Several deep questions to help you do shadow work on your subconscious.
Every person contains multitudes of both light and dark, and in order to maintain balance between the two you must be aware of this fact.
Shadow work is the practice of delving into the “shadows” of your subconscious mind. This refers to parts of yourself that you may perceive as negative as well as parts of yourself that are less well-known, to you or others.
Though you may not be consciously aware of the shadows contained in your mind, trying to forget or repress these parts of yourself can do more harm than good. Shadow work is all about searching within yourself to discover, recognize, and accept your weaknesses.
You can perform shadow work in different ways, such as meditating or journaling, but no matter what you choose to do it will likely be helpful to have some questions for yourself before just jumping right in.
So, we’ve compiled a list of nearly one hundred shadow work prompts to help you get started on your journey to find balance within your mind. Check out other pages on our site if you’re interested in more information about light and shadow work.
Prompts for Your Past
Something very important to delve into during shadow work is your past, as memories from your childhood can often occupy a lot of space in the subconscious mind. You may not even be aware of how deeply childhood memories have the potential to affect you.
When you picture yourself as a child, what do you see?
What values were you taught by your parents and teachers?
What things were most important to you in your childhood?
Can you think of any childhood memories that cause feelings of regret or shame?
Do any childhood memories make you feel angry?
What was your biggest fear as a child?
Did you often feel lonely or left out as a child?
Did you feel accepted and supported when you were a child?
If you could change one thing about your childhood, what would it be?
Is there anything that happened during your childhood that you experience difficulty talking about?
Who were your childhood role models?
What did your parents or guardian ask of you as a child?
How would other people in your life have described you when you were a child?
What would a younger version of yourself want others to understand?
Prompts for Your Future
Just as it’s important to consider your past, you should also dedicate time to figuring out what weighs on your mind about the future. By discovering what you may find difficult to think about, you can work towards working through it.
What are some goals you want to accomplish in the future, both in the short and long-term?
Where do you see yourself in ten years? In twenty?
Do you have any big hopes or dreams?
If you could start your career all over again, would you do anything differently?
What expectations feel difficult to live up to?
What expectations feel easy to live up to?
What influences the way you make decisions?
What do you wish other people knew about you?
Can you think of steps you can take to improve negative aspects of your life?
If you found out you would die today, what would you regret not having done?
Prompts on Your Self-Perception
In order to be successful in your shadow work, you have to delve deeply into what kinds of thoughts you have about yourself.
If you’re constantly talking down to yourself, it’s only going to hurt your self-esteem. The first step to accepting negative thoughts is accepting yourself for who you are.
What do you think your first impression would be, if you somehow met yourself?
What are some of your core values?
What do your beliefs indicate about your personality?
Are you patient with yourself?
Do you tend to self-sabotage? How so?
Are there traits you dislike about yourself?
What do you believe is the worst thing you’ve ever done, and why?
What would you change about yourself, if given the chance?
What do you think are your best character traits?
Do you believe in yourself and your abilities?
Are you ever too hard on yourself?
If you could choose to be someone else, who would that person be?
What are some things you wish you could forgive yourself for?
What kinds of things could you do and/or stop doing if you were able to fully accept yourself?
Prompts on Your Perception By Others
On the other hand, what kinds of thoughts do others have about you? How you feel and think about others’ opinions is equally important.
Other people should not be the sole dictators of the way you act, let alone the way you think. Allow yourself to come to terms with other people’s potentially negative or incorrect perceptions of you.
What type of people do you tend to spend time with?
How does your family perceive you?
How do your friends perceive you?
Do you ever feel the need to hide who you truly are from others?
What sorts of things do you feel too embarrassed to discuss with other people?
How much of an impact do the thoughts and beliefs of other people have on you?
What misconceptions do you believe other people have about you?
Do you ask for help when you encounter an issue, or tend to deal with it alone?
How do you respond when someone offers you support?
In what ways do you wish other people would support you more?
How do you cope with receiving criticism?
Do you ever envy others, and if so why?
Do you ever feel like you don’t matter as much to others as they do to you?
What things do other people do that make you feel isolated?
What people take up the most emotional energy in your life, and why?
Prompts for Relationships
Whether romantic or platonic, the relationships we have shape who we are as people, both in a positive or negative way. Oftentimes, our past relationships are the root for trauma we carry in the present. Think of some of the below prompts for shadow work.
What does it mean to you to be vulnerable in a relationship?
How does it make you feel to be vulnerable to others? Why?
What sorts of things make you feel like you’ve been rejected?
What makes you feel resentful or jealous, and why?
When you feel negative emotions towards others, what does this reveal about yourself?
What are some things that can make you feel defensive, and why?
Do you have any secrets that you don’t want your partner or friends to find out about?
What would happen if all of your secrets were revealed?
What do you want your friends and partner to believe about you?
What sorts of things that other people do make you feel irritated?
Do you judge others? For what?
Do you tend to hold grudges, and if so why?
What sorts of things do you get into arguments with others about?
How do you handle stressful conversations?
Do you tend to lash out when you feel hurt? Why?
Do you stay in relationships that impact you negatively?
What would you say if you could write a letter to a person who has wronged you?
What did you do the last time you did something wrong?
What do you wish other people knew about you?
When was the last time that you forgave someone who wronged you?
Prompts About Emotions and Trauma
Depending on how deep the work you want to do is, you may want to consider some of your past trauma and the negative emotions tied to those experiences.
If you really want to make great progress with your shadow work, you’ll have to think about things that make you uneasy or uncomfortable. Contemplating and accepting these memories ultimately lead to balance, even if it may be a difficult journey.
What kinds of negative emotions do you find yourself feeling frequently?
What types of thoughts tend to stick with you constantly?
Do you tend to avoid letting yourself experience negative emotions?
What sorts of thoughts make it difficult to fall asleep at night?
Do you find it difficult to let go of negative memories or emotions?
When have you felt at your most self-conscious?
What sorts of things do you find yourself afraid of?
Is there anything that makes you feel tense or unsafe when you think about it?
Do you have any bad habits that you turn toward as a coping mechanism?
Why do you believe you repeat destructive patterns?
What do you struggle to say “no” to?
What do you do when someone crosses a boundary of yours?
Prompts for Healing and Spirituality
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the end goal for shadow work is to help your mind along in the healing process. Even as you ask yourself difficult questions, always be thinking about how they can contribute to healing and balance.
Do you ever feel unworthy of love? If so, where does this come from?
What steps do you feel like you need to take in order to consider yourself worthy of good things?
What aspects of yourself do you struggle to accept, and why?
How does it make you feel when you do something wrong?
How does it make you feel when you do something well?
What does your self-talk sound like when you’re alone?
Do your opinions about your own self-worth come from a healthy place?
Do you trust yourself? Why or why not?
What do you think it means to be a good or bad person?
Where do your moral beliefs come from?
What does your belief system say about who you are as a person?
What makes you feel ignored or outcast?
What makes you feel valued?
What in your life gives you the biggest feeling of purpose?
If you are considering shadow work as a method of bringing balance to your subconscious, consider the above prompts to get you started. We encourage you to start with which ones you believe might be most relevant to you, as it's very possible you will come up with your own questions to build off of the ones we’ve written here.
Everyone in the world has things they’d rather not think about, whether it be something as concrete as a memory or as abstract as an inexplicable emotion. Delving into these topics via shadow work may seem scary at first, but ultimately the process is meant to help you achieve balance within yourself.