Shadow Work: How to Connect With Yourself and Face Your Fears
In this installment of Practical Magic, Lisa Stardust explains shadow work, the practice of getting to know the deeper parts of yourself, as it relates to magic. Always remember that magic is for believers, but this column can also simply serve as a guide to getting in touch with yourself — magically or not.
When we do spell work, we often act from an ego-centric state of mind. The desire to manifest our hopes and desires to boost our interests is high. However, we do the opposite with shadow work — an essential element of magic, as it allows us to connect with our inner psyche, face our fears, and love ourselves on a deeper level. This means that we are coming from a more humble state of mind. We want to heal the parts of ourselves that are in pain or have residual trauma from the past.
The shadow part of ourselves is hidden in our subconscious, which is repressed due to shame, humiliation, or consciously unaware of. Doing shadow work is an essential part of being a witch and toolbox. Why? Because it helps us center ourselves. We won’t act from a place of ego or greed when casting spells. Plus, there won’t be an immediate or intense reaction to the negativity thrown at us because we give these parts of ourselves TLC. Then, we can decipher an ethical way of dealing with others and ourselves before going to the dark side and exerting negativity into the world due to our issues or insecurities. It also helps us understand our hearts and minds on an intricate level — which is essential in broadening and deepening one’s magical powers. The more grounded we are, the easier it is to lean into our intuition.
If you’re curious about the shadow self, you can look at the work of psychologist Carl Jung, who focused on the notion of the shadow self. He defined the unconscious with eight different archetypes:
Self: One’s conscious awareness
Shadow: The dark aspects of ourselves
Anima: Our feminine side
Animus: How we reflect upon our actions
Persona: The mask worn to the world to protect the inner self
Hero: How to overcome obstacles
Wise old man: Our innate knowledge and intuition
Trickster: Our inner child that likes to play
Giving attention to these aspects of ourselves will heighten our power, as we can see ourselves clearly by owning our trials and tribulations. Looking at our weaknesses and demons can be complex and challenging — so do it with kindness and awareness. Be gentle with yourself.
Here are some magical ways to work with, heal, and conquer the shadow self:
Write a letter to yourself.
Honor and love your shadow self by writing a letter to yourself. You can use a far-off mailing address or one that doesn’t exist with a letter stating the aspects of yourself that you want to change (with no return address). Once you mail the letter, you’ll feel a lot of warmth and light in these spaces and places you’ve repressed. Conversely, you can write a letter to yourself, giving your shadow self a chance to be loved and accepted by you.
Talk to someone you trust.
Having a trusted confidant will help you from being in your head all the time. Speaking about your fears is a great way to release them. A therapist, guidance counselor, family member, or friend can allow you to see matters differently. Their advice and companionship won’t make you feel alone and will ease your heart, knowing you have the right support.
Own your shadow self.
Stand in front of a mirror and state positive affirmations while looking at yourself. Also, speak of the darker elements of your shadow self. Once you literally face yourself, you’ll see your fears for what they are. You’ll be able to comprehend and understand what scares you the most — then decide if you want to hold onto the anger, fear, or doubt within.
Create a ritual.
You can cleanse your home with mugwort, take a bath with Epsom salt, light a white candle (to heal and cleanse) or black candle (to release the negative vibes), mediate, create an altar space that connects you with your ancestry or lineage, and connect with nature to align oneself with the positive aspects of life that fuse the collective energy of the world together.
Give yourself a hug.
Most importantly, you should be easy on yourself throughout this process and give yourself time to heal. Don’t be critical of your past, in denial of your present, or scared of the future. Be in the moment. Cry if you need to — but always give yourself the compassion and empathy you deserve. Give yourself a big hug every day, knowing that you’re doing your best — one day at a time.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue