Defense Mechanisms

“The tools you created to help you survive won’t serve you when it’s time to thrive.”

Ebonee Davis (@eboneedavis)

Read this, and then read it again.

It’s difficult to overcome past traumas and hurts. It’s more difficult to retrain yourself out of those overcoming traits. Like Ebonee said, they won’t help you thrive. So, what sorts of work does it take to remove these defense mechanisms that no longer serve you?

That’s where Shadow Work comes in. You see, in modern pagan tradition, there is a practice called Shadow Work, where one delves down into the traumas and hurts (your shadow self) and brings those hurts to light, and then releases them. This process is supposed to lead to the integration of self into wholeness. 

You can find articles about Shadow Work, as well as some Youtube videos at the bottom of this article. For now, though, let’s talk about what’s important. 

Can we get help with this shadow work?

Yes. Yes you can. While most people agree that it is a private practice, since you can’t expect anyone else to heal your hurts for you, I disagree. That is exactly what Therapy is for. I will never condone using witchcraft where clinical therapy is needed. Please, seek help if you need it. It’s what the Gods would want. 

~That aside, how can you use Shadow Work, if you don’t have access to therapy, or the ability to pay for it?~

The simplest answer to this question is, by sitting down and getting to work. The really difficult answers come next. There’s no real way to explain Shadow Work, because it’s different for every person. This isn’t a one-and-done deal. It takes YEARS of work to make yourself completely whole (and to be honest, I don’t think anyone has).

A few ways you can start:

  • Journaling
  • Astral Travel
  • Ritual work
  • Tarot Meditation
  • Meditation
  • Guided meditations
  • Talk-it-out through recording yourself

Like I said. Not easy.  Worth it, but not easy. Let’s go through each, and give you an example of what you can do to acheive results.


This is pretty simple. You sit down with a notebook and a pen, a computer, a cell phone, anything you can use to write. Then, you write however you feel best. If you feel a list of traumatic events in chronological order will help you tame your confusion, write that list. If you feel jumbled and frustrated, try free-writing for a while, and then latch onto something and free-write that out.  Journalling is simultaneously hard and easy. But the general rule is, if it feels like pulling teeth, you’re doing shadow work.

Astral Travel

There’s a definition of Astral Travel, as well as an example, here. You can find out more about the subject by doing a quick google search, so we won’t go too far into that. What I can say is, what you see in the Astral Realm is closely tied to what you think and feel. So if you enter that Out of Body Experience thinking deeply on doing some shadow work, you’ll end up in the right place to do just that.

Ritual Work

Like Astral Projection, this one is going to be very personal. Depending on how you worship, or who you worship, you’ll have different rituals and spells to unlock those shadow portions of yourself. I would suggest a ritual that brings the emotions to the fore, and gives you experiences to help clear those emotions. 

Tarot Meditation

Tarot Meditation is my personal favorite way to do Shadow Work. It’s like working with a Therapist who won’t take your sass. It’s pretty simple. You do readings for yourself, but instead of spreads, you just ask questions and throw cards to get the answer. You’ll know when to stop and start on each question, and you’ll know what it means. Hint: it’s the first thing that popped into your head.  The process is actually quite difficult, as it requires an intimate knowledge of what each card means to you, as well as how it ties into not just your current situation, but also past situations. 


Meditation is something I can’t do. I’m just too fidgety. So, I found you a link on how to Shadow Work through meditation. You’re welcome.

Guided Meditations

This is a little more my style. Guided meditations can be found all over youtube, the internet, and everywhere. All you have to do is google ‘shadow work guided meditation‘ and you’re good. Hey look, I even did it for you. Pick whichever one feels right, and settle down. You can lie down, or sit, whatever you’d like. Just be careful not to fall asleep. Make sure to keep your mind alert by doing as the meditation says to do. 

Recording one’s self to talk it out

This is pretty straightforward. It’s journalling, except out loud. Most phones nowadays have cameras and voice recorders. Click it on, and start talking. But don’t talk about random things, and when you get on a tangent, gently bring yourself back. You’re here to mend the hurts of the past. Once you’ve talked about the subject, listen to yourself. Try to see where the harmful self-talk is. Try to see the malformed coping mechanisms.

Once you’ve completed your session, think back to the limiting fears and horrid untruths you kept telling yourself. That is the shadow that you needed to work on. Remember, this process will take years. Possibly your entire life. There’s nothing harmful in it. It’s a release of hurt and a build-up of the self. 

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