What is a Shadow Work Journal? The Viral Journaling Technique

What is a Shadow Work Journal? The Viral Journaling Technique

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Shadow Work Journaling, a method that went viral on TikTok, is a mental health trend rooted in Carl Jung's psychology. It involves exploring subconscious patterns, wounds, and trauma. The trend gained mainstream popularity through a book by Keila Shaheen, "The Shadow Work Journal," which became a bestseller on Amazon​​​​.

What is Shadow Work Journaling?

A bird looking at it's reflection in a mirror, in this case signifying the bird reflecting on its shadow work.
A bird looking at itself in a mirror.

Shadow Work Journaling is an introspective method, inspired by Carl Jung's concept of the 'shadow self'. This practice encourages individuals to delve into the less acknowledged parts of their personality, such as suppressed emotions, past traumas, and unrecognized strengths. While the foundational idea stems from Jungian psychology, the specific technique of journaling in this manner is a modern development, adapted to facilitate personal growth and self-awareness.

This form of journaling helps in illuminating hidden aspects of one's personality, enabling a transformative journey towards self-acceptance and personal growth. By engaging in Shadow Work Journaling, individuals embark on a path of introspection and discovery, aiming to integrate these shadow aspects into their overall sense of self, thus contributing to a more authentic and holistic identity.

The TikTok Phenomenon

The trend on TikTok, popularized under the hashtag #shadowwork, has amassed over 2.3 billion views. It involves individuals engaging in deep self-exploration to address anxieties, fears, and self-sabotaging behaviors. While some have found it transformative, others view it as controversial, raising questions about its legitimacy as a therapy substitute​​​​.

Benefits of Shadow Work Journaling

Effective shadow work involves not just confronting difficult emotions but also reaching new levels of acceptance and understanding. This process can build resilience and support psychological recovery. It's recommended to engage in shadow work with a supportive community, including friends, family, or a therapist, to ensure a balanced approach to mental health​​.

However, it is important to note that there are no scientific studies conducted on shadow work journaling at the moment so do take it with a grain of salt; it's a tool at the end of the day so it's what you make of it.

How to Start a Shadow Work Journal:

A bird looking to start a Shadow Work Journal with stoic.

1. Identify Triggers

Start by acknowledging moments that trigger strong emotional responses. These could be everyday interactions, memories, or situations. Document these instances in your journal, noting what triggered the emotion and how you felt. This practice helps in identifying patterns or unresolved issues that require attention.

2. Explore Behavioral Patterns

Examine habits or behaviors that seem negative or self-defeating. Look for patterns in your actions, especially those that recur in stressful situations. This step involves acknowledging these patterns without judgment, understanding their origins, and contemplating their impact on your life.

3. Examine Projections

Reflect on how you perceive yourself and how you believe others perceive you. This includes understanding the persona you present to the world and recognizing the difference between this persona and your true self. This step can reveal hidden aspects of your personality and how you interact with others.

4. Journaling Prompts

Utilize specific prompts to probe deeper into your subconscious. These prompts might include questions like "What qualities in others irritate me and why?" or "When do I feel most vulnerable?". These questions are designed to uncover hidden thoughts and feelings, facilitating a deeper understanding of your inner self.

5. Reflection and Acceptance

The final step involves reflecting on the insights gained through journaling and working towards accepting them. This is a crucial phase where you begin to integrate these revelations into your consciousness, leading to a more authentic and self-aware existence. It's important to approach this step with kindness and self-compassion, recognizing that personal growth is a continuous journey.


Shadow Work Journaling is a powerful tool for self-exploration and healing. While it has gained popularity on platforms like TikTok, it's important to approach it with caution, ideally with professional guidance. This practice can lead to significant personal growth, but it's crucial to balance self-exploration with support and care.

Want to Start a Shadow Work Journal?

Get hundreds of guided journals, templates, prompts, and more with stoic.