, I look at these rips and tears in the aura, and I follow them down into the inner traumas and pains they lead to. They are often bound there with programming and agreements which bind them down and feel foundational to the people they are part of. Bringing a client down to see these traumas and pain in their shadow self is life altering. When you can see something, it loses its power over you, the highest reward I have in my practice is being able to witness people travel bravely into their shadow selves and unbind them from their own subconscious chains. 

When it comes to uncovering shadow work doing what you do with auras, how would people approach uncovering it using these modalities?

 Each aura color has balanced and unbalanced attributes. The unbalanced characteristics are indic ative of the subconscious shadow self ruling your life instead of your aware consciousness taking the lead. A purple aura person for example when balanced is creative, free flowing and spontaneous. They find learning opportunities in all their contexts, and they strive for new places to grow when they feel stagnant. An unbalanced purple aura dealing with unhealed wounds in their shadow will be toxic, focus on gossip, use self destructive forces to feign change in their lives and feel generally stuck without feeling able to move freely on their own. 

What are some “at home” techniques that people might be able to do to help understand their shadow and heal it?

I call it “the three world journal.” Sit with yourself three times a day and without thinking, write down three words describing how you feel. This is a wonderful way to get in touch with your emotional self. At first it may be very difficult to write anything at all, and the feelings may be very surface level. But as you get used to it, the feelings will expand, the meanings will connect. And little parts of your shadow self will reveal themselves to you. 

Crystal B., Astro Therapist and author of Feed Your Moon

How does shadow work relate to astrology? Why do people come to you when it comes to shadow work?

When people come to me for a consultation, they want to understand themselves better. I always say that “the planets never lie.” The planets and our astrology reveal the truth about who we really are – and help us get to the heart of the matter. Knowing more about our strengths and weaknesses can help us understand our patterns and what I call traps. I discuss these “traps” with my clients all the time. We’re all a work in progress but if we can become aware of our traps, there is more potential to catch the behavior and not lean into it as often. Now, I’m not saying we’re all going to be perfect! Mistakes are going to happen but they happen less if we’re aware. 

What are the positive and shadow signs of each sign?

Aries

Positive: assertive

Shadow: aggressive

Taurus

Positive: methodical

Shadow: stubborn

Gemini

Positive: multi-faceted

Shadow: manipulative

Cancer

Positive: nurturer

Shadow: overly-sensitive

Leo

Positive: leader

Shadow: egotistical

Virgo

Positive: detail-oriented

Shadow: discriminatory

Libra 

Positive: diplomatic

Shadow: people-pleaser

Scorpio

Positive: strategist

Shadow: controlling

Sagittarius

Positive: optimistic

Shadow: sarcastic

Capricorn 

Positive: hard-working

Shadow: bossy

Aquarius

Positive: innovative

Shadow: detached

Pisces

Positive: giving

Shadow: lack of boundaries

When it comes to uncovering shadow work, how do you approach it with astrology?

I use astrology or the study of the planets’ influence on our lives in order to get to the heart of our shadows. The specific tools that I use are a combination of the study of our natal astrology chart in addition to how that is being triggered by the moving planets. There are particular times in our lives where we become more vulnerable to our shadow. 

What are some “at home” techniques that people might be able to do to help understand their shadow and heal it?

I’m a big advocate of dialectics or opposite action in order to combat our shadows. I suggest these techniques to my clients all the time. Each sign has an opposite or polarity and when you find yourself leaning into your shadow it’s important to act on its opposite. 

For example:

Aries – Libra

Aries can learn from Libra’s ability to compromise; whereas Libra can learn from Aries’s ability to be courageous in asserting its personal needs

Taurus – Scorpio

Taurus can learn from Scorpio’s ability to step outside its comfort zone; whereas Scorpio can learn from Taurus’ ability to appreciate safety zone judging facts before feelings

Gemini – Sagittarius

Gemini can learn from Sagittarius’ ability to seek out the truth; whereas Sagittarius can learn from Gemini’s ability to analyze logistics and experiment with new ways of communication

Cancer – Capricorn

Cancer can learn from Capricorn’s ability to create boundaries and take responsibility for itself (vs. always about others); whereas Capricorn can learn from Cancer’s ability to be an advocate from emotional awareness and honor familial ties

Leo – Aquarius

Leo can learn from Aquarius’ ability to detach from ego and honor the needs of the group (vs. itself); whereas Aquarius can learn from Leo’s ability to showcase its individuality

Virgo – Pisces

Virgo can learn from Pisces’ ability to see the broader picture and go outside the facts; whereas Pisces can learn from Virgo’s ability to synthesize the details and discern facts and feelings

Alyse Bacine, Spiritual Mentor, Breathwork Practitioner, and CEO of Alyse Breathes

How does shadow work relate to the work you do? Why do people come to you when it comes to shadow work?

Shadow work is at the crux of what I do. My psychic gift is that I can quickly identify where you’re holding deep trauma that you’re unaware of, aka your shadow. I then help you see it, acknowledge it, and give you the proper tools to rapidly release it. This is incredibly important for spiritual and psychic development. Everyone who works with me uncovers deeper layers of their spiritual gifts and psychic abilities. The reason for this is because as we heal our trauma, we open up space to connect with who we truly are and the gifts that we are meant to share on the planet. 

People come to me for various reasons, some because they know they have trauma to heal but haven’t been successful in it yet, whereas others come to me because they have hit a glass ceiling in their business and know that clearing their shadow will allow them to break through. Individuals also work with me to develop spiritually. These are all the outcomes of doing this deep shadow work. I’ve created a unique methodology with powerful tools so it doesn’t have to take forever or be incredibly painful to heal!”

When it comes to uncovering shadow work doing what you do, how would people approach uncovering it using these modalities?

When it comes to doing deep shadow work, you need support from someone like me. This work is not something I would recommend doing on your own because of the nature of it. It’s deep and requires someone coaching you through it. However, I always empower my clients with tools that they can use on their own between sessions and after we finish our work together. I create audio recordings of breathwork sessions that they have for life and can continue using to move through triggers whenever they come up. Once we work together and they understand how to navigate their emotions and triggers, it’s easier to use the tools on their own to move through things.

What are some “at home” techniques that people might be able to do to help understand their shadow and heal it?

Like I said, to really do this work in an impactful way, you will want to receive support. However, if you’re wanting to dip your toe in, I would recommend breathwork. This allows us to release energy and emotions that have been stored in the body. I actually have a free breathwork session, guided meditation and journal prompt exercise for those interested in starting their journey today. 

Jocelyn Kelly Reid, Intuitive Business & Abundance Coach, and Feminine Energy Healer

How does shadow work relate to the work you do? Why do people come to you when it comes to shadow work?

In my business, I guide women practically, energetically, and spiritually into the fullness of who they came here to be. This is needed in order to move through the world as a woman who is here to have it all, without resistance, strain, and sacrifice. A major key to my programs is always shadow work, because you do not receive abundance (whatever that means to you) if you aren’t being true to yourself. 

The vast majority of women regardless of their success levels are moving through the world as “the good girl.” This is a dated way of living. This looks like the people pleaser, the peacemaker, the martyr, willing to sacrifice their wellbeing to ensure everyone else is taken care of. They put themselves last when the vibe is actually to “put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” This simple statement enables women to show up to their full potential in all areas of their lives and creates a ripple effect on those around them. Alternatively, I have also seen women take the “girl boss” mentality too far. They’ll do everything by themselves, work insane hours, think no one can do things better than they can, or they won’t get the job done! With this energy, they won’t ask for support because they subconsciously feel like if they don’t maintain the tough girl exterior, they’ll be taken advantage of. This almost always leads to burnout and creates chaos where they end up bulldozing their way through life and relationships to get what they want. Both of these energies are an abandonment of your feminine desires or the woman inside deep down who desires to experience life with ease. These two paradigms are unconsciously rooted in denying who they are, which is why when they go to bed at night they do not feel fully satisfied, no matter how much they’ve accomplished. I liberate women out of these places and into the frequency, energy, and life that they uniquely came here to experience. This translates into business, money, relationships; and really everywhere.

What are some “at home” techniques that people might be able to do to help understand their shadow and heal it?

When you feel triggered (a response of discomfort to something that happens in your life) it is always a good time to look at your shadow. Now, I want to mention that this does not mean you tolerate disrespect, emotional or physical abuse in any manner; however, if you are in a place of no harm, triggers are a great time to be curious within your subconscious and ask yourself why you’re experiencing them. You want to look at why you allow certain energies into your life. This makes us stop placing blame on others or external circumstances for our hardships and allows us to take full responsibility for our own lives. To practice this, I typically recommend journaling, breathwork, guided meditations, and breast massage, which I’ve found to be an incredible way of coming back into our bodies to see what our souls have to share. Lastly, I do recommend seeking support, as we are never able to see ourselves in all the ways that other people can. Support is always number one when going through this type of work.

What are the benefits of doing shadow work?

The benefits are honestly endless. You will feel safer and happier in your body. The new experiences you manifest will match your desires, rather than pieces of what you’ve always wanted but haven’t been able to achieve. You will feel at home within yourself and the world. Your relationships, romantic and otherwise, will feel deeply fulfilling and nourishing to your soul. You will feel like your life is based in truth, and that you no longer need to hide to be accepted. You will celebrate yourself and feel celebrated. Life feels good AND on the days where life feels tough, you will no longer take things personally or feel like life is happening to you but for you.

Before you go, check out the mental health apps we love for a little extra mind, body, spirit TLC: 

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