Let's talk truth about what shadow journaling is and is not, as well as whether shadow journal prompts are actually helpful. I was recently approached by Healthline to speak about this and I am expanding with a dissertation here! Happy reading friends!
Why is shadow work trending?
I am actually not sure! My speculation is that this generation of TikTok-ers has done a fairly decent job to destigmatize the concept of reflection and therapeutic actioning. I think that's awesome. From there, I would suspect a person with a large following and a great marketing strategy probably started the trend, like all things that "go viral." When it comes to psychological principles though, you have to be careful about all things 'self-help' - some things are intended to be done with a professional who can really help you unpack things in a healthy way.
How did it start/who popularized it initially?
The concept of the "shadow" has been around for a very long time. It was originally talked about by Carl Jung, who focused significantly on the unconscious mind and how the unconscious impacts us. He had some very interesting concepts, including the collective unconscious which helps to explain why we have 'shared fears,' for things like heights, spiders, etc. These are not new concepts and I sort of wonder what Dr. Jung would be thinking right now if he saw his work trending on TikTok???
What is shadow work and what is meant by the “shadow self”?
I always commend young people for taking their own mental health into their hands and advocating for themselves. Gen Y and Z have forced people to listen and make changes - I mean that's pretty cool. However, playing in deep water when you don't know how to swim also has its dangers. Take it from me - I can't swim, so I have respect for the water and the fact that it is more powerful than I am capable of handling without the proper gear like my floaties, lifejacket and and lifeguard. What I am trying to say here is that this trend can impact you more than you think it will. The shadow is only one part of the self that Jung talked about - it's not the whole thing. We all have multiple parts to ourselves - we have various "masks" that we were that allow us to walk through the world and be productive people in work, with our friends, with our family, etc. You might be "the helper" in your friend group and your family, and you might be the "rescuer" in your relationships which could attract unhealthy partners and you could be "the perfectionist" in your work environment or school. These are all parts of the true you AND they are also masks we were to show the parts of ourselves we may feel comfortable with. The other side- the shadow- may be the parts of ourselves we don't necessary like or want to show the world. Some parts might be so unacceptable to us that they are buried deep and out of our awareness all together. Some parts of the deeply buried self may hold our ultimate pains, shame, fears, and trauma. We may use defense mechanisms to keep that pain hidden and cut off from us. Ever heard of denial? projection? rationalization? Well, those are defense mechanisms into to project our conscious self from our buried pains. And guess what? Those are there for a reason. If you start searching for stuff below the surface and you do not know what you are doing or why you are doing it, other than "everyone else is" then you may be in for an outcome you cannot handle. The desire to better yourself is fantastic but the "how" of doing that is the question here. Remember, the "shadow" is not visible to you - it's unconscious. That's the point of it. So, you can purchase a shadow journal with a couple of exercises and you may elicit some interesting thoughts but that's not unconscious work. That type of work takes time, commitment, trust and partnership. The shadow journal prompts are the tip of the iceberg - you then have to take this information and do something with it. That's where the partnerships and trust comes in. If it scares you to let others know your secrets then guess what? That is actually more important at times then your secrets themselves and that's your work to do. Understanding our masks, our shadows, what's below the surface of the iceberg is a lifelong process and it takes a professional who is equipped to help you explore your defense mechanisms that you cannot see. Another amazing way to start to really get under the surface of how you mask yourself is to do group work. In a group setting, you will start to be impacted by the personalities of others - who bothers you? who do you feel immediate connection with? who can you simply not stand even the sound of their breathing? That's the work and it cannot be done on one's own.
What are the benefits of shadow work? When supported by a professional the following is possible....
When should we hit the brakes and say 'no' to the trend?
When people are in the immediate throws of a serious psychological issue - whether it be eating disorder, addiction, trauma, etc., then the first thing is always stabilization. You don't open up more doors that can lead to emotional unraveling. You work on stabilizing the immediate concern and then you look at the underlying issues that are impacting the person on a deeper level. Ultimately, at KML, you will always hear us consistently say the same thing in any space we have a voice, and that is to not participate in trends or psychological things because you see then online. Do your research from credible sources and follow up with the advice of a licensed professional. Your mental health is one of the most important things you have in this life! You deserve it!
OPEN DISCUSSION REGARDING TODAY'S HOT TOPICS!
Dr. Kelsey explores the actual science behind today's "hot topics". She also explores deep dive behind some of her featured media topics. Come aboard to see the simple solutions to complex problems!