What is “Shadow Work”?

If you’ve been relatively active in the tarot community, there’s no doubt you’ve come across the term ‘shadow work’. It’s not as magical and mysterious as it sounds, but it can be dark.

The term ‘shadow’ refers to the dark or hidden sides of who we are. It refers to parts of ourselves that we deny.

Shadow work refers to the work we do to bring light to these parts of ourselves. It is a solitary journey, one in which we ask ourselves important questions and answer them honestly.

I like to think of shadow work as self-therapy.

A popular way to begin shadow work is simply journaling. You can search the internet for prompts relating to shadow work and you’ll likely come across prompts like these:

  • Which emotion do you tend to deal with in unhelpful/destructive ways? Write about the way you usually deal with this troublesome emotion. Then write about what your life might be like if you dealt with it differently.
  • What qualities irritate you about others? Do you see any of these characteristics in yourself?
  • When you silence or suppress one part of yourself, how does it feel?

Answering questions like these can bring parts of your personality out of the shadow and into the light.

Tarot is also a great way to do shadow work. Many practitioners have a deck or decks that they specifically use only for shadow work. These decks can be (but don’t need to be!) darker or harsher in imagery to better reflect our shadow.

An important part of shadow work, many will agree, is setting aside a time and specific intention to practice. It’s not necessary, but it helps us build focus to have a ritualistic and intentional approach.

Below are some resources I’ve found if you’re interested in delving in to your shadow. It can be difficult to just jump in without some direction, so I’ve included some websites with overviews about shadow work as well as journal prompt lists to aid you on your journey ahead.

Shadow Work Resources:

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