Using shadow work prompts on my clients still blows my mind.
No matter how stuck a person is in their old patterns — shadow work has a way of guiding them towards integration, wholeness, and fulfillment.
Truth be told, it’s one of my favorite tools to use simply because of how effective it is in cutting through the bullsh*t and accessing the subconscious mind and rewiring neural pathways.
If you’re looking to invest time and are ready for some discomfort and a lot of clarity, this is the article for you.
Table of Contents
What is shadow work?
Shadow work involves working with the wounded and often irrational parts of you that attempt to keep you safe from pain and trauma. This process, at its core, calls for uncovering and then integrating repressed or abandoned aspects of the psyche. In truth, this is the critical work you won’t hear about on most retreats, workshops, or programs about self-development.
In essence, shadow work means waking up to the inner world — including the repressed, forgotten, unloved parts.
I can spot a mile off whether someone has tapped into this healing modality and done the work toward personal growth. These individuals are not so activated by the people and events around them. They can express their emotions fluidly and with direct access to their source. Conversely, people are blind to their thoughts and processes without shadow work.
What is the sexual shadow?
The sexual shadow is the suppression or over-indulgence in the world of sexuality. Both sides of the spectrum cause immense struggles for a person.
Sexual shadow work sheds light on your deepest desires as a sexual being while also exploring what’s holding you back from embodying your sexuality with compassion, confidence, and reverence towards your sexual partner. Essentially, sexual shadow work can lead you to sexual mastery.
Tantra is a spiritual practice that embraces sex not just as a natural activity, but as a way to reach enlightened states of being and to heal. Through conscious sex, you can uncover your eroticism.
Later in this article, I’ll share shadow work journal prompts designed to communicate with your sexual shadow.
Signs of an overactive sexual shadow
Hypersexuality would be the medical term for an overactive sexual shadow. This shadow work requires you to control your urge for sexual overstimulation.
Note: This is not about suppressing your sexuality. This only leads you to suffer the opposite of the sexual shadow. Instead, you must find competence in your sexual self so that bliss abounds during sex.
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Here are common signs of an overactive sexual shadow:
1. Being sexually drawn to partners who are no good for you.
2. Feeling as though your sex drive controls you rather than the other way around.
3. You’ve unsuccessfully tried to reduce sexual activity in your life.
4. You are a compulsive masturbator.
5. You have trouble establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship.
6. Driven to partake in certain sexual behaviors in which you feel a release of the tension afterward but also feel guilt or remorse.
7. Jumping from one lover to the next, never being able to commit, and subconsciously looking for love and gratification through sex with multiple sexual partners.
Signs of a suppressed sexual shadow
A suppressed sexual shadow is also known as sexual repression. While the idea of sex is biologically designed to send thrills of excitement through the body — some people have received programming to instead harbor feelings of guilt and embarrassment.
It stems from growing up or experiencing restrictive ideas and attitudes around sex. Unfortunately, these attitudes can become so intertwined in your system that sex makes you feel “dirty” or squirmish.
The good news is that you can reprogram the subconscious mind and detach false beliefs from your system through shadow work. In addition, this emotional inquiry creates an enhanced awareness that will help you to own your sexual identity.
Here are common signs of a suppressed sexual shadow:
1. Feeling shame for your sexual fantasies and raw desires.
2. Repressing feelings of attraction or desire.
3. Low self-esteem around sex or your body.
4. Difficulty enjoying safe, consensual sex.
5. Self-sabotaging the potential for sexual intimacy because of subconscious fear.
6. Negative self-talk after sexual activities.
7. Believing your body is unattractive or unworthy of sex.
What is the shadow self?
When we talk about shadow work, know that the shadow self is nothing to do with your personality traits. It goes far deeper than that.
Our shadow selves are the parts we don’t even like. But by maintaining this animosity towards these so-called “unloveable” parts, we are giving negative emotions power over us. This internal struggle can even lead to people coping by learning toxic traits.
Psychologist Carl Jung developed the idea of the shadow self or inner shadow. This is still used in psychotherapy today and focuses on the parts of the psyche that people often keep hidden.
To better understand the Shadow Self, let’s briefly explore the eight different Jungian archetypes of the collective unconscious.
The Jungian archetypes
- Self: this is the center of the whole psyche.
- Persona: a protective mask we show to the world to make a specific impression and conceal our inner self.
- Shadow: the dark, inferior, emotional, and immoral aspects of the psyche.
- Anima: an image of a beautiful, magical woman that draws the man into feminine behavior.
- Animus: a source of meaning and power for the feminine, it can be opinionated and divisive and create animosity toward masculinity. Animus also has a capacity for reflection, deliberation, and self-knowledge.
- Hero: this archetype symbolizes the one who overcomes evil, destruction, and death and tends to have a miraculous but humble birth.
- Wise old (wo)man: a favorable projection of the self. Saints, sages, and prophets are usually associated with this archetype. Think of the magician Merlin or Indian Guru, Sadhguru.
- Great mother: is a symbol of creativity, nurturing, birth, fertility, and sexual union. The Great Mother deities are seen in Gaia and Mother Earth.
- Trickster: an immature archetype that needs gratification and can be cruel and unfeeling.
What are shadow work prompts?
Shadow work prompts are a way to dig deep into the unconscious mind.
Why is this important?
Let’s put it this way, you need to uncover what’s causing you to suffer or act in ways that are not aligned with who you are. Without this work, many of your self-care practices will only put a band-aid over your struggles.
Shadow work prompts enable you to uproot and address repressed feelings, learn about any self-sabotage behaviors and become comfortable with holding heavy feelings.
The learnings that come out of shadow work help you to:
- Enforce boundaries — with yourself and others.
- Cater to your own needs.
- Discard false beliefs that may be disrupting your peace.
- Supercharge your personal development.
- Create deep self-awareness.
- Help to heal past trauma.
How to do shadow work?
Undergoing shadow work can seem like an easy enough task on the surface. However, I find that many people have the best intentions of communicating with their past selves to create deep healing and even release the energy storage of past trauma.
HOWEVER, many will find that the shadow is clever. It does not want to be seen because it does not want to relive the hurt. One of the shadow traits is mystery. It likes to stay out of the light.
So, to really commit to shadow work — you have to take responsibility.
Set aside time in your week for the shadow work prompts below. Focus on the ones you MOST want to avoid. The negative traits within yourself will be revealed through the ink on the pages. This will be uncomfortable to start with. You are giving physical form to your internal demons that you’ve possibly tried suffocating for a long time.
No doubt these parts of you feel misunderstood — so go gently, but take a deep breath and keep going with your journaling practice.
What are the benefits of practicing shadow work prompts?
The self-discovery that awaits those committed to undertaking shadow work is invaluable.
It means you know “your stuff.” You know what riles you up, what frightens you, what makes you want to run a hundred miles in the opposite direction.
AND YOU KNOW WHY.
It’s in all caps for a reason. If you don’t understand why you act and think and feel the way you do — you are a servant to your past self.
10 benefits of shadow work
Still not convinced about the personal development that comes with shadow work?
Those who practice shadow work have a lot to benefit from the process, including:
- Increased self-awareness.
- Increased level of self-compassion.
- More understanding towards other people.
- Better and healthier connection to your sexuality.
- Heal the inner child.
- Reach your goals without internal limitations blocking you.
- Healthy, supportive relationships — in your family, romantic and platonic.
- Helps with certain mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
- More clarity — access to the subconscious mind.
- Improve your overall wellness .
What are the best shadow work prompts and questions?
I’ve explored the shadow self with thousands of clients, and here is a distilled list of the best shadow prompts. They’re broken down into categories so you can dive into your hidden parts that need illuminating.
I suggest buying a shadow work journal specifically for this work. That way, you can look back and see how your internal dialogue shifts throughout this process. You might find that you have the same values as you delve into the human psyche or find that the conscious mind alters its views significantly with these shadow work prompts.
Shadow work prompts for beginners
Here are crucial questions to ask yourself when doing shadow work. Think of this as the bread and butter of shadow work and greeting the shadow self.
If carried out diligently, this journaling practice creates transformational personal growth by befriending the dark side. So get comfortable with your own company — and make your way through these beginner shadow work prompts.
1. Who are you?
2. What does shadow work mean to you?
3. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
4. How important are you to yourself?
5. What do you wish more people knew about you? What do you hold yourself back from revealing your authenticity?
6. Is your inner voice kind or critical? List the 10 most common scripts it uses.
7. How do you self-soothe? How do you feel afterward?
8. What do you dislike most about yourself? How can you guide these parts toward self-acceptance?
9. How do you respond to constructive criticism?
10. What about yourself do you hide from others? What would happen if you no longer hide?
11. What triggers your fight or flight response? How can you stay calm and grounded during these times?
12. What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told? Why do you think it happened?
13. Is there anything you’re afraid of messing up in your life?
14. Do you lie to people about how you feel? What is the feeling to feel you cover up most?
15. What’s something about yourself that you wish you could change?
16. When was the most hurt you’ve been by someone else?
Shadow work prompts for manifestation
These shadow work questions work with the unconscious mind to shed light on your true self’s core values and goals. Once you know these, it is the most profound act of self-love to manifest these goals into fruition.
Psychologist Carl Jung famously wrote,
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
You may be ready, and it is time for you to descend into your own shadow. If so, here are the shadow work prompts to uncover what blocks you from manifesting the life you were born to lead.
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17. What is your dream life?
18. What does an average day in your dream life look like?
19. What are you drawn to and passionate about in life? What stops you from pursuing this?
20. What would you do if your biggest dream happened tomorrow? What would you feel?
21. What are the obstacles in your everyday life? Which of these can be transformed into opportunities?
22. What happens when you think of the future?
23. Does anything trouble you about the short-term future?
24. Recall the last time you were jealous of someone. What exactly is in their life that you desire?
25. Is making money in life important to you? What is your relationship to money?
26. What do you enjoy most in your life now? Do you ever feel the foreboding joy around this?
27. What would you like to be recognized for?
28. What brings you stress in life? Stress is an unavoidable part of the human experience; however, directing your energy toward its true purpose brings about ease and fulfillment.
29. What five long-term goals will lead you to your purpose?
30. How does finding your purpose make you feel?
Shadow work prompts for spirituality
Confronting the spiritual shadow self is likely the most challenging shadow work of all.
It’s often entirely uncomfortable for people to delve into the darkness and see what is there for themselves.
But as C.S. Lewis, a writer famed for weaving spiritual elements and questions into his work, wrote:
“When we are lost in the woods, the sight of a signpost is a great matter.”
Shadow work prompts are the signposts. They give you direction. If there was one piece of advice I’d offer for this section, it would be to leave your preconceptions at the door. Try not to write what you think you should write — or parents or other family members. Write through the unconscious. Write before thinking, if you will.
So pull out your shadow work journal, and discover the shadow side of your spirituality with these shadow work questions.
31. What stops you from spiritual self-discovery?
32. What does it mean to be completely free? When do you feel the freest?
33. Recall a big mistake you’ve made. What did you learn from it?
34. What makes you feel empty? How do you think your spirituality could help fill this void?
35. What gives your purpose in life?
36. What is your biggest regret in life?
37. What do you think happens when we die?
38. Have you ever felt guilt around spirituality? How do you feel about your spirituality now?
39. When have you felt least connected to your spiritual self?
40. Have you connected with your spirit guides? If so, who are they? If not, what are your beliefs about spirit guides?
41. Do you ever feel cursed?
42. Which people had the most influence in your spiritual life?
43. Do you believe you have a higher self?
44. Do you believe in an afterlife?
Shadow work prompts for relationships
Most people would never think of the benefits of undergoing shadow work for relationships — but it’s vital. Our shadow self tends to love being left alone, and it’s in the presence of other people it can become aggravated.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Although it’s natural to be annoyed with a spouse or partner from time to time, the shadow self can really bring things out of perspective. Spending time with your shadow work journal through the relationship lens will help you transition from a toxic to a spiritual relationship.
After these prompts, you may feel called to find professional help, whether through a relationship coach, a trained therapist in relationships, or a family therapist.
45. What do you judge your spouse for?
46. What traits do you admire in your partner that you wish you had in yourself?
47. How do you feel about confrontation?
48. What’s the most hurtful thing you’ve done in a relationship? Do you harbor any emotions still around this?
49. How do you feel about yourself as a romantic partner? How do you think your partner perceives you?
50. When was the last time you felt let down by your partner? How do you feel about it now?
51. When was the last time you let your partner down? How do you feel about it now?
52. Do you have healthy boundaries in your relationship?
53. What would you change about your relationship? How does that reflect on you?
54. Describe what an unhealthy relationship looks like to you.
55. Where do you feel you’re not pulling your weight in the relationship?
56. What can you do to show more love to your partner?
57. Do you argue fairly in a relationship?
Shadow work prompts for sexuality
Before we talk about sexuality, we need to unearth what is conscious living, as the two are closely linked. Living a conscious life is about taking control of your life, thinking about your decisions rather than making them without thought, and having a life that you want rather than settling for the one that befalls you.
As human beings, many of us value having a fulfilling, passionate, and erotic sex life. In tantra, sex can even be used to reach your highest potential.
Here are the shadow work prompts you need to uncover the taboos held in your system around sex. Once these are unblocked, you can elevate your sex life to new levels of pleasure and connection.
58. What are your fears around sex?
59. Do you feel the need to perform during sex? If so, explore why this is.
60. What from your cultural upbringing has negatively affected your relationship with sex?
61. What is your typical inner dialogue during sex? Is there anything you’d like to change about it?
62. What is your relationship to pornography addiction?
63. What was your first sexual experience like?
64. Describe a sexual fantasy you have.
65. Do you have healthy boundaries in your sex life?
66. How do you feel about your sexuality?
67. Do your sexual beliefs fit you, or have they been prescribed to you by someone else?
68. What might be holding you back from gaining sexual mastery?
69. What stops you from being fully creative in bed?
70. How do you feel about your body?
71. How do you feel about your genitals?
72. Write about your last sexual experience — how did it differ from your first?
73. What types of sex positions do you harshly dislike? Why is this?
74. What would you change about your sex life?
Shadow work prompts for the inner child
Spending time with your child self in your adult life is just about the most effective way of being a conscious human being. People are triggered throughout their daily lives because of ways their child was ignored, neglected, hurt, or lost.
Continuing to abandon your own child self by suppressing their reactions in your life now only makes matters worse. With these shadow work journal prompts, you can create a safe environment to communicate with your child self.
75. If you could tell your child-self one thing — what would it be?
76. Divide your inner child into 3 different ages — how do they differ?
77. What did you not receive in your childhood?
78. Write about when you felt betrayed as a child. How did you react? Hows does this affect you today?
79. What traits did you have as a child that you’ve “grown out” of? Why is this?
80. Where was your safe space as a child? Do you have or need one now as an adult?
81. What is an affirmation you wish to give your child self? Why is it meaningful for them to hear?
82. Were there emotions you were taught to suppress as a child? How can you work with your child self to welcome and feel all emotions?
83. What does the term “childish” activate in your system?
84. What situations trigger the inner child as an adult? Why is your child-self becoming activated? What can you do to make them feel seen, heard, and safe?
85. What’s something that scared you as a child? Does this fear persist today?
86. What was your worst childhood memory?
87. What does your child wish to communicate with you now?
88. Did you ever feel pressured to people-please as a child? Does this continue to this day?
Shadow work prompts for healing
Of all the shadow aspects, healing is what most people are after. Whether that’s healing depression, a sickness, or even recovering from past hurts or other people’s opinions. Feeling whole is a massive part of why people pull out the shadow work journal and connect with the shadow and also the true self.
89. In what areas of your life do you feel inferior to others? And why?
90. What are your self-sabotaging behaviors and thoughts? How can you meet these with compassion?
91. What stops you from fully committing to your healing process?
92. What was I brought up to value in my family? How are my own values different?
93. When was the last time I felt time truly at peace?
94. Do I feel whole in my life?
95. What are the first signs that your mental health is dipping?
96. When was the last time I forgave myself?
97. How can I show more compassion to myself?
98. What would a life of self-acceptance look like?
99. If you could say one thing to your shadow, what would it be?
100. When you have been self-destructive in your life, what’s usually the reason?
101. What habits have you picked up over the years that no longer serve you?
More than anything, shadow work takes perseverance to see progress in your personal development. Without the support of more embodied techniques, it takes a long time to integrate.
Also, shadow work is not for the faint of heart, and if you’ve read through the entire article rather than scrolled a bit, got intimated, and backed out — it’s a good sign that you’re ready for this level of work and becoming a conscious man.
That’s what we’ll uncover in this free training for men looking to attract passion, love, and success in their life.
How do I begin shadow work?
These shadow work prompts are the guide you need to benign shadow work.
What is an example of shadow work?
A straightforward method of shadow work is to find something that triggers an unusual response for you and explore why that may be. You can see by this example that it helps you to feel discomfort so you can find out why you are the way you are.
What should be in a shadow work journal?
A shadow work journal does not need to be fancy. That said, it’s essential to have a journal reserved for focused shadow work.
Does shadow work actually work?
Yes, as long as the person is willing to consistently write in their shadow work journal. Shadow work often works best alongside the support of a mentor who can guide you through the darkness.
Why is shadow work important?
Shadow work is the doorway to reducing projection when interacting with others. It also helps you to work through negative emotions and improves mental health as you accept yourself fully.
What is your spiritual shadow?
Your spiritual shadow is the part that makes peace with the parts of ourselves that we find hard to love or we even loathe. Awakening conscious awareness through a shadow work journal diminishes toxic traits people use to hide from these suppressed parts of the psyche.
What are the dangers of shadow work?
Facing traumas or hurtful experiences in your past can be difficult. If you feel this is too much to do on your own, go at your own pace and perhaps seek a professional to help guide you.
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