Inner Healing Work: What Is It & Why Do People Fear It?

Inner Healing Work: Why You Should Do It
And Why You Might Be Afraid Of It

 

If you spend time with me, you’ll most likely hear me talk about doing your “inner healing work” or shadow work. But many people don’t really understand what it means to do inner work.  Sure, they know about therapists and may even hear how beneficial counseling is. However, not that many people actually go to therapy for one reason or another.

I do believe we can do a lot of inner healing as part of a self-directed healing effort.  But I also believe there is a time and place for seeking professional counseling or spiritual mentorship.

shadow work journal rediscovering sacredness

What is Inner Healing Work?

Inner healing work can help you heal trauma, grow spiritually, evolve, expand, etc.

Inner healing work helps you show up on the planet more emotionally healed and whole, and more in touch with your body.

It helps connect mind, body, and spirit.

If you’re wanting to live a life that’s more defined by a feeling of purpose and meaning, I think it’s necessary to journey inside the psyche and “do the work”.

What kind of work?

The kind that discovers pain you’ve tucked away in your subconscious mind since you were a kid.

The pain that lurks in your shadows that you try so hard to avoid.

The stored trauma that your nervous system couldn’t process at a young age, so it prompted you to go into “survival mode” (fight, flight, or freeze)

I mean, how awesome would that be if you could heal what needs healed and step into your authentic, powerful, happy, and loving spiritual self? To feel less anxiety or depression?  Where you’re not walking around with a ten-foot brick wall around your heart for fear of being hurt, but rather, showing up with an open (and healed) heart that gladly gives and receives unconditional, radical love?

Let’s face it. The world could use more of that, right?

Now, though that sounds wonderful, but the thing is, inner healing work isn’t all that easy or glamorous. Whether we’re talking mental or physical, it’s not a cake walk.

Closing your eyes and going inside to face what’s lurking deep down scares the bejeebies out of many people.  Inner exploration, or shadow work, takes time, energy, courage, and a commitment to being like a sleuth looking for old wounds that may include trauma, neglect, abuse, and more.


Why look for those wounds? Why seek those parts of yourself that you split from because at the time, you didn’t know how to deal with the pain or stuffed it?

Because when you can locate the original trauma print (or the energy of it) from your wounds, you expose it. You get to address that initial trauma that’s become trapped in your body. Where the jam is in your neurological circuits in your brain.

On a spiritual level, you shine the light of God consciousness on it, and just like when you walk into a pitch-black room and turn the light switch on, the light expels the darkness!

God consciousness dispels your inner darkness, demons, shadows, or whatever you want to call it!

On a mental level, you expose the dark shadows that have been feeding you lies about yourself. (I am unworthy, not lovable, etc.)

On the physical level, your body helps you remember and/or “re-feel” the traumatic sensations that have been stored (causing you present day anxiety, depression, etc.). As you “re-feel” it (and not be freaked out by it), you give it a chance to discharge…To release, leaving your nervous system more regulated.

Listen friends, if you seriously want to live a freer life, then make a commitment to some inner exploration.

Do the inner healing work.

“We are every beautiful and ugly trait rolled into one. It’s time to manifest all of your qualities.” Debbie Ford

Now, before I go on, here are a few basics:

Inner Healing Work 101

In this article, I am referring more to psychological inner healing work or shadow work.

Psychological inner healing work is essentially diving deep into your psychological self – your psyche or mind – for the purpose of exploring what’s there.  For the purpose of allowing Divine Intelligence to heal what pain might be stored there in your mental body. For the purpose of understanding and experiencing transformation at a deeper level.

It’s a practice. An act. In other words, it’s a verb. You actually have to take the time to “do” it.

shadow work journal rediscovering sacredness

But you see, when we do our inner work, we’re saying “yes” to living an authentic life where we aren’t going to have to wear masks all the time. We won’t have to go around pretending to be happy, (especially on social media), and then going home sulking in loneliness, boredom, and despair.

That’s not the kind of life Divinity wants us to live.

When we do our inner work, we shine the light of Divine Intelligence or Spirit on the shadow, or unconscious layers of the psyche. And this, my friends is pivotal for experiencing positive change.

So, when you turn inward; when you slow your thoughts and focus beyond them – there in that space, you’ll discover all sorts of thoughts, beliefs, memories, and/or wounds that have been hidden.

  • The pain of Mom and Dad’s divorce that you didn’t know how to process when you were a child.
  • The pain of your own divorce.
  • The pain of losing a loved one.
  • Your fears.
  • Your faulty belief patterns

By identifying these as best as you can, with or without the help of a trained therapist, you’ll be able to work THROUGH them…transform them… and all that pent-up energy that’s been causing your mental/emotional/spiritual blocks, you can ask God to help you integrate so that you feel more healed…whole.

And when you can move past these wounds, you will feel less depressed, anxious, lonely, scared…you’ll feel more peace, love, joy, excitement, and passionate about life.

How Do I Know If I Need To Do Inner Healing Work?

Not sure if you should do some inner healing work? Check out the following alarm signals:

  • You’ve lost sight of who you are
  • You’ve lost contact with God
  • You’re quite lonely; you feel alone in the world
  • You feel confused and lost
  • You feel like you’re in “fight, flight, or freeze” mode most of the time
  • You tend to think negatively
  • You can’t shut down your mind to sleep at night
  • You struggle with people pleasing and over-giving
  • Your self-esteem is low
  • You have chronic fatigue or health issues
  • You have anxiety and/or PTSD
  • You and your partner fight a lot
  • You drink/drug, especially to cope
  • You feel hopeless
  • You feel empty
  • You feel very depressed
  • You are insecure, jealous
  • You keep ending up with partners who abuse you
  • You have no friends
  • You have an addiction running in your life (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, etc.)
  • You sabotage your relationships
  • You find it challenging to handle your emotions
  • People tell you you’re neurotic
  • You isolate from others; live in your own world
  • You are controlling
  • You cry, a lot
  • You blow up at others

These are some signs that you may want to do some inner exploration or shadow work.  Did you relate to some?

The good news is that there are inner healing paths that you can check out to see what might resonate with you. I do want to mention that some of the red flags above may indicate that there is a mental health disorder showing up in your life, and this may require help from a mental health professional (therapist).

If you suspect this, please find a good therapist and do some exploring there. You can indeed do some inner work healing on your own. In fact, you should do inner healing work as a practice. At the same time, you may benefit from help from a trained mental health professional

I know many will shy away from that because it might cost them money. I say go ahead and make that investment in yourself, as the payoff will be life changing (more so than the pair of jeans you’ll pay $80 bucks for).

Invest in your inner spiritual richness!

Why Do Some People Fear Doing Inner Work?

I’ve seen people’s eyes gloss over when I suggested to them that they should consider shadow work, or revisiting their past to maybe see if there are things that need to be healed. They automatically go into panic mode. They’re thinking, “Oh, wow. I can’t honestly look at my past. I’d be horrified. It’ll hurt so much.” Or, they’re simply afraid of the unknown.  In fact, some are terrified.

We are a society that really glamorizes the outer things.  Most people take pride in what they’ve learned about their careers, hobbies, traveling, etc. But when you ask them about their inner life?  When you ask them how their brain works? What their spirit is like? What enemies they struggle with inside?

They look like a deer in headlights.

They just don’t know.

I love Carl Jung. He said,

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”


The truth is that jumping off the ledge into the deep ocean of “carnal nature” can be scary. We’d rather project the sea creatures that are swimming in our depths onto others, individually and collectively.

Just observe those who carry a victim mentality, always blaming others or their past for their current pain and suffering.  Rather than getting down and dirty with themselves doing “the inner healing work”, or taking full responsibility for their life, they’ll blame, project, lash out, sulk, complain, and so on.

But you see, diving deep into your inner ocean gives you the opportunity to start dealing with your ego/shadow/wounds.  Rather than drinking, popping a pill, gambling, or numbing out some other way, you put your sh&t kickers on and get to digging.

You want to experience true freedom, peace, and joy? Then jump off that ledge. The shadow side of your ego isn’t as scary as you think it is. In fact, some argue that it’s NOT EVEN REAL.  It’s the false persona that you’ve created throughout your life.

That part of you that you think is the real you, that you think everyone else will hate if they could see it – but it’s not even the REAL part of you!!!

So how can something that isn’t even real petrify you? Keep you from doing the work?

The ego might seem like it’s all powerful, but it’s really a fragile construct that thrives when it feels all powerful and in control.   But you don’t have to let it be in control.

Jesus went about healing all who were oppressed, and surely many of them were oppressed by their past trauma, belief patterns, and negative emotions.

But He healed them. He knew who He truly was…a divine creation, consciousness, spirit, etc. Jesus saw people as the already healed spiritual persons that they were already. He saw from his Spirit self.  And, He used powerful words (Truth) to heal them. To deliver them from sickness, inner turmoil, and what they called demons.

I think that rocks.

The Power Of Inner Work

Doing your inner healing work may or may not be easy-breezy. You may not be posting updates on social media about how well it’s going. In fact, inner healing work or shadow work can be a process that is heart-rending, agonizing, and scary. This is why some of the mystics call it the “dark night of the soul”.

It feels dark, because the shadow side IS dark.

It feels like you’re alone and disconnected from everyone and everything – and you wonder when you’re going to see the Light at the end of the tunnel.

Inner healing work is diving into all the parts of yourself that you’ve rejected, ignored, and repressed over the years. It’s allowing the fire of Christ-consciousness to heal whatever’s been tripping you up.  It’s willingly allowing yourself to be gutted layer after layer so you essentially can die to your “self-ish” ways, or integrate what’s been split off, and then be reborn as your authentic self.

To be reborn means that you awake to the reality that you were never the ego or shadows in the first place. They were simply constructs that helped you navigate life on Earth as a human.

To be reborn means to dive in the shadow side and illuminate all that lies there, including the good stuff like talents and gifts, and reclaim your whole self, shadows and all!

It means to remember your beautiful, already-healed spiritual, consciously evolved self!

This is an ongoing process.  Gaining revelation that we are spiritual beings evolving and expanding is a revelatory kind of thing. Today, I have a better understanding of Jesus’s Gospel or Carl Jung’s individuation process.  I see it and experience it more fully, and this will continue as I revel in the Truth of it all.

Refuse To Be Lukewarm or Mediocre

It’s easier to live life mediocre or lukewarm. It’s easier to fall in line with the herd. It’s easier to be the cog in a wheel, assuming this is all there is. Assuming that life stinks and you just deal with it.

I hope you refuse to believe this.  Walking the conscious, spiritual path might be “work”, but it’s worth it.  How are you enjoying a life without meaning or purpose? Walking around in pain? Feeling as if life has dealt you a bad hand?  That’s not fun at all!

So, do the inner healing work. Dive into the shadow side of the ego. Figure it out. Stop pointing fingers at others, at the government, at your parents, partner, the institutes, etc. Refuse to believe that “this is all there is”. Refuse to let your existential angst swallow you up.

Rather, right now honor yourself by making a commitment to do whatever it takes to heal what needs healed INSIDE and come to a greater revelation of All That Is. Take time in silence with whatever you call your higher power. Commit to getting off the hamster wheel and become more of a free spirit that is led by a strong relationship with God and Spirit – your inner knowing.

How? That’s a great question, as there are various paths that can lead you there. Your task is to discover yours.

I do want to say that doing your inner healing work or shadow work doesn’t have to be as treacherous as some make it out to be. It isn’t considered fun, but it can evoke a sense of excitement in you. A feeling that you’re doing something that “really” matters in your life. Something that will affect you the rest of your life, and quite possible many others!

Inner Healing Work Paths

There are a variety of inner healing paths you can consider.

Your path will be uniquely yours. What someone else is doing might work for them, but it might not be your path. Please resist the urge to judge others for their path. Let them be them and walk their path, and you walk yours without judging yourself or the path.  Allow yourself to intuitively discover your path.

I am only sharing a few inner healing work paths; one’s that I have found valuable and others have too.  By all means if these don’t resonate with you, keep seeking till you find your path.

1.     Inner Child Healing Work

In psychology circles, you’ll hear a lot of talk about healing the inner wounded child. We all grow up as innocent children that pick up some wounds, fears, beliefs, etc. along the journey.  As a child, we don’t always know how to process pain.  We end up stuffing feelings, disconnecting, feeling confused, and more.  But that pain doesn’t just go away. It accumulates. It gets lodged deep in the psyche, so one way of doing the inner healing work is to do inner “child” healing work.  To go back and revisit childhood to identify pain or wounds and process and integrate them. In other words, heal them!

Remember back when you were a child full of playful energy? Joy? Creativity? Imagination? Love? Over time, you may have lost sight of those qualities. Most adults end up neglecting or abandoning their inner child, stifling their wonder, curiosity, playfulness, and innocence.

It’s time to get these back! Going back to do some inner child healing work can help you with this. Your inner child may be afraid, angry, confused, insecure, etc. and desires you as an adult to connect with him/her.  Re-parent so-to-speak, from a healed and whole adult.

It wasn’t until I was about 35 when I discovered that my childhood wasn’t as great as I always thought it was. It was then that I got started therapy and an inner healing journey, and got busy doing inner child healing. It was tough to go back and visit my childhood; to acknowledge that my home life wasn’t ideal. That my mom suffered with depression and my dad, alcoholism. That they weren’t emotionally there for me like I needed. It wasn’t easy, but necessary.

Tapping into the resources of John Bradshaw helped me tremendously. Google him and read his books. Watch his videos. Very powerful stuff. Here’s a wonderful guided mediation that might help you too: Inner Child Healing Guided Meditation

2. Shadow Work

Jung broke the psyche up into sections:

The Self (Spirit)
The Ego (The “I” that we refer to most of the time, including personality, masks we wear, etc.)
The Unconscious (Shadow)

In a nutshell, we come here purely spirit in a human body and the mind (ego) starts helping us make sense of the world. It processed information, stores memories, and helps us understand life.

But what the ego can’t process, it relegates to the shadow. The unconscious. It’s out of sight, and out of our mind…As a baby and child growing up, this helps us survive life. A two-year old has no idea how to process and cope with intense negative emotions or trauma. The ego helps by splitting off parts and sending them off to the shadow side.

But shadows come back later in life to be dealt with. It’s likely you’ve got some shadows that want your attention to heal and be integrated back into your whole psyche.

Growing up in age doesn’t mean you’re automatically growing up emotionally or psychologically. This is why doing shadow work is necessary! So, you can grow on all levels and experience life in a more relaxed, blissful way.

You can do shadow work on your own or with a therapist. If you’ve experienced trauma, find a great psychotherapist or Jungian coach who can journey you back to your childhood and help you face, feel, deal, and heal wounds. You don’t want to be a four-year-old trapped in your adult body, trying to live life with your wounded child calling the shots.

Therapy can be helpful. Do make sure your therapist will journey you back to do some digging. And, if you don’t resonate with one therapist, try another.  Find one that you feel you can connect with, be yourself with, and that will be able to hold space for you and – and challenge you if necessary. But overall, help you become more healed and whole.

shadow work journal rediscovering sacredness

3. Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing is more of a body-oriented approach to healing trauma. Dr. Peter Levine has forged a path in this healing modality and I can vouch for its effectiveness. Combining psychology, neuroscience, ancient wisdom, stress physiology, ethology, and more, the SE approach works great at releasing stored trauma.

To learn more, see Somatic Experiencing

4. Christian Emotional Healing

I’ve learned a lot about dealing with negative emotions by reading the Bible and various books by Christian authors. When the apostle Paul was talking to the Ephesians, he didn’t condemn them for having feelings of anger, but he did prompt them to deal with such strong feelings quickly.

Holy texts challenge us to identify our emotions and cultivate them in ways that help us live better, more peace and happier lives. If you’ve got emotional wounds (as most of us do), take them to God in prayer. Shame, guilt, anger, grief, fear, etc. – all emotions that can lead to an anxious, sad life experience…

But God… God can heal those emotions. God can help us rise above them and embody the fruits of His Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, meekness, gentleness, forgiveness, and more!

There was a time in my life where I relied solely on my “self” for emotional healing. But that didn’t and doesn’t work that well for me.  Me trying to heal feelings of shame or guilt is like me putting a band aid on a gunshot wound. It’s ego trying to change ego. It’s matter trying to change matter.

But when I take it to God… when I lean such infinite grace and love, I’m able to forgive myself and allow God’s Spirit to do the healing. To integrate the pain. Re-wire the neural connections. Become emotionally unattached to those negative memories.

Feel free!

I’m able to understand consciously that I God sees me as pure, holy, perfect! After all, God created me. God held me as a thought form first, and then bam. I was created from this Divine Intelligence – as spirit, as love, as perfect, as eternal.

That’s powerful… and such a powerful God can help us heal emotionally.

5. Mindfulness, Meditation, Silent Prayer

To sit in silence and just focus on the breath sounds simple, right? Just sit there and try NOT to think, ok? It’s not that easy, for sure.

However, it’s necessary to learn how to just be present with your breath…with God…with space. A wave upon the ocean.

To be mindful means to be attentive to each moment as it comes. To be present with whatever it is you’re doing or not doing. How many times have you been automatically doing things while your mind is a mile away?  It’s busy thinking about the past or the future.

But what about the now? What about learning how to identify more readily with YOU AS SPIRIT…YOU AS CONSCIOUSNESS…YOU AS A SPIRITUAL CREATION?

Rather than allowing your mind to race and run the show.

I’m here to tell you this is powerful if you get it.

If you’ll commit to the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and silent prayer, your life’s going to change. Be present with all that is. All That Is, sort of like heaven on Earth.

I’ll get into meditation and silent, contemplative prayer more in another post, but for now, be thinking about making a firm commitment to practicing these daily. Five, ten, fifteen minutes at a time to begin with. Learn more about them, but most importantly, take the time to sit and just BE.  Be you as spirit…one with God…in peace and harmony.

Further Tools

Lastly, consider committing to a daily practice of journaling, and dream analysis.  These can all help you along your inner healing work journey too.

Begin where you feel comfortable with. Like I said, what works for one might not work for another. If you’ve tried one path, try another.  Or, try what you’ve done already, but at a deeper level.  You’re not the same person you were a year ago, so your work may peel back even more layers now.

In the end, these various inner healing paths are contending with the same thing: inner wounds or pain that is wanting to be recognized and integrated into your energy body. We came here spirit housed in a body.  We also have a mind.

Mind, body, spirit.

Don’t neglect your spiritual state, while allowing your mind to keep you stuck living life swimming in a sea of pain.  By embarking on an INNER, spiritual journey, you’ll be more apt to discover what’s been tripping you up, deal with it, heal it, and experience more freedom and joy.

It’ll take time and effort, so make a commitment to begin and keep at it. Reach out for help if you need. I assure you that you can make changes in your life, internally and externally.

I truly hope this article has helped you gain insight and clarity as you move forward on your spiritual journey.

Feel free to comment and let us know what kind of inner work you’ve done or what you’re currently doing.

Dominica Applegate
Written by: Dominica Applegate

Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.

She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.

Her books include:

Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal
Healing After a Breakup: A 50 Day Devotional & Guided Inner Work Journal
Goodbye Codependency: A 40-Day Devotional to Boost Self-Care
The Pain, It Shapes Her World {Poetry}