100+ Shadow Work Journal Prompts & Examples for Self-Discovery

Sian Ferguson
Sian Ferguson

Sian Ferguson is a health content writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. With almost a decade of experience reporting on health and wellness, her goal is to create empathetic, science-based content that empowers readers to take care of their well-being. You can read more of her work on Healthline and Psych Central.

November 20, 2023

Much of our mind is shrouded in the darkness of the unconscious, concealing the innermost aspects of ourselves that we struggle to accept or be mindful of. Shadow work journal prompts seek to illuminate these parts of our psyche and bridge the gap between the unconscious and the conscious.

In doing so, these prompts help us identify, accept, and integrate our ‘shadow parts’ into our lives, guiding us toward self-acceptance and improved mental health.

Key Takeaways icon

Key Takeaways

  • Based on Carl Jung's concept of the shadow self, Shadow work journal prompts are thoughtfully designed questions or statements that help you dive into the depths of your unconscious mind.
  • Shadow work journaling prompts explore themes like past traumas, repressed emotions, and unacknowledged desires.
  • Engaging with these prompts helps you acknowledge, understand, and integrate your shadow aspects, which Jung believed was crucial for achieving a unified sense of self.
  • AI journaling apps like Rosebud can provide you with helpful shadow work journaling prompts to get you started.

What are Shadow Work Journal Prompts?

Shadow work journal prompts, deeply rooted in the psychological theories of Carl Jung, are thoughtfully designed questions or statements that help you dive into the depths of your unconscious mind. 

These prompts reflect Jung's concept of the ‘shadow self’ — the parts of our personality that we often repress or deny — and act as reflective tools that encourage us to confront and reconcile these hidden aspects[1].

Shadow work journaling prompts explore themes like past traumas, repressed emotions, and unacknowledged desires, asking poignant questions like, "What aspects of yourself do you find most difficult to accept, and why?" or "Reflect on a situation where you felt misunderstood — what underlying feelings were you not expressing?" 

Engaging with these prompts helps you acknowledge, understand, and integrate your shadow aspects, which Jung believed was crucial for achieving a unified sense of self.

100+ Shadow Work Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery

Whether you're a seasoned journaler or a newbie, journaling prompts can add a new dimension to your reflective sessions. Think of them as little nudges that help you step out of your usual thought patterns and look at your shadow traits in a new light.

Here are 100+ prompts that’ll help you work on your shadow self:

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Self-Love

Self-love is one aspect of connectedness that helps you flourish and improve your well-being[2].

Examining self-love with shadow work prompts can help you improve your self-esteem, create and maintain boundaries, and accept your authentic self.

Here are 10 thought-provoking prompts to get started. The first prompt includes a sample answer to show how you might approach this exercise. 

  1. What trait in others triggers a strong emotional response in you and why?

Sample answer: I often feel irritated when someone is overly critical or judgmental. Upon reflection, I realize this triggers me because, deep down, I’m pretty critical of myself. I haven't fully accepted my imperfections and often judge myself harshly for small mistakes. Realizing this has helped me understand that my reaction to others mirrors how I treat myself. Embracing this can make me more compassionate and forgiving towards myself and others, fostering self-love and understanding.

  1. What does your inner critic say to you? How can you respond to it with understanding and compassion?
  2. Have you recently sabotaged your happiness or success? Why do you think you did that?
  3. Think about a past hurt or trauma. How has it shaped your view of yourself? How can you offer yourself love and kindness regarding this experience?
  4. Is there something you haven't forgiven yourself for?
  5. What does jealousy tell you about your needs or desires? How can you use this insight to practice self-love?
  6. How can embracing vulnerability be an act of self-love?
  7. How can you remind yourself that you are worthy of love, regardless of your productivity or accomplishments?
  8. Write about a time you faced rejection. How can you use self-love to heal from this experience?
  9. Think about a trait or aspect of yourself that you often view negatively. How can this trait also be a source of strength?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Relationships

Healthy relationships that offer emotional support can improve your well-being and reduce the risk of unhealthy behaviors[3].

Examining your relationships with shadow work journal prompts can help you uncover how past experiences affect your present-day relationships and identify problematic behavioral patterns in your relationships.  

Try the following journaling prompts:

  1. Reflect on a time when you felt jealous in a relationship. What was the root cause of this jealousy, and what did it teach you about your values or insecurities?

Sample answer: My partner had started a new job and was spending a lot of time with a colleague. At first, I thought I was just being protective, but after some reflection, I realized I was scared of not being good enough and that they might find someone better than me. The whole situation taught me a lot about myself, especially how important it is for me to feel secure in a relationship and to trust my partner. It also showed me that I need to work on my self-confidence and not let my fears obscure reality.

  1. Think about how you typically react during conflicts in your relationships. What might these reactions reveal about your deeper fears or needs?
  2. Identify a moment when you felt particularly insecure in a relationship. What triggered this feeling, and how did you cope with it?
  3. Consider your attachment style in relationships. How does this style reflect your childhood experiences or relationships with your parents or caregivers?
  4. Reflect on the expectations you have of your partners. Where do these expectations come from, and are they fair or realistic?
  5. Think about a past relationship that significantly impacted you. What did you learn from this relationship, and how has it influenced your approach to current or future relationships?
  6. How do you express love and affection in your relationships? Does this accurately represent your feelings, or are you influenced by external factors or past experiences?
  7. What patterns do you see in how your romantic relationships have begun, developed, or ended?
  8. Are there aspects of your communication style in relationships that you feel could be improved, and why?
  9. Why is validation important to you, and how does it affect your relationships?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Fears and Insecurities

We’ve all felt fearful or insecure at some stage in our lives. Fear, in particular, is an emotional reaction that protects us[4]. But too much of it can have potentially adverse consequences on our physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental health[5].

Using shadow work journal prompts can help you identify which fears and insecurities are rational or irrational and workshop ways to overcome your fears and insecurities.  

Try the following prompts to get started:

  1. What is your deepest fear, and how has it shaped the choices and paths you've taken in your life?

Sample answer: My deepest fear has always been the fear of failure. This fear has profoundly influenced my decisions and life path. I've often chosen safer, more predictable routes in my career and personal life to avoid the risk of failing. Sadly, this has led to missed opportunities, especially in areas where taking risks could have led to significant growth.

  1. Are there particular insecurities that come to the surface in social settings, and what do they say about your self-image?
  2. Consider times when you've been afraid of rejection. What do these moments tell you about your need for acceptance and belonging?
  3. How has past failure affected your willingness to try new things or take risks?
  4. What specific aspects of the unknown worry you the most, and why?
  5. Consider a time when you experienced significant self-doubt. What was the situation, and how did this doubt influence your decision?
  6. Think about your romantic relationships. Are there insecurities that frequently surface, and how do they impact these relationships?
  7. Do you notice a connection between your insecurities and how you value yourself?
  8. Consider your worries regarding financial stability. How do these concerns shape your life choices and your sense of security?
  9. Does being alone scare you? What does that say about your need for companionship and connection?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Hidden Desires and Impulses

Uncovering hidden motivations and desires is crucial to understanding the underlying forces that shape your actions and choices.

Examining your hidden desires and impulses with shadow work journal prompts can help you:

  • make more conscious, aligned life choices by understanding your true motivations
  • identify and manage your unconscious triggers
  • uncover and embrace hidden aspects of your personality that'll encourage new forms of creative expression

These prompts can help you start exploring your hidden desires:

  1. Reflect on a desire you have that you rarely admit, even to yourself. What is this desire, and why do you think you've kept it hidden?

Sample answer: A desire I rarely admit, even to myself, is the longing for recognition in my professional life. I've kept it hidden because it feels superficial and contrary to the more altruistic values I try to uphold. This hidden longing likely stems from a deeper need for validation and fear of being seen as inadequate. Recognizing this desire helps me better understand my actions and motivations, particularly in my career choices and interactions in professional settings.

  1. Think about your impulses when you're under stress or feeling emotional. What are these impulses, and what might they tell you about your deeper needs or unresolved issues?
  2. Consider a wish or desire you feel is taboo or socially unacceptable. Why do you think you have this desire, and how do you cope with keeping it concealed?
  3. What desire conflicts with your values or beliefs?
  4. Think about a secret aspiration or goal you haven't shared with anyone. What's holding you back from pursuing or acknowledging it openly?
  5. Consider your most frequent fantasies or daydreams. What themes do they have, and what do these themes reveal about your hidden desires or aspects of your life?
  6. Reflect on a time when you acted impulsively. What triggered this reaction, and what did it reveal about your underlying desires or emotions?
  7. Think about a fear you have that might disguise a hidden desire. How might addressing this desire help you overcome the fear?
  8. What desires or needs in your relationships haven't you expressed? Why might you hesitate to express them?
  9. Reflect on how past experiences might have shaped your desires or impulses today.

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Career and the Workplace

Shadow work doesn’t just address your personal life — their benefits can spill over into your professional life, too. 

Through shadow work, you can:

  • identify subconscious fears that may be holding you back from career advancement
  • understand underlying reasons for dissatisfaction or disengagement at work
  • explore and clarify your true professional aspirations and goals

Try the following shadow work journal prompts for your career:

  1. In what situations do you find yourself feeling envious of your colleagues?

Sample answer: Whenever my colleagues get praised or promoted, especially those I started with, I can't help but feel a bit envious. It's like a gut reaction. I think it's because I equate such achievements with personal success. So, seeing someone else getting what I've been striving for makes me question my abilities and worth. I'm trying to work on it, but honestly, it's a tough feeling to shake off.

  1. Think about the career aspirations you had in the past that you've since abandoned or neglected. Why did you move away from these goals, and how do you feel about that now?
  2. How do you react to authority figures in your workplace? Do these reactions mirror any dynamics from your past or personal life, and what can they teach you about how you view power and control?
  3. What is your greatest fear regarding your career, and how does this fear influence your decision-making and actions at work?
  4. How do you struggle with balancing your professional and personal life? Consider the guilt or internal conflicts that arise when prioritizing one over the other.
  5. What parts of yourself do you hide or suppress in your professional life? Why do you feel the need to conceal these aspects?
  6. Identify the aspects of your job or career you are most dissatisfied with but often dismiss or ignore.
  7. How do you respond to criticism or negative feedback in your job?
  8. Have you ever felt jealous of a colleague’s promotion or success?
  9. Do you experience feelings of impostor syndrome in your workplace?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Childhood Healing

As per Jungian theory, our childhood experiences shape our feelings and behaviors throughout our lives. When we don’t process these experiences in a healthy way, we may develop harmful patterns of behavior and thinking. 

Shadow work journaling can help you:

  • recognize patterns of attachment or coping mechanisms developed early in life
  • heal emotional wounds by acknowledging and validating past traumas
  • develop compassion and understanding for your younger self, aiding in self-acceptance and growth

The following shadow work journaling prompts can get you started:

  1. Recall a significant childhood memory. How did you feel in that moment, and how do those feelings relate to your current emotional responses?

Sample answer: One significant childhood memory is when I was overlooked for a lead role in a school play despite putting my heart into the audition. I felt crushed, invisible, and unworthy. These feelings of rejection and not being good enough resurface even now when I face setbacks in my personal or professional life. I tend to overreact to criticism or failure, feeling that same deep sense of inadequacy.

  1. Think about the lessons and messages you received from your parents or caregivers. How have these shaped your beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes as an adult?
  2. Identify a fear you had as a child. Do elements of this fear still affect you now?
  3. If you have siblings, consider how your relationships with them during childhood have impacted your current relationships.
  4. Reflect on your experiences at school. Were there moments that particularly shaped your self-esteem or self-image?
  5. What did you dream of becoming or doing as a child? How do those dreams compare to your current aspirations and life path?
  6. Think about an activity or hobby you loved in childhood but no longer pursue. Why did you stop, and how does it feel to think about this now?
  7. If there's a specific person or event from your childhood you resent? Write a letter of forgiveness or understanding (you don't have to send it).
  8. Recall a family tradition from your childhood and its significance for you.
  9. What were the defining moments in your first friendships, and how did they shape your understanding of friendship?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Trauma

We’ve all had traumatic experiences at different points in our lives. This trauma can have a significant effect on our thoughts and actions. 

Through shadow work journaling, you can process and understand the impact of traumatic experiences on your current behavior and emotions. This can help you identify and challenge any negative self-beliefs formed as a result of trauma. 

Try the following shadow work journal prompts for trauma:

  1. Reflect on an event in your life that you would classify as traumatic.

Sample answer: I often think about the serious car accident I was involved in as a teenager. Not only physically painful but also left me with a deep-seated fear of driving. For years, I avoided getting behind the wheel, and even as a passenger, I would feel intense anxiety. This experience impacted not just my mobility but also my sense of independence. 

  1. Think about how your body and emotions react when you're reminded of trauma.
  2. Consider the coping mechanisms you've developed in response to your trauma. How have they served you?
  3. Reflect on how your trauma has affected your relationships with others.
  4. Identify what triggers your trauma responses. How do you typically react to these triggers, and how do you try to avoid them?
  5. Think about the messages or beliefs about yourself or the world that this trauma has instilled in you. How have these beliefs shaped your behavior and choices?
  6. What barriers, if any, prevent you from reaching out for help with your trauma?
  7. How has trauma influenced your sense of self?
  8. Are there methods of expression or processing that you find more helpful or therapeutic?
  9. Imagine what healing from your trauma looks like for you. What changes or developments would indicate that you are healing?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Dreams

Jung believed that dreams can contain important messages from our subconscious. Shadow work journaling is the perfect space to explore your dreams, especially those that feel scary or uncomfortable. 

Examining dreams with shadow work journal prompts can help you:

  • decode symbolic messages and insights from your subconscious
  • identify unresolved issues or desires that manifest in your dreams
  • gain a deeper understanding of your inner fears and hopes

These prompts can get you started:

  1. Do you have any recurring dreams? What elements are repetitive, and what might they symbolize in your waking life?

Sample answer: I often have a recurring dream where I'm trying to speak, but no sound comes out. It happens in various settings — sometimes at work or a family gathering. The repetitive element is my inability to vocalize. I suspect it symbolizes my struggle with expressing myself in situations where my opinions might be undervalued or ignored. 

  1. Reflect on a recent dream that had a strong emotional impact on you. What emotions did you feel in the dream, and how do they relate to your current life situations?
  2. Consider a recent nightmare. What fears or anxieties could they be reflecting?
  3. Think about a significant character in your dream. What might this character represent about your traits or aspects you're unaware of?
  4. Do you ever dream about a particular desire or goal? How does this dream connect to your unfulfilled desires or aspirations in real life?
  5. Identify a symbol that appeared in your dream and explore its possible meanings.
  6. Consider a dream that felt like it was offering guidance or a message. What was the message, and how might it apply to your life decisions or challenges?
  7. Reflect on a dream where you or something else was undergoing a transformation. What does this transformation symbolize about your personal growth or changes?
  8. Think about a dream where you searched for something or found something unexpected. What might this object or the act of searching signify about your inner desires or fears?
  9. Consider a dream that took you back to your past, childhood, or a significant event. How does revisiting this past event in your dream affect your present self?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Emotional Insights

Shadow work journaling can help you understand the root causes of intense or unexplained emotional reactions, develop greater emotional intelligence and empathy for yourself and others, and uncover hidden emotional wounds, and begin the healing process.

Here are 10 shadow work journal prompts designed to help you explore your emotions:

  1. What emotion do you frequently feel but rarely explore?

Sample answer: I frequently feel but rarely explore resentment. It often surfaces when I feel overburdened at work or in personal relationships when I carry more than my fair share. I tend to push it aside, labeling it as petty or unjustified, but it keeps returning. I realize now that it's a sign of deeper issues, perhaps related to not setting boundaries or not feeling appreciated.

  1. Write about a recent situation that triggered a strong emotional response in you.
  2. Are there any recurring patterns in your emotional responses? What are these patterns, and what might they reveal about your underlying needs or wounds?
  3. Reflect on an emotion you find difficult to express. Why is it challenging for you, and how does this impact your relationships and well-being?
  4. Think back to your childhood. What emotions did you feel most often, and how do these early experiences influence your current emotional landscape?
  5. Do you have an emotion you regularly suppress? What is this emotion, and what fears or beliefs lead you to suppress it?
  6. What do your emotional reactions during conflict tell you about your fears, boundaries, or unmet needs?
  7. Think about the emotions that surface most frequently in your relationships. What do these emotions indicate about your relationship expectations, desires, or insecurities?
  8. Consider a physical sensation you experience when feeling a strong emotion. What is the connection between this physical response and your emotional state?
  9. In what area of your life have you experienced significant emotional growth?

Shadow Work Journal Prompts: Identity

Examining your identity with shadow work journal prompts can help you:

  • clarify aspects of your identity that you may have repressed or overlooked
  • reconcile internal conflicts related to your identity and values
  • foster a stronger sense of self and authenticity by embracing all parts of yourself

Try the following journaling prompts:

  1. List your roles in life (e.g., parent, friend, worker). How do these roles align or conflict with your true self?

Sample answer: My desire for independence and my need for close, secure relationships frequently conflict with one another. On one hand, I value my freedom and personal space highly, wanting to make decisions without external influence. On the other, I deeply crave intimate, stable connections where I feel supported and understood. Reconciling these parts involves a constant balancing act.

  1. Reflect on your reactions to others. What do these reactions reveal about the parts of your identity you are less aware of or comfortable with?
  2. Think about aspects of your identity that conflict with each other. How do you reconcile these differing parts of yourself?
  3. How does your identity change in different relationships or social settings? Why do you think these changes occur, and how do they make you feel?
  4. Consider a part of your identity that you feel you have lost or neglected over time.
  5. Think about a time when you experienced a crisis of identity. What triggered it, and how did you resolve it, if at all?
  6. Reflect on aspects of your identity that you keep hidden from others.
  7. Consider how your core values align (or don't align) with your current identity.
  8. How has your self-identity evolved over the years?
  9. Are there strengths or talents you might be hiding? If so, why? 
  10. How do you present yourself on social media, and how does this differ from your offline self? What does this discrepancy say about your identity?

How to Start a Shadow Work Journal 

One of the biggest positives of journaling is its low-cost, flexible nature. It doesn't require any special purchases. In fact, you can start it right now for free!

Start by choosing a journaling medium — you can either go with pen and paper or the digital route. Opt for the method you're most comfortable with, and remember, it's perfectly fine to switch between the two as needed.

Whatever medium you choose, do your best to keep it safe. Doing so will give you that extra bit of security and comfort. After all, you're documenting your most private, vulnerable thoughts. 

It’s also important to remember that while journaling is a helpful tool for shadow work, you don’t need to pressure yourself into doing it every day. Setting aside a few moments every week is more than enough time to reap the benefits of journaling — although a little routine never hurts anyone. 

Are you ready to journey into the uncharted territories of your mind? Try Rosebud's AI-powered journaling app for free.

Dive into the complexities of your shadow self with tailored prompts, and uncover patterns in your thoughts and behaviors while gaining weekly insights with detailed summaries crafted from your entries.

FAQS About Shadow Work Journal Prompts

Shadow work journaling prompts are specific questions or statements designed to guide you in exploring the hidden aspects of your psyche. They help you delve into parts of your unconscious that you might typically ignore or suppress, often called the “shadow self”.
While it is not exclusively for shadow work, Rosebud’s AI-powered journaling app provides helpful prompts to kickstart and enhance your shadow journaling process. If you’d like some help delving into your shadow self, try Rosebud for free.
Yes, it's completely normal. Exploring your shadow can be challenging and may bring up uncomfortable emotions. It's important to approach this work with compassion and without judgment.
Focus on thoughts, feelings, and memories you typically avoid or find uncomfortable. This could include fears, hidden desires, past traumas, or any negative self-perceptions. The key is to be honest and open with yourself.
There is no set frequency — it depends on your comfort level and schedule. Some people find daily journaling helpful, while others prefer a less frequent, more in-depth approach. Listen to your needs and adjust accordingly.


  1. The Jungian Model of the Psyche. (n.d.). Journal Psyche. https://journalpsyche.org/jungian-model-psyche/
  2. Rahe, M., & Jansen, P. (2023). A closer look at the relationships between aspects of connectedness and flourishing. Frontiers in Psychology, 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10097885/
  3. Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(Suppl), S54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/
  4. Porcelli, P. (2020). Fear, Anxiety and Health-Related Consequences After the Covid-19 Epidemic. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 17(2), 103-111. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8629075/
  5. Rosenberg, J. (2017, November 11). The effects of chronic fear on a person's health. AJMC. Retrieved from https://www.ajmc.com/view/the-effects-of-chronic-fear-on-a-persons-health
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