For example, you may find yourself realising your perfectionism is getting in the way of having fun, so you can zero in on that as a theme, Dr. Mullen continues. Or maybe people-pleasing is your theme. Are you people-pleasing so much to an extent that you think that it’s a strength, but it’s keeping you from building healthy relationships with not only others but yourself?
Characterize Your Shadow
Dr. Mullan also suggests starting off by giving your shadow self a name to better familiarize yourself with what you’re dealing with. Then, describe what it looks like. “What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it do?” she adds. “Close your eyes for a second, and think about what this shadow feels like.”
People-pleasing and imposter syndrome are examples of common shadows, Dr. Mullan says. You may start writing down something like, “It’s an orange, fuzzy monster. It has big googly eyes, so it seems cute and harmless, but it eats up my confidence,” she explains.
When you’re ready, you can rename your shadow to something more empowering, Dr. Mullan says. For example, “I’m not people-pleasing. I’m learning how to deal with people,” she adds.
Pick an Age
For another shadow work journaling session, you can explore your personal history with these prompts: How old were you when your shadow became problematic? When did you first remember feeling insecure or disliking a certain part of yourself? Focus deeply on specific memories during that time that relate to it. “Let’s say you find yourself thinking, “Oh, life was great up until I was 16,'” Dr. Mullan offers as an example, and says to write that down and go from there.
Face What You Project Onto Others
You can ask yourself the question: What most bothers you about other people? Whatever you end up writing down is usually a reflection of what you don’t like about yourself and need to reintegrate into your own being, Dr. Yusim says.
Live Your Truth
In her book Fulfilled, Dr. Yusim provides several prompts including, What stops me from living my truth? Alternatively, you can reflect on this question: If I allowed myself to fully live my truth, how would my life be different? These questions may help you uncover what you are truly afraid of and what may be causing you to fall into toxic patterns instead of healing and living your life authentically.
Along these same lines, Dr. Yusim also lists these prompts to help you identify your truth and what is holding you back:
- What am I most afraid somebody will find out about me?
- What’s the biggest lie I ever told myself?
- What’s the biggest lie I ever told someone else?
- What parts of myself do I own and express fully?
- What parts of myself do I hide and why?
Describe Your Joy
Again, not every prompt has to be emotionally exhausting or potentially triggering. Confronting parts of yourself that you hate is definitely scary at times. Shadow work journaling can be a helpful way to document times of joy and celebration by reflecting on specific memories throughout your life that made you feel whole and worthy, so you can better carry those parts of yourself into your future. Notty suggests using these two questions as prompts: “Where is my joy?” and “Who am I?”
These optimistic questions have been resonating with Notty a lot lately, she says, and help her look forward to finding out the answers to them as she continues to write in her shadow work journal. “People do get stuck on the bad side of shadow work and healing, but sometimes, it can be fun,” she shares. “Shadow work is not only for the sadness, loss, and pain. It’s also for happiness, gratitude, peace, and expressing feelings of romance. You don’t always have to focus on healing from something. You can also focus on finding yourself.”
This story originally appeared on Allure.