How To Do Shadow Work In Your Magic And Why You Need It
Witches know better than anyone that energy moves in cycles. Some nights the moon shines bright, and some nights the moon is shrouded in darkness. It would be completely unnatural for the moon to appear the same each night. Witches use lunar energy in all its phases—both light and dark. The energies are very different, but neither is better than the other. There is a place for both of them in witchcraft.
In the same way, sometimes we need to look at the not-so-pleasant aspects of ourselves in order to heal an ongoing energetic issue.
Your Shadow Side
Just like the moon, we also hold dual energies. We have our conscious mind, which is often associated with “light” energy. Then we have our subconscious mind—our “shadow” energy.
Though many people think of shadow energy as negative and light energy as positive, it’s not that simple. Shadow energy can be positive or negative. If it’s energy that you have suppressed and it now resides in your subconscious, it is considered shadow energy.
How Energies Become Subconscious
This could vary depending on your specific beliefs about souls and past lives, but generally speaking, we each have a spiritual essence. That soul has a whole set of traits, talents, desires, and other things that make up who we are.
When we come into this world, we are influenced by a number of different things such as the people we encounter, conflicts we experience, and the environment we grow up in. The lessons we learned during these formative years tend to stick with us, turning into beliefs that affect how we act and react as we move into adulthood.
For example, if your soul is naturally creative but your sibling made fun of your drawing skills you might have suppressed that talent and taken on the false belief that you’re not good enough to make art. From that point on, you might always admire other people who could draw or paint, but you’d never attempt it yourself because you’ve adopted the belief that you’re not good at art. You might spend your whole life avoiding all experiences where you’d need to call on your artistic talents because of a seemingly insignificant moment from a long time ago.
Another example is if your soul has an inclination to be outspoken and to be a charismatic leader but that behavior is discouraged by your parents because they are focused on raising you to be polite and obedient. This could result in you either denying your true self all your life or embracing your desire to lead but at the same time feeling a curious sense of guilt about taking charge and speaking up.
Law Of Attraction & Shadow Work
For many witches, including myself, the Law of Attraction is a big part of performing magic. It’s the idea that everything in our universe contains energy. That energy vibrates at all different frequencies. The Law of Attraction states that energies of a similar vibration will be attracted to one another. For example, you may know someone who is always winning raffles and getting airplane seat upgrades and you have no idea how they do it. For whatever reason, it’s likely that this person is holding the same frequency as free stuff and luxury travel.
Many people in the spiritual community believe that the way to raise your vibration to the things you want is to focus on those things while guiding your thoughts away from the things you do not want to manifest in your life.
However, we can’t just ignore all the unpleasant aspects of our life.
Think about it this way:
If you go to start the ignition on your car, and it won’t start, are you going to keep sitting in the car hoping that your car will start if you keep cranking the keys?
In theory, that could work because with magic anything is possible. The only real solution, though, is to try to figure out what’s wrong with your car.
Maybe you hear a clicking sound when you turn the key, and you recognize it from the last time your car battery died.
From there, you try to jump start your car, but the battery still won’t start. You come to the conclusion that you need to change the battery. So you get one, and voilà! Your car is good as new.
That is shadow work in a nutshell. Let’s go through the steps one at a time.
Step One: Uncover False Beliefs Through “Triggers”
Because we learn to suppress certain parts of ourselves in order to please our parents, fit in with friends, or do well in school, we usually have no idea that we’re suppressing anything. We just think we’re being good functional humans.
Then something triggers us. In the car metaphor, the trigger is the ignition not starting. It’s an external factor that catches you off-guard. In the spiritual community, the term “trigger” is often used to describe an experience that causes an unusually strong, sometimes overwhelming surge of emotion inside of you.
When you’re “triggered” it’s typically viewed as an overreaction to other people. They don't understand why you’re so upset, and they might think you’re being dramatic.
You might get triggered when you arrange to meet up with someone cute from your dating app and you get stood up. Perhaps this experience makes you burst into tears at the restaurant and vow to never use a dating app again. Your friends might tell you to get over it but you just can’t get over your hurt from the situation. This is probably something you can heal through shadow work.
Step Two: Honoring Your Feelings
One of the most important parts of shadow work is to honor your feelings. In the car metaphor, this is you acknowledging that there’s something wrong with your car—it won’t start.
Your feelings are what alert you to any resistance, false beliefs, or emotional wounds that are hidden in your subconscious. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings because, like your car problem, your subconscious issues could stop your spells from moving forward. Never push your emotions down, or beat yourself up for having them. That will only wedge those false beliefs and emotional wounds further into your subconscious and make you feel worse.
Step Three: Discover the Hidden Story Through Journaling
There are many ways to figure out the story behind your strong emotions, but I find journaling to be the quickest, simplest way to do this. You need to figure out why getting stood up made you so upset. In the car metaphor, this is where you’d listen to the sound the car makes to identify WHY your car won’t start. It’s because the battery is dead. You know that because it’s happened to you before.
Likewise, the story behind your current pain is most likely from something that happened to you before. Start by jotting down possible reasons why you're upset about getting stood up. If you start crying when you do this, that’s fine. Shadow work is not wallowing, it’s healing. You’ll know when you hit the right reason because you’ll feel that strong emotion all over again. Let’s say you realize that you're upset because you felt unwanted.
Next, think back to the first time you remember feeling unwanted. Maybe you remember getting picked last in gym class. Journal about this memory. Dig deep to get all of the painful details out on the paper. You might write about seeing your best friend get picked almost immediately or that one of the team captains who was picking teams was your first crush. Don’t hold back here. Write out anything that comes to mind even if it seems insignificant.
Selenite is an excellent crystal to place near you when you’re doing this part of your shadow work as it helps with mental clarity and strengthens your connection to your intuition.
Step Four: Heal Your Emotional Wound
Now that you’ve discovered the root of your pain, you can heal it.
In the car metaphor, this is when you discover you need to change the battery. To heal your wound, change your story. Instead of, “I got picked last for gym class because nobody wanted me.”, you can say, “I probably got picked last because the captains picked all their friends first. If my friend had been captain, I’d be the first one picked.”
It doesn’t really matter how you change your story. As long as the new story resonates with you, your false belief will fall away.
Then go back to the current trigger. In this case, it’s getting stood up by your date. Instead of, “My date didn’t show because I’m unwanted.”, a new story could be, “It was rude of my date to stand me up, and I deserve better. This person’s behavior has nothing to do with me at all.”
Remember, controlling your feelings is not the objective. Your feelings are your subconscious communicating with you and these signals are valuable information! You can, however, control your reactions by simply changing your story to something more constructive.
Step Five: Thank The Universe
These triggers are the result of some kind of energy you’ve sent out. Many times, this is a spell you’ve performed for something pretty big. These big manifestations usually require us to be at a higher vibration than where we’re currently at.
Shadow work will not lower your vibration—don’t let anyone tell you differently. In fact, after you perform your shadow work, your vibration will shoot up higher than before. That emotional wound or false belief was there inside of you the whole time, affecting your energy subconsciously. Your shadow work cleared it quickly, and as a result, opened a new channel to receive your desires and manifestations.
Sunflower Shadow Work Spell
After you’ve gone through shadow work process and journaled about your false beliefs, you can use those journal pages in a spell. Fold up the pages and plant them in the ground along with a sunflower seed.
State your intention as, “I release my false beliefs and I honor the brave shadow work I’ve done. I open my arms to accept the gifts of the universe. The channel is clear and I am ready to receive.”
The sunflower seed represents the beautiful gifts that will flow to you as a direct result of your shadow work. After you plant your seed, stand over that spot in the ground and close your eyes. Lift your head up towards the sun (the way sunflowers grow) and visualize a beam of golden light coming down from the sun and into your chest. The universe will send your gifts through that golden channel as your sunflower grows.
Enjoy the rewards of your courageous work, Witch. You deserve it!
A Note About Deep Trauma
Shadow work can be intense, particularly if your trauma is deep. If you begin shadow work and feel overwhelmed with painful emotions, consider performing this work with a therapist, holistic healer, or a medical professional. There is no need to go it alone. Asking for help is one of the most powerful actions you can take. You deserve to heal and there are many resources that you can use to accomplish that!
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by Julie Hopkins
Julie Hopkins is a writer, yoga teacher, and founder of Power Within, a whimsical online space created to help others improve their lives with magic. She’s from Chicago, but spends most of her time traveling to cool places.
Julie discovered the world of magic after she got tired of reading personal development books and hearing the same ideas over and over. Looking for a new way to grow, Julie started experimenting with tarot cards and felt an immediate connection to her intuition in a way she’d never experienced before. After that, she began studying magic in all its forms, never looking back. When she’s not writing about witchy things, you can find Julie making candles, daydreaming, and playing with other people’s dogs and babies.