by Rachel Cabeza

If you had told me Tik-tok would be a gateway into healing some of my childhood trauma, I probably would laugh. But alas, this is where we are. 

I learned about the phrase, ‘Shadow Work,’ as I mindlessly scrolled through videos on Tik-tok and was intrigued. I am very into self-help. From therapy to group therapy, it’s all my jam. I grew up in a poor Latinx household where no one had ever gone to therapy. Mental health awareness was something that just did not exist. 

As I grew older and my childhood trauma affected my relationships and daily interactions, my partner suggested I try therapy. I had access to it for free at college and I desperately needed to talk to someone.

When I did, things took a significant positive turn for me. I started my journey with therapy and healing about five years ago. Since then, I have grown and changed immensely. But, I do think I have made the biggest strides this year in part due to shadow work and the awareness of who I am.

Accessing Your Shadow Side

The origin of shadow work comes from Jungian psychology. As per Carl Jung, the shadow self is, “an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself; or the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. In short, the shadow is the unknown side.”

Freud said the ‘shadow’ was your unconscious mind, and Jung theorized that the shadow aspect of one’s self could be everything outside your conscious mind. 

Now I try not to put too much stock in all of the beliefs of modern psychology because a lot of the founders have inherently flawed systems of belief; i.e. they are racist and/or misogynistic. But this concept has some merit.

The way I look at it, the shadow self is a hidden part of ourselves that we repress because it makes us feel sad or wounded. Carl Jung believed in the integration of the shadow side so that our full self is acknowledged, and we can live in a balanced way. 

I have found better communication, the ability to set boundaries, and recognize triggers in my life because of shadow work. 

How Are We Healing

You can start your journey with shadow work immediately. All you need is a pen and some paper. Writing, specifically journaling, is the easiest way to begin. 

Basically, I start everyday with a prompt that forces me to reflect on my insecurities, issues, and fears. I ask myself the question, and I write out an answer – unfiltered, all emotions and I work through the logical and the irrational aspects of my emotions. Then I ask myself ‘why’ and that leads to more self-awareness. 

For example, here a few prompts you could ask yourself. I personally do one prompt every morning.

  1. What emotion do you try to avoid the most? Why are you afraid of letting yourself feel it?
  2. Do you only listen to people who hold the same beliefs as you? Do you find that limiting? Why?
  3. When I think of my future I am most afraid of….
  4. How often are you assuming how people are feeling without knowing? Why?

I’d say I’m on Day 55 of consecutively journaling and I have learned so much about myself. Not only am I forced to face hard truths about myself, I find that this daily exercise is teaching me to accept myself. I am learning to live with them and cope with aspects of myself that aren’t joyful or ‘perfect,’ and by that perspective I have more empathy for myself. 

I always end my journaling with writing out what I’m grateful for on that day. I am able to go into my day with a fresh and grounded perspective after practicing that self-care for myself.

I think a big part of trauma is forgiveness and what I’ve learned to be true in my own experience is that forgiveness is for you. Forgiveness is peace of mind for yourself rather than another person. We are so hard on ourselves for the choices we make every day and I want to recognize that it’s okay to fail and make mistakes. Shadow work has helped me internalize that.

The key to shadow work is understanding that we are not expelling these negative or ‘bad’ aspects of ourselves, instead we are recognizing them and learning to live with them.

Immersive tools

Another method to shadow work is meditation. I absolutely love and vouch for meditation. I do it daily and aim for 10-30 minutes if I can. I have found guided meditations on youtube are my favorite because I am easily distracted. Having someone guide you offers a great approachable way to start. 

I used to have panic attacks every day, and now I can’t remember the last time I had one. I have never taken anxiety medication, and everybody is different but I know these coping mechanisms, such as shadow work, have built a great foundation for my mental health.

Shadow work is in no way a replacement for therapy, it is simply a tool to supplement that journey of healing. If you do not have access to therapy, it is a great way to understand and grow as a person on your own and at no cost.

Rachel Cabeza is a Latinx actor/writer located in Brooklyn, NY. She loves watching movies, hiking with her dog, cooking pizza in her pizza oven EVERY weekend, and working out. Rachel is excited to bring a new column about skincare, beauty, and fashion to Mixed Mag and connect with all the amazing readers.

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