'Shadow Work' Is Trending. Here's How You Can Benefit From The Healing Method

At this point, it's practically common knowledge that too much time on TikTok is not great for your mental health. Yet, somewhat paradoxically, a very popular corner of the platform is centered on how to care for your mental health and well-being. Right now, one particular concept in therapy that is taking off is known as "shadow work." With 956.8 million views of the hashtag #shadowwork, many users are finding it to be an effective method for healing.

For years and years, psychologists have been studying and practicing "shadow work" as a form of treatment for various mental health challenges. The reflective exercise is based on the highly influential work of psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Academy of Ideas explains that Jung used the term "shadow" to refer to the parts of the self we have learned to repress and hide in order to fit in with what we have learned is acceptable and ideal. "Shadow work" is the exploration of this typically unconscious side of ourselves.

What 'shadow work' does

For many, drawing out the problematic or negative elements of your personality might sound like it'll send you in the wrong direction. However, Jung claims this is a common misconception and the source of many psychiatric issues. Trauma recovery specialist and licensed therapist Valerie Hernandez explains to Bustle, "If we continue on without facing these aspects of ourselves, we will continue responding to the world and others that trigger these shadows in the same way." When our negative emotions are ambiguous, it's harder to harness them. If we push them away with a sense of shame and rejection, we can never work to understand them and unravel the pain they are causing us.

The Academy of Ideas also explains that you might discover your "shadow self" isn't always something "bad." For example, say you had a horrible experience with an English teacher where they mocked your writing in front of everybody. As a trusting child desperate to find a place you fit into, you labeled yourself a bad writer and began to avoid writing at all costs. You might find that you are actually very capable of writing, but you never gave yourself a chance because you hid this side of you, putting it in "the shadow." 

How to begin 'shadow work'

One way you can become more aware of your shadow is by becoming more mindful of your triggers. As Jung famously once said, "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." Anytime your mental health conditions decline, or you feel negative emotions stir inside of you, it is a good opportunity to pause and investigate where those feelings are coming from.

It can be helpful to do this investigation with a professional mental health clinician. Certified therapist, Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC tells mindbodygreen, "The idea is that a more objective entity (such as a therapist) can help provide an interpretive mirror to the parts of ourselves we have a difficult time seeing and accepting ... " However, if you are seeking to improve your mental health but cannot start therapy because of money or other obstacles, you can still explore shadow work on your own. Taking time to yourself for self-examination and reflection through journaling and meditation can be a great starting point.