What is shadow work? TikTok users are dabbling in psychoanalysis

TikTok is getting into psychanalysis with the shadow work trend. 

The hashtag #shadowwork has 186.6 million views and it’s all about digging deeper to gain self-knowledge. Shadow work is another aspect of wellness and self-help culture. However, it’s rooted in the teachings of the notable psychiatrist, Carl Jung. 

What is shadow work? 

Shadow work stems from Jung’s idea of the “shadow self.”

“There is no light without the shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection. To round itself out, life calls not for perfection but for completeness,” Jung said in his book Psychology and Alchemy.

The idea is that we have negative unconscious behaviors and impulses that we fail to acknowledge, making for an incomplete picture of our true self. Only when we understand that, despite our best efforts, we can be angry, selfish or jealous just like anyone else can we self-actualize. 

Do experts recommend shadow work? 

“In general I don’t think people are that fragile, I don’t think doing some creative journaling exercises on your own would create massive problems,” psychotherapist and author Imi Lo told Vice. “If it’s some kind of personal development work I don’t see the problem, but then there are certain things that would be more touchy.” 

However, for more serious challenges like trauma or psychosis, Lo recommended seeing a licensed professional to guide you through the process.

Shadow work culture on TikTok

People on TikTok are sharing their experiences with shadow work as they reflect on how they react to certain people or situations. 

The user @woodlandbaby provides users with shadow work prompts like, “What made you start doubting yourself as a kid? Was it something someone said or did?” 

“I used to be that type of person that would hate myself a lot, like I couldn’t even look in the mirror, but now I can,” @mielaklv

Then she shared a few things that helped her love herself, like taking herself out on dates, getting in touch with her body and questioning why she hated herself in the first place. 

But @poppycork had a sense of humor about shadow work as her higher self took her on a wild ride of letting go of toxic people and facing her inner demons. 

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