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The Shadow Work Trend

It's not exactly a secret that being mentally ill (or pretending to be) on TikTok and other social media platforms was a pretty hot trend for a while in 2022 and 2023, so it should be less of a secret now that to combat this, it appears that mental wellness has become the new trend. Introducing the Shadow Work Journal as featured on the TikTok shop.

This journal is trending hot thanks to the many TikTok shop affiliates who are "excited" and "thrilled" to receive their very inexpensive product in the mail. Which is great - who isn't excited to recieve a package? Who isn't excited to see what they ordered? The truth is... they aren't.

The people in the videos aren't actually excited to receive a shadow work journal, they're excited to receive a paycheck for having helped advertise the product... and as someone who is genuinely going through shadow work from scratch, without the aid of a fill-in-the-blank workbook, there is nothing to really be "excited" for unless you know firmly and truly believe there is relief at the end the journey. There is no chance in hell these TikTok Shop affiliates have that in mind when agreeing to advertise this journal.

Now, it may sound like I'm talking shit about the journal. No way. I think the journal is a great idea. It surely makes the journey of recovery a lot more laid out and guided, which is probably more therapeutic than learning Shadow Work from the bedrock on up. My opinions on the eight-dollar shadow work journal are this: It's a lovely idea. It's a helpful, useful tool. It's very affordable which can help a lot of people such as myself who can't spend double-digits on things like mental wellness. I think that this journal is genius and deserves the publicity it is getting.

I just happen to disagree with the advertising technique and the audience it's being targeted at. 

The ads should feature people who actually know what shadow work is and the targeted audience should be people who are actually facing real traumas and really looking to get real help. Right now, the majority of people receiving ads about the Shadow Work Journal on tiktok alone is the same demographic whose mental illness trend is now dying out. The trend is dying out, so the next logical step in seeming more sick is to attempt a recovery... and once they see that shadow work is not going to be fun or help them seek attention, maybe they'll realize they've played too rough. In short, the people "excited" to recieve their journals are in for very rude and harsh awakenings when they realize that mental illness and mental injury are not trends.

I'm sorry to word it that way, but it's so very obvious. 

To anyone readings this who feels called out... that's a personal issue. I'm not here to call out anyone except the people advertising the journals. They're the ones selling it to you as if it's a really cute fill-in-the-blank activity book, but it's not. 

Here is what Shadow Work actually is:

Shadow Work is about confronting personal baggage and unpacking, putting it away, or throwing it out entirely. Shadow Work is developing an ongoing relationship with your shadow, the parts of you that were forced to stay dormant or traits of yours that were belittled into nearly not existing. In short, it's coexisting with your past self and working together to cope with trauma and move forward... something that a lot of people on TikTok seem to flat out refuse to do, according to my personal observations.

The overall goal of shadow work varies from person to person. My personal goal is with shadow work is to come to a place for forgiveness and improve myself as a person. I hope one day to see value in and stop placing numerical value on myself. 

Psychologist Carl Jung popularized the idea of the shadow work, the shadow self, and the inner shadow and even made clear that in order to live deliberately and wholly, we must embrace our shadow selves. He defined the collection unconscious with eight different Jungian Archetypes:

The Self: The center of the personality.
Shadow: Dark and emotional parts of the psyche
Anima: The idealized female role-model that draws you to your inner feminine
Animus: Your capacity for reflection and knowledge
Persona: The mask you wear to protect yourself from the world
Hero: The part of your psyche that can covercome wickedness
Wise Old Man: The part of you that contains true wisdom
Trickster: Your inner child that needs gratification

So... are you still "excited"? Not that it's wrong for someone to be excited to seek relief. I determined I was excited about shadow work only after I learned what I know of it... and not because TikTok is selling me a work book. 

Nothing I say will change the collective hivemind, so let me depart with this: If you are really, actually ready to start shadow work, consider this mini how-to guide on how to start.

1) Decide if you will seek therapy during your Shadow Work. If you are someone who has faced real trauma, this is highly recommended as even the smallest reflection prompts can cause a lot of despair. The good news is... the shit must happen before the shift can. Do not be afraid of therapy.

2) Practice spotting your inner shadow. If you have no idea who or what that is... you might not be ready for shadow work. Essentially, your shadow is anything that's been crammed away and shamed. This could be someone belittling you for being fat or having a disability... maybe you have a speech impediment and your parents showed you less affection. Those are examples... but look at your flaws and the traits that stem from them. Those are parts of your shadow. Anxiety, depression, "flaws" that you feel ashamed of, those are parts of your shadow self. Everyone has different shadows... so spend some time meditating and reflecting on spotting your shadow.

3) Analyze your childhood. Did you have a rough time thriving or developing in certain areas? Have your parents been kind to you? How was your relationship with other children growing up? Ask yourself a lot of deep, thought-provoking questions that you must answer to logically, not emotionally.

4) Avoid shaming your shadow. That speech impediment example: your parents didn't approve of you for it? That's their problem. Right now, you are you, so do not think of your shadow as "lame" or "stupid". Ways we do this to ourselves is through judgement, like "this is such a dumb thing to be sad about" - no it is not. This is part of the process, we're here to feel and process that pain. It is okay to sound different. It is okay to feel bad about sounding different. The same concept and attitude must apply to all parts of the shadow. You're there to learn, not judge. The outside world judges you enough - you need at least one person in your shadow's corner. Be that person.

5) Meditate on your triggers. If you don't know what causes something that hurts you, you won't understand how to lessen it. We can't avoid life forever, so while we can avoid certain things, we can't always avoid certain situations. We can't control the intentions or actions of others... and others do impact and influence us. Myself as an example, I can meditate on why some loud sounds cause me to break down. I can trace that back to childhood trauma and determine that my trigger is not so much loud noises, it's being yelled at in anger. Ever since I came to that conclusion, I can now enjoy fireworks (it took baby steps, but hey, happy late fourth of July).

6) Keep a shadow journal. This might be the more fun part (to me, I'm a writer). Keeping a journal is all about privacy and opening up and exposing your truly naked soul to nobody in particular and still gaining that sweet, sweet gratification of having gotten something off your chest. So why not do that with Shadow Work? A private (or maybe online) journal is a very personal way to ask yourself things that you can reflect on that not only help you get in touch with your inner shadow, but keeping a journal even as a place to emotionally dump your feelings can still help you reflect on yourself - shadow or current. The key is to make yourself dig deep into the uncomfy places of our psyche, and a journal is very safe, healthy place to do that.

7) Express your shadow artistically. Journaling not artsy enough? Try drawing, graffitti (on canvas, preferably), pottery, painting, or anything that involves the creative muses. Introduce your shadow to the world and let them see who they've been keeping locked away all these years. Let your artwork, your music, your writing be a window that allows your shadow self to see their new dawn.

8) Talk with your shadow: Yes, actually sit down someday and conversate. This could be done mentally/intrinsically, this could be through song, this could be through silent meditation, however... but the key is to actually speak. The best way and most common way to do this is through writing a letter. Simply begin with the prompt: Dear Shadow Self. If you're feeling brave and think you're ready to head a little deeper... write a letter to your past/child self, instead.

I think I'll leave you with that for now... but remember that trends come and go. You're now dealing with the psyche... a very important part of the brain, the limbic system (the part of the brain involved in behavioral and emotional responses). You're entering a very real practice called psychology, and before you decide you're ready to visit that part of your brain, you must ask yourself if it is necessary.

Are you into Shadow Work because TikTok told you to be... or because it's time?

Well if you've decided that it is time... and you've decided that you're still excited (and not just bored because it's not a coloring book, it's actual work), then please... I suggest you check out the Shadow Work Journal and get a copy for yourself while they're still cheap. There are other versions available on the shop, but the one I linked should take you to the viral product.

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