The Dark Night Of The Soul: 9 Reasons Why Shadow Work Is So Hard

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I’ll never forget the first time I tried to do shadow work. I had heard all about the benefits – how it could help me understand myself better, how it could bring up repressed emotions and unresolved issues, how it could lead to personal growth and transformation. But, let me tell you, it was not easy. In fact, shadow work can be downright hard and uncomfortable!

I felt like while I was journaling I was poking around in the dark, trying to uncover secrets that my mind had carefully hidden away. It was like trying to untangle a knot that had been tightly wound for years. Every time I thought I had made progress, I’d find myself right back where I started, feeling frustrated and confused.

But, despite the challenges and how difficult it was, I kept at it. I knew that there was something valuable hidden in my shadow self, something that could help me understand myself better and live a more authentic life. And, slowly but surely, I started to make progress. I began to uncover patterns and habits that had been holding me back, and I started to develop new coping mechanisms and strategies to deal with them.

If you’re considering doing shadow work, I want you to know that it’s not always easy. It can be uncomfortable, frustrating, and downright difficult and challenging at times. But, it’s also incredibly rewarding. With the right tools and resources, and a willingness to face your fears and insecurities head-on, you can uncover the hidden parts of yourself and transform your life in ways you never thought possible!

In this article, I want to share some of the shadow work challenges you could face when starting out. By being aware of what you could face I hope that it will inspire you to continue towards a happier and healthier you! And if you need some motivation or encouragement, don’t forget to check out our article on the benefits of shadow work.

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9 Reasons Why Shadow Work Is So Hard!

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some common reasons why people might find shadow work difficult and challenging.

When you are ready to begin doing shadow work, don’t forget to check out our library of over 150 shadow work prompts to help you get started!

Facing Uncomfortable Emotions

We all have those emotions – you know, the ones that make you feel squirmy and uncomfortable. The ones that you’d rather not think about, let alone confront head-on. But, the thing is, when you’re doing shadow work, you can’t avoid them. In fact, you have to face them head-on!

Facing uncomfortable emotions is a crucial part of shadow work. It’s like cleaning out a dirty wound. It might sting at first, but it’s necessary for healing. And, trust me, you’ll feel a whole lot better once you’ve faced those emotions and dealt with them.

Related: 75 Journal Prompts For Healing After Traumatic & Painful Experiences

Difficulty In Recognizing Patterns

Sometimes when you start doing shadow work it is difficult to recognize patterns or blind spots in your perception. You know that there’s something there but you just can’t put your finger on it. You end up feeling like you’re wandering around in the dark trying to find a light switch that is just out of reach and sometimes you don’t even realize you have a blind spot or negative patterns of behavior.

The most telling finding was that everyone is affected by blind spot bias — only one adult out of 661 said that he/she is more biased than the average person.

Carnegie Mellon University

When doing shadow work, you have to be willing to look at yourself and your life honestly. You will have to start asking yourself questions like, “What is really going on here?” and “Why do I keep doing this thing that’s not good for me?”

When you dig hard enough and are honest about what you find the patterns will begin to emerge. Once you notice a pattern that isn’t serving you, you can begin working on letting it go and replacing it with a new way of doing things.

Difficulty In Letting Go Of Old Patterns

Sometimes it is difficult to let go of old patterns once you recognize them. Sometimes you might feel attached to them or perhaps you feel like the pattern is part of your identity. It can be challenging to release these patterns and embrace new ways of being.

An unhealthy pattern of behavior that has been hidden in your shadow is like a bad habit, it is sometimes so ingrained in you that it is hard to change. To get rid of these patterns you will need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, take a risk, and try something new. It might take time but it will be worth it!

Facing The Unknown

Our shadow self is made up of the parts of ourselves that we are not consciously aware of and exploring them can be pretty scary and unsettling! In essence, you will be venturing into uncharted territory where you could be met with both good and bad surprises.

Unfortunately when it comes to facing the unknown, you sometimes just need to be willing to take a leap of faith – and who knows, you might just find out that you are a whole lot stronger than you thought you were!

Fear Of Change

Shadow work can lead to significant changes in your life, including changes to your relationships, career, and even your sense of identity. This can be scary and unsettling especially when you realize that you might need to say goodbye to people or experiences that affect you negatively.

The thing is that deep down most of us know when we need to make a change but sometimes we are just afraid to take the first steps and do it – we’re afraid of losing control.

The easiest way to overcome this fear is by realizing that change is a natural part of life – seasons change and tides change and sometimes you just need to embrace change and let go of the old and welcome the new!

Difficulty In Trusting Ourselves

One tricky shadow work challenge involves learning to trust yourself and your own inner guidance, especially if you have a history of self-doubt or you have been taught to look for external validation before making decisions.

And while I think most of us know that we should listen to our intuition, we sometimes doubt whether it is reliable. I’ve always wondered why this could be and I think it’s because we are afraid of making a mistake. Because we are trying to avoid pain we don’t take risks and in our bid to protect ourselves, we end up holding ourselves back.

I have come to learn that trusting yourself is very much like a muscle that you need to exercise regularly – you have to practice using your intuition and be willing to take risks even if you make a mistake.

Fear Of Losing Control

Shadow work often involves surrendering control which can be challenging especially if you are someone who is used to being in control or you find it difficult to trust yourself. Sometimes it’s just easier to go through the motions rather than risk losing the control you think you have.

You wonder whether you will be able to handle not being in control. You wonder if your life will descend into chaos if you relinquish control. You wonder if you will get even more hurt if you let go. But in the end, holding on to control might actually be holding you back.

I have learned that losing control is a natural part of growth. You have to let go of the old to make way for the new. Sometimes you just have to trust that everything will work out even if you don’t know how.

Fear Of Being Judged Or Rejected

When you begin to make positive changes in your life for your own well-being, often you will be met with judgment, rejection, or resistance from those around you especially when you start setting boundaries that they don’t like. This can be a challenging experience, especially if you’re not prepared for it.

One reason why people may react negatively to your positive changes is that they have grown accustomed to your old behavior and may feel threatened by the new you and any boundaries you might be trying to set.

For example, if you’ve always been the person who says yes to every request, your friends and family may feel confused or even offended when you start saying no. They might wonder what’s gotten into you and why you’re suddenly being so selfish. They may feel neglected or ignored when you start prioritizing your own well-being.

Similarly, if you’ve always been the person who relies on others for validation or support, the people in your life might feel like they are losing importance in your life or that they are no longer needed and this can lead to feelings of resentment and bitterness.

It’s important to remember that people’s reactions to your positive changes are often a reflection of their own fears, insecurities, and limitations. It’s not uncommon for people to feel threatened by change, especially if they’re not used to it. However, it’s important to stay true to yourself and your goals, even in the face of opposition, judgment, or rejection.

And remember that it’s important to communicate openly and honestly about your reasons for making positive changes in your life. Be patient and understanding and try to surround yourself with positive and supportive people who encourage and motivate you to keep moving forward.

Difficulty In Forgiving Ourselves And Others

Shadow work can sometimes be hard because it can be difficult to forgive ourselves and others. Shadow work involves confronting past mistakes and hurtful behaviors both in ourselves and in others.

Forgiveness can be a tricky thing, it’s not always easy to simply just forget the past and move on. This is something that I’m sure every person has struggled with! But, here’s the thing, forgiveness isn’t always about the other person. It’s about us. It’s about letting go of the weight that’s holding you down regardless of whether the other person acknowledges the hurt they have caused or not.

But sometimes it can even be harder to forgive ourselves! Even though it can be incredibly hard, you have to learn to be kind to yourself and show yourself some compassion especially when you mess up and you don’t feel like you deserve it.

So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling with forgiveness in shadow work. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth pushing forward and practicing until you feel like you can breathe again!

If you need some shadow work inspiration, check out these awesome Shadow Work Quotes!

Why Does Shadow Work Hurt So Much?

When you start doing shadow work you might find it incredibly painful and challenging but why does it hurt so much? Shadow work forces you to confront parts of yourself that you have been trying to avoid or deny – these parts are often associated with feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety.

Think of it like this: imagine you’re carrying a heavy backpack filled with rocks. You’ve been carrying this backpack around for years, and it’s become so heavy that it’s starting to weigh you down. It hurts and it is exhausting! You know that you need to take the rocks out of the backpack, but you’re afraid of what might happen if you do. What if the rocks are too heavy and they crush you when you take them out? What if there are too many of them?

That’s what it’s like to confront your shadow. It’s like taking the rocks out of the backpack and facing the weight of them all at once. It can be crushing, but it’s also necessary for growth and healing.

Image illustrating how difficult shadow work is

Another reason why shadow work can be so difficult is because it sometimes forces you to confront how you might have been living inauthentically. You may have been pretending to be someone you’re not, or you may have been hiding parts of yourself that you don’t think are acceptable. When you confront these parts it is painful and it can feel like you’re losing your sense of self or that you’re not good enough.

However, it is important to remember that shadow work is a process and that you will need to face things that hurt but in the long run learning to let go of these things will help you to become the person you were always meant to be. As the saying goes: “The only way out is through.”


Despite the difficulties and challenges, Shadow Work can be a powerful tool for personal growth and transformation so it is well worth the effort! Even though shadow work can be hard you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself, improve your relationships, and live a more authentic and fulfilling life when you put in the work. So, don’t be afraid to dive into your shadow – it may just be the best thing you ever do for yourself!