The concept of shadow work and the shadow self was first introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. According to Jung, our shadow consists of all the unconscious parts of our personality.

What is shadow work and how to do it

Although it sounds ominous and scary, our shadow is simply our blind spot. It can represent woundings, emotional baggage, or the ways that we self-sabotage and self-protect. Our shadow contains everything about ourselves that we cannot see about ourselves and things we don’t want to admit to having to others. Instead, we bury this part of us.

When we are unconscious of our shadow self we operate out of our shadow beliefs. We project our emotions onto others and repeat destructive behaviours and are out of sync with who we would like to be in the world.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Carl Jung

You may experience this as feeling stuck and as an inability to create positive change in your life. You may find yourself feeling emotionally triggered and in reactive mode a lot of the time. Or you may feel ‘numbed down’ as every moment is melded into one. You may feel incapable of feeling or expressing certain emotions. Shadow work is a process of bringing gentle awareness to these unloved, unwanted bits of ourselves, healing and lovingly accepting and integrating our shadow as part of us.

Do you want to feel more connected with your authentic self? Discover 3 Secrets To Becoming The Queen Of Your Own Life, in my free training HERE

How to do shadow work

How Is The Shadow Self Created?

Our shadow self is created when we are in our Maiden state, young, naive and mouldable. Through our relationship with our primary caregivers, we quickly learn how we need to be in this world to win love and acceptance. We also learn about the parts of ourselves that are not acceptable, or lovable through punishment and disapproval. This becomes our shadow self – unloved, disowned bits of ourselves that are banished to the dark recesses of our subconscious.

Our Shadow Teachers

When someone triggers our shadow self we can feel threatened, become reactive and project our emotions onto others. Because we are largely unaware of our shadow we are often triggered by similar beliefs or behaviours when these are mirrored to us by another person. This is our shadow teacher.

Our shadow teacher highlights in us unhealed or hidden parts of ourselves that need our love, healing and acceptance.

Shadow teachers can also be movies, songs, metaphors and shadow archetypes. As midlife moms, our children, especially in their teen years are excellent shadow teachers. As they grow into adulthood, our children reflect to us, unhealed childhood hurts, mother wounds and generational trauma that we now have the opportunity to reparent ourselves through.

Do you want to feel more connected with your authentic self? Discover 3 Secrets To Becoming The Queen Of Your Own Life, in my free training HERE

Shadow Archetypes

According to Jung, “Archetypes are universal and instinctive models or personas that influence human behaviour.”

Since ancient times, archetypes have been used as a teaching tool. Much like a metaphor, archetypes communicate certain truths to which we respond at a deep inner level.

When we are in our shadow self, we may be in the repressed, wounded, or unintegrated form of the feminine archetypes. Whenever we encounter a feeling of being lost or trapped, it is generally because we are living in the wound or the shadow of these powerful feminine energies. Shadow archetypes reflect to us disempowering behaviour patterns that we repeat but are most times unaware of.

In My Book When She Wakes She Will Move Mountains, I explore these Shadow Feminine Archetypes and how they may be influencing you in your life.

Tanya Valentin - When She Wakes She Will Move Mountains Book

How To Do Shadow Work

Create Awareness About Your Shadow Self

The first step in doing shadow work is by becoming aware of your shadow self. Spend some time ‘checking in’ on yourself and your emotional reactions.

Ask yourself “what triggered this feeling or behaviour and why did I feel this way?

Another clue is in the behaviours you repeat. These are often things that we really would like to change, but we just can’t seem to. (Even if we try really hard to).

Challenge Your Mindset About Shadow Work

One of the first hurdles to doing the work required to heal ourselves and to begin to make conscious choices about ourselves is our fear of shadow work. Now you may not consciously call it a ‘fear of shadow work’. However, most of us have been taught on some level to fear the dark, the shadows. We may have been warned that it is better to let ‘sleeping dogs lie’. Because our shadow self represents how we were rejected by others, this can bring up feelings of deep shame and fear of rejection.

The second step in shadow work requires us to challenge what we usually do on default mode. We are invited to turn toward the source of our discomfort. To turn toward the painful reflection that our shadow teachers are showing us. And for us to see this as a valuable time for excavation, uncovering and treasure hunting, instead of something to dread or avoid.

The cave I fear to enter holds the treasure that I seek.

Joseph Cambell

Do you want to feel more connected with your authentic self? Discover 3 Secrets To Becoming The Queen Of Your Own Life, in my free training HERE

What is shadow work and how to do it
Photo by Jens on

Discover Your Shadow Archetypes

As discussed earlier in this blog, Shadow Archetypes are an excellent way for us to learn about ourselves. Shadow Archetypes, highlight to us how we hold ourselves back, and repeat the same destructive behaviours.

You Can Discover Your Shadow Archetypes HERE.

Uncover Your Limiting Beliefs

When our shadow selves were formed we also adopted a set of beliefs about ourselves and how we fit in the world. So many of us carry around a long list of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ that are not only extremely rigid but don’t serve us very well.

It is up to us to uncover our beliefs and make these conscious. This then gives us the choice to keep the beliefs that still fit with us and our values, or to ‘unlearn’ and release the beliefs that no longer are aligned with who we would like to be.

If you find uncovering your beliefs challenging, or you would like support with exploring your limiting beliefs and how they are keeping you from the life you deserve, then BOOK A FREE CLARITY SESSION WITH ME.


Journalling is a powerful way to meet your shadow self. When we journal we engage our ‘witness’ thinking and we can view our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours objectively with curiosity instead of self-criticism. I have prepared a free PDF for you with five shadow work journal prompts to get you started.

Download Your FREE Shadow Work Journal Prompts Here.


Our shadow self is a part of ourselves that has caused us pain, punishment and rejection. As human beings very little is more important to us than feeling loved safe and as if we belong. And we consciously or unconsciously fractured ourselves when we created our shadow self. We made an agreement with ourselves that we would only outwardly show others or acknowledge our ‘light’ acceptable bits. We disowned our shadow self and often deny that it is part of who we are.

A huge part of shadow work is understanding grief. At first, we are going to be in denial that we even have a shadow. Then we will try to make sense of our shadows through bargaining and ‘what ifs’. The next stage is anger. We may become angry with ourselves or others for our shadows, which could lead to depression. The stage of acceptance is always the most challenging. Because acceptance demands that we stop blaming others and take responsibility for our own shadow work and healing journey.

Many people resist acceptance because they feel that if they accept that they have to say that the wounds and the pain inflicted on them by others were okay. However, acceptance merely means accepting the reality, the existence of our shadow self and there is great power in this.

Do you want to feel more connected with your authentic self? Discover 3 Secrets To Becoming The Queen Of Your Own Life, in my free training HERE


Forgiveness follows from acceptance. As with acceptance, forgiveness is not condoning what has happened to us. Forgiveness is a conscious act of choosing to let go of the hold that our past traumas have on us. We are simply choosing to let go of the hurt and the pain.

Healing isn’t as simple as learning to love yourself. It’s going back to the places you stopped loving yourself and remembering why. It’s then holding that part of you close and rescuing them from old pain The remembering is what makes it hard. The holding is what makes it brave.

Nate Postlethwait


Once we have accepted our shadow as part of ourselves we can start the process of reintegrating our shadow self as part of us. This is a sacred reconnection with our Wild Woman and who we are at our true essence.

So many women who I work with, feel the sense that they have these many different parts. Parts of themselves that are not ‘allowed’ in various areas of their lives. And so learning to accept and love all of ourselves is an incredibly empowering and freeing thing for us to gift ourselves. Especially if we would like to have more joy, peace, purpose and freedom in our lives.

Conscious Interruption

It is the natural order of things that for everything we take away we must replace it.

The process of conscious interruption involves us bringing our old, limiting beliefs to our conscious awareness and then replacing these with flexible, new beliefs.

Every limiting belief we challenge must be replaced with a new, empowering belief. Like new seedlings that we plant in a garden, we must work to look after our new beliefs so that they can take root and flourish.

This means becoming aware of our thoughts and behaviours and then actively choosing to replace our old thoughts and behaviours with our new ones. This needs to be an intentional practice until we create new neural pathways to help us to do this automatically.

If you know that you are ready for change.

If you are committed to doing the work to reconnect with and love the whole, true you then book a FREE CLARITY SESSION WITH ME.

As a Midlife Mentor for Women, I help you to heal old wounds and unlearn beliefs, behaviours and stories that no longer serve you so that you can reconnect with, love and trust the woman that you truly are.



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