On one of the discord servers that I participate in, someone asked about shadow work. One of the ways that I do shadow work is through a technique that I call intuitive writing. I’m sure that someone else does something like this, but this is what I do. The practice is based on the morning pages idea from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I use this technique when I have a reaction or emotion that I’m trying to figure out. Maybe I’m feeling a sudden sense of lethargy or anger or an unexpected aversion to doing something that would typically be fine. Or sometimes just rage at the world.
The technique is relatively simple. You need something to write with and something to write on. You may be writing a lot, so please get a decent amount of paper (please don’t write on walls!).
If it helps you, you can light some incense or make an offering to start, but it’s not necessary.
Form a question in your mind for the goal of this exercise. Something like, “Why do I always resist what <person> asks me to do?” Is fine. It doesn’t have to be very defined, but it should name the thing you are asking about if you can. There are times when the question is, “Why do I feel ‘off’?” So it’s pretty flexible.
Now write that sentence on the top of your paper.
Look at it. Read it over a few times. Get it stuck in your head.
Take three big belly breaths – breaths where you fill your belly as well as your lungs with air.
Read the question one more time.
Now write. Write whatever comes to mind.
In the beginning, you may be writing things like “I have no idea why this happens,” or “this really sucks, I have no clue,” or “I don’t know why I’m doing this dumb exercise.” But keep going. Just write. No judgment, no crossing out, no fixing anything. Just write.
In her exercises on the morning pages, Cameron suggests writing three pages, but write until you run out of time (I recommend at least 10-15 minutes), or you feel that you have done as much as you can for that day.
When you are done, read over your work and underline or box the words and phrases that jump out to you.
Then go back and look at those words and phrases again. Do they mean something to you? Do they spark another thought? Maybe they trigger another question.
Now put your writing in a safe place and go about your day. You need to give your subconscious time to process.
After you’ve slept at least once, go back to the writing and review it again. Maybe you have some new insights, and perhaps you don’t. If you have follow-up questions or different questions, now is a good time to do the practice again.
Sometimes you’ll cry as you write, or write so forcefully that you tear the paper. That’s okay – those tears will remind you of where you had the emotional reaction. This exercise is all about uncovering the source of why you have that emotion or reaction – and that’s a pretty personal thing to do.
A word of caution – if you find that everything you write ends up in the same negative space, especially if that’s something like drowning your sorrows in alcohol or drugs or killing yourself – please find professional help! I have some resources in another post. You don’t have to go it alone.
Sometimes it takes a few sessions to dig into everything – that’s okay. Remember, humans are complicated beings, and sometimes it takes a while to peel back all the layers to find the actual issue.
When you are done, put the writing in a safe place or destroy it. Your writing is very personal, and no one else needs to read it. I find that burning the writing can be very cathartic when trying to get rid of a negative emotion or reaction.
Grab a pad of paper or a journal, something to write with, and see what you uncover. Don’t think too hard. Just write.