Shadow Work for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

Written by Angela Atkinson

 “Shadow work is, at heart, about developing self-awareness and ultimately, self-acceptance and compassion. Shadow work is often both therapy and more spiritual, helping you see the different parts of yourself.” ~Maggie Wooll

Advanced Self-Help Healing: Shadow Work in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

If you’ve found yourself dealing with narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship, chances are you’ve found yourself feeling lost, unseen, unheard, and even completely invisible. You might not be sure who you are anymore.

While nearly everyone could benefit from shadow work, for narcissistic abuse survivors, not only is it something that could temporarily soothe some of the pain you’re dealing with, but the long-term application could change everything for you.

For survivors, going this deep can be far more difficult and painful than most people realize. I can relate because I’ve been there myself

Narcissists are so good at manipulating us and keeping us under their thumbs that we are often left feeling like a hopeless mess, with no sense of who we are or what we want. Shadow work may offer exactly the help you’ve been looking for if you’ve found yourself in this situation.

This is just one reason why shadow work is so important for narcissistic abuse survivors.

How can you do shadow work on your own?

Good news – shadow work is one way you can “self-help” your way through recovery. In fact, I recently launched a new series to teach you about shadow work in bite-sized pieces.

Want to participate? It’s free – just follow this playlist to learn about and get prompts nearly every day through my new shadow work series. You’ll also be able to access it through this website. 

 

Who created shadow work?

Carl Jung, a psychologist from Switzerland, is reportedly the first person who conceived of the idea of the shadow self. In Jungian psychology, the word ‘shadow’ refers to hidden parts of our being. 

Jung described it as the “unknown dark side of the personality” that was “instinctive and irrational.”

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain,” Jung said. “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

He also noted that the shadow is prone to psychological projection. This, he said, would lead to perceived personal inferiority within yourself, just as you might notice that someone else has some sort of perceived moral deficiency.

What is Shadow Work?

“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.” ~Carl Jung, Aion (1951)

Shadow work is a term used to describe the process of facing your own darkness.  It’s meant to help you find and fix the “broken” parts of yourself. In other words, shadow work will help you to identify the parts of yourself that you are afraid to look at, either because they are taboo or because they might not be so nice (or because you might feel embarrassed or shy to share them with anyone else – sometimes, you’re even hiding from yourself).

Shadow work is about facing your inner darkness head-on and finding a way to heal from narcissistic abuse and trauma

Shadow work reconnects us with our spiritual selves, helps us find the parts of ourselves that have been broken and damaged (and even little habits we just don’t love about ourselves), then guides us on the path to personal growth and empowerment.

How do you know you need to do shadow work?

When I first learned about shadow work, I thought I’d already healed from all of my damage and had nothing left to fix – at least nothing much. But sure enough, I still had plenty of deep-rooted issues – and it really helped me to clear my head, my heart, and my mind so I could evolve into the next best self I could be.

Often we don’t realize that these things exist within us until someone else points them out to us through their behavior toward us (or sometimes even just by using language like “you’re not good enough”).

When we hear something like this from another person (in whatever form), it feels like confirmation of all the things we may already know about ourselves but that we haven’t been able to face before now – so instead we project those thoughts onto other people instead.

Now, there’s another thing to think about: if you’re anything like me, your first instinct when you started noticing these things was to just shove it down and stop the behavior rather than going to the trouble to work through it and move forward in a healthier way. 

What’s the difference between inner child work and shadow work?

If you’re wondering what’s different between inner child work and shadow work (or even the difference between inner child and shadow self, know that you’re not alone. When I began to research shadow work, I suspected they were either connected or were one and the same. 

And, according to my research, they are indeed connected. The way I understand it, shadow work encompasses more than the inner child, but does include the inner child. 

So, in layman’s terms, the inner child will be healed as one part of the shadow work, but the shadow encompasses your whole life up to this point, along with all of the latest traumas.

When you grew out of being a child, your inner child stayed stuck – but your shadow continued along the way with you and saw the rest of the stress and mess you experienced. 

How is Shadow Work Used by Narcissistic Abuse Survivors?

Shadow Work can be used as a sort of “self-help therapy” when you’re going through narcissistic abuse recovery.

Many narcissistic abuse survivors report that doing shadow work has helped them to reclaim their identity and find their true self-worth again after being manipulated and controlled throughout their relationship with a narcissist.

Shadow work involves looking at aspects of your personality that aren’t healthy or positive, so they can be brought to the light and resolved through positive action steps like journaling or meditating on them until they resolve themselves internally.

Shadow work can also help survivors deal with painful memories related to the abuse cycle itself (i.e., flashbacks).

This process is often difficult for people who’ve experienced narcissistic abuse because they’re triggered regularly by things like social media posts or news articles about similar situations happening around us today.

At what point in narcissistic abuse recovery is shadow work most effective?

When you’re ready to do your shadow work, you’ll need to be beyond the first stage of recovery if you’re going to be effective and not retraumatize yourself too much. Why? 

At the beginning of recovery, you might find yourself sort of spinning and feeling very raw. In this state, you’re not going to be very effective with shadow work, due to both your own fragile state and the fact that you’re going to be trying to figure out the narcissist and their own psychology at this point.

That’s exactly why I believe that shadow work will work best for survivors who are in the last stages of healing and evolving after abuse.

As we muddle through the early steps of recovery when we’re often feeling like it’s painful to even be awake, much less digging into ourselves to find the hidden broken parts.

We’re just not there yet; we’re not really ready or even equipped to do our shadow work as we suffer through the early stages of recovery. 

But by the time you’ve gotten past the first few hurdles in recovery, you might be looking for a deeper or more advanced way to work through your traumas and finally, release them – once and for all. Shadow work might be just what you need.

How do you know where you’re at? Take the DUO test and find out.

How to Start the Shadow Work Process

You’ve just taken the first step in this process by reading the information above. Now, it can help to understand why you need to do this work and how it will help you heal from narcissistic abuse in ways that other healing modalities can’t.

5 Steps For Doing Shadow Work

You might feel like you’re beating your head against a wall, but you will get there. We will be using a modified version of my DUO Method to do our shadow work together.

Here are the steps we’ll follow doing our shadow work. 

  • Step 1: Identify the problem. What do you want to work through or fix in yourself? (Discover)
  • Step 2: Acknowledge the problem and accept it. Accept without condition both the problem and yourself in the process – you’re not bad or evil because you’ve struggled with this or any other issue. (Unconditional self-acceptance)
  • Step 3: Look at the problem (this is where you have to dig deep) and do your research to understand it. (Understand)
  • .Step 4:  Be honest with yourself about what’s been going on, who’s been involved, and how this has impacted your life in a negative way for years now, even when it was just one or two small things happening every once in a while that added up over time until all of a sudden everything changed overnight…because it usually does! (Overcome)
  • Step 5: Unconditionally accept and learn to love you for YOU. This is where evolution happens for a survivor. 

Shadow Work Prompts for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

One of the simplest and most effective ways to start your shadow work is through journal prompts. You’ll want to get a dedicated notebook or to even use YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok to record yourself and your efforts in mind and to keep your thoughts in place and organized. 

I’ve recently launched a new series for narcissistic abuse survivors on my video platforms. Here’s the first video for your convenience. (I’m using the hashtag #shadowworkforsurviors on all platforms – so feel free to follow wherever you prefer. I’m on YouTube, TikTok, IG and Facebook Reels)

If you want to get a jump start on this process, you can start by taking some time to answer each of the following questions in your journal or video diary. 

  • How can I feel safe in this world?
  • What is my worth, and how am I going to get it back?
  • How do I trust people again, or do I even have the capacity to trust people again?
  • What are some of the ways that I have been damaged by being in a relationship with someone who was toxic like this one was?
  • How do I express my emotions now that they’re no longer being oppressed by my abuser’s behavior?

There are simple ways to begin doing shadow work, but it takes a long time and can be painful. In any case, it’s totally worth the effort. You can do it!

Takeaway 

  • Healthy relationships are a challenge for anyone, especially those of us who have been through narcissistic abuse. However, by doing shadow work, you can heal your past trauma and find the confidence to move forward with your life.
  • Shadow work can be used as part of the process of healing after narcissistic abuse. The idea behind it is that when you have been in an abusive relationship, you have become confused about who you are and what is real. Shadow work offers the opportunity to rediscover yourself and redesign your life.
  • Your abuser has controlled your reality by gradually changing how you think, how you feel, and what makes sense to you. As part of this process, they may also have convinced you that there are parts of yourself that are negative or bad.
  • It can be helpful to think about shadow work as a process of facing the parts of ourselves that we have been avoiding (the shadow). This might include our pain, our feelings about being controlled or manipulated by others, or even just our own feelings about ourselves.

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

Author

  • Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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