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What is Inner Work? (& Why Most People Are Terrified By it)
by Aletheia Luna
Water Plant People in nature Tree Organism

Inner work is at the very core and foundation of the spiritual path.
Without it, we鈥檙e wasting our time.

There can be no purging, healing, transformation, and awakening without inner work.

You want a meaningful path to follow? You want to leave a legacy of light and love?

The most worthy path (in my opinion) is inner work. It complements, empowers, and enriches everything you do in life.

When you commit to inner work, you鈥檙e turning your pain into power like a true spiritual alchemist.

Naturally, this inner work leads to creating authentic, bone-deep change in the world, little by little.


What could be better than healing, evolving, finding true joy and freedom, stepping into your power, living in harmony with others, and sending beautiful ripples of change out into existence?

But here鈥檚 the thing. Although inner work is such a worthy path, it is also a path we are secretly horrified by.

This subconscious disgust that we have towards any form of inner exploration is universal. It鈥檚 something you鈥檒l need to understand well if you鈥檙e a serious spiritual seeker wanting to do the work.
Table of contents
What is Inner Work?
Inner work is the psychological and spiritual practice of diving deep into your inner self for the purposes of self-exploration, self-understanding, healing, and spiritual transformation.

When we do inner work, we are shining the light of awareness onto our inner landscape which is composed of the various layers of our mind: the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious realms.

Your inner self consists of your hidden feelings, memories, thoughts, beliefs, prejudices, wounds, shadows, and other mental/emotional conditions that influence your ability to transform and feel Whole at a core level.

By doing inner work, you鈥檒l be able to move past fears, limitations, addictions, depressions, loneliness, and the feelings of unwholeness that tend to plague us as human beings.

25 Signs You Need to Practice Inner Work
Here are some notorious red-flags:
  1. You feel lost in life
  2. You don鈥檛 know who you are anymore
  3. You feel lonely and like an outsider looking in to the world
  4. You frequently get into fights with others
  5. You鈥檙e always people-pleasing
  6. You鈥檙e not confident being yourself
  7. You have low self-esteem
  8. Your thoughts are almost constantly negative and self-critical
  9. You feel constantly unmotivated and 鈥渇lat鈥
  10. You鈥檙e going through a Dark Night of the Soul (or spiritual crisis)
  11. You suffer from chronic health issues
  12. You can鈥檛 sleep properly
  13. Life doesn鈥檛 feel real
  14. You feel a sense of hopelessness
  15. You feel a sense of emptiness
  16. You have fits of intense anger or sadness
  17. You believe that the world is against you
  18. You struggle to trust others (or yourself)
  19. You keep repeating the same mistakes
  20. You keep attracting the wrong people into your life
  21. You鈥檙e self-destructive and self-sabotaging
  22. You have a strong drive toward addiction
  23. You have many strong emotional triggers
  24. You struggle with high levels of anxiety or panic
  25. You want to be alone all the time or around others all the time (to escape yourself)
The more signs you can relate to, the more you need to do inner work. We鈥檒l explore some inner work paths below.

Of course, keep in mind that many of the above red-flags are symptoms of mental illness.

By all means, seek out a professional therapist who can help if you suspect something is lopsided in your noggin.

Inner work is not a replacement for any psychiatric/psychological targeted help. It is, however, a vital complementary practice that is just as essential as sleeping, exercising, or doing anything that genuinely helps you at a core level.

Why Most People Are Terrified By Inner Work

It may sound ridiculous. But the truth is that people feel repelled and horrified by inner work on an unconscious level.

Why and how is this the case?

Well just look at the world:
We鈥檝e explored the solar system and distant galaxies more thoroughly than the depths of our own oceans.

We know more about how things mechanically work rather than the life force that animates them.

We know more about fighting and strategizing against the 鈥渆nemies鈥 outside of us than we know about facing the so-called enemies looming within us.

As psychologist Carl Jung once wrote:
People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.
The reality is that going deep terrifies us. We鈥檒l more readily go to war and annihilate other people than look within ourselves for the source of our own suffering. We鈥檒l more readily point the finger of blame at others, life, god, or reality and adopt the victim mentality than dare to give ourselves a good honest look in the mirror.

In some cases, we prefer to die in stubborn ignorance than admit we鈥檙e wrong, faulty, fooled, or responsible for our suffering and the pain of others.

Our egos are fragile, neurotic, and power-hungry little creatures.

Inner work is like kryptonite to this fabricated ego-self we carry around. Is it any wonder that we鈥檙e terrified by it deep down?

Of course, many seekers who鈥檝e undergone a spiritual awakening would give a sly smile at this point and say, 鈥渨ell I am different.鈥 Well no 鈥 no you鈥檙e not. Sorry. But the reality is that you have an ego just like everyone else. And it鈥檚 time to face it.

The Unfathomable Power of Inner Work

Inner work may superficially look lavish, poetic, and mystical. But when you get into the heart of it, it鈥檚 a bone-crushing, gut-wrenching journey of blood, sweat, vomit, and tears.

You aren鈥檛 playing with crystals and singing cute mantras while doing inner work (although those things can be complementary and help in their own way).

Inner work isn鈥檛 Instagram-worthy or something you can wear as an egotistical badge of superiority.

Inner work, in its very essence, is about placing truth and the desire for freedom (Love) above all else.

It鈥檚 about allowing yourself to be called out, torn down, burned, and built back up a thousand times over. Inner work is a process of eternal death and rebirth.

It never stops 鈥 even after having attained a higher level of consciousness 鈥 for when one believes one has 鈥渁rrived鈥 that is when stagnation occurs.

That is when spiritual narcissism thrives and the shadow rears its ugly face.

Inner work is cyclical. It鈥檚 symbolized by Shiva and Shakti鈥檚 dance, the ouroboros snake that eats its tail, the cycle of life and death, the yin and yang, and the primordial void that is both everything and nothing at the same time.

When we give ourselves over to inner work, we鈥檙e on a quest to embrace the paradox of existence.

We鈥檙e on a quest to walk in the liminal spaces, to be willing to both die and be reborn at any moment, and to step into all that we can become.

We鈥檙e on a journey to face our most gruesome shadows, to embody our most Divine Light, and to experience Oneness.

To put it simply, it鈥檚 a hell of a ride!
And understandably, people fear that. It鈥檚 much easier to live a mediocre existence. It鈥檚 much easier to walk the path others have paved before us.

It鈥檚 much easier to point the finger at others and neglect taking self-responsibility.

Walking the path less traveled is much more difficult, much less comfortable, and much more demanding.

And most people are NOT ready or willing to make that choice.

Yes, mediocrity and complacency provide a morsel of comfort, but it鈥檚 this comfort that ironically leads to emptiness, soul loss, and the complete deprivation of anything truly real, truly worth living for.

In essence, the path of mediocrity and complacency = death.

The path of challenge = life.


Now, there are ways of making the tumultuous path that is inner work more bearable.

Connecting with your deeper source of power, your inner free spirit, and your wild Wolf essence, is the first way.

When you鈥檙e able to follow your instinct and intuition, see clearly, make wise choices, and protect yourself from those who seek to prey on you, the path becomes more clear.

Read: The Dangers of Lacking Spiritual Discernment

There are many other ways to empower your inner work path that are too numerous for this article.

But the point here is that your inner work doesn鈥檛 have to be a terrible ordeal.

Remember that no matter how painful it feels, 鈥渢he phoenix always emerges from the flames.鈥

In other words, no matter how bad things get, take comfort in knowing that the pain is a catalyst for deep spiritual transformation.

Finally, I want you to understand that the very nature of the ego means it will always be against inner work.

It is your Soul that drives you towards inner work, so you鈥檇 do well to learn how to distinguish between the voice of fear (the ego) and the voice of your intuition (the Soul).
Read: How to Trust Your Intuition

3 Profound Inner Work Pathways

There are many inner work pathways in existence right now and I don鈥檛 profess to know all of them.

I can only share with you those I鈥檝e tried as well as those that have legitimately worked 鈥 meaning I know for certain that they generate deep and long-lasting change.
Here are the top three inner work pathways I recommend on the spiritual awakening journey:

1. Self-Love

Self-love is one of the more gentle and approachable inner work paths. But that doesn鈥檛 dilute or negate its importance.

Self-love can lend itself to being shallow or unnecessarily self-indulgent (in the wrong hands), but with the right training, self-love can go bone-deep and genuinely transform you at a core level.

For those starting off on the inner work journey, I always recommend self-love as the best starting place.

Without building a good relationship with yourself, the other forms of inner work listed below may be too intimidating, too difficult, or plain old detrimental for your wellbeing.

One of my favorite forms of self-love is mirror work. Mirror work quite simply involves using a mirror to clearly see your insecurities and fears.

It also connects you with the deeper essence of yourself that is full of unconditional compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance (your Soul).

Recommended reading:
2. Inner Child Work

One level deeper is inner child work, a form of inner work that involves examining your childhood wounds, fears, and beliefs.

To differing degrees, we all carry a wounded inner child. Our job as adults is to reconnect with this childlike part of ourselves, excavate old limiting childhood beliefs/fears, and integrate this delicate part of ourselves back into our personality structure.

Your inner child is a source of tremendous creativity, joy, spontaneity, love, and wisdom.

However, at the same time, your inner child can be a source of illogical obsessions, unshakable fears, neurosis, self-sabotaging behaviors, and limiting self-beliefs.


Inner child work can rile up a lot of unfinished business. If you had an abusive childhood, you may feel a sense of disgust or looming fear towards this work (many do) or even toward your inner child.

But as one who had a traumatizing childhood and who has done a lot of inner child work, I can tell you it鈥檚 absolutely worth all of the pain, tears, and anger. You need to purge that pain and not let it control you!

Recommended resources:
3. Shadow Work

At the deepest level of the inner work process is shadow work. This form of inner work is the most complex, elusive, and intimidating of all.

With shadow work, we are literally exploring the darkest places of our psyches that we deliberately suppress, deny, and disown each and every day.

We all know what lurks in the shadows. (Yes, the spine-chilling stuff of nightmares.)

Shadow work is the practice of exploring your inner demons.

Within your shadow lurks everything that has been outlawed, deemed 鈥榯aboo,鈥 鈥榖ad,鈥 ugly, and unacceptable by your parents and society.

Your shadow self contains all that you are secretly ashamed about and disgusted by within yourself.
Before attempting shadow work it is absolutely imperative that you practice self-love.

You MUST have stable and healthy self-esteem before doing shadow work. Why you may wonder?

Shadow work can easily make you feel a thousand times worse about yourself if you already have poor self-worth.

For this reason, shadow work is an advanced form of inner work that is not for beginners.

If you鈥檝e had some experience with inner work, I recommend approaching shadow work slowly. Oracle and Tarot cards are a great way to begin exploring your shadow as well as mindful journaling.
Recommended resources:
***
The Spiritual Awakening Process eBook:

Discover profound insights and practices that will help you to access deep levels of love and freedom. Explore soul retrieval, shadow work, and more. Start your Spiritual Awakening journey now!

Finally, practices such as meditation, mindfulness exercises, self-inquiry, art therapy, dream analysis, pathworking, solitude, shamanic journeying, visualization, and introspection will all wonderfully supplement your inner work journey.

If you鈥檙e wondering where to start, try self-love first and read the recommended resources. If you鈥檝e already attained a certain level of self-love, try inner child work.

And if you鈥檝e done both, then move on to shadow work.

Ultimately, all three forms of inner work melt and morph naturally into each other. Inner child work involves a certain level of shadow work, shadow work is a form of inner child work, and self-love is involved in all forms of inner work.

I hope, however, these distinctions have made things clear for you.
Hopefully, you now have a clear path to follow that you can invest your time and energy into.

And again, if you鈥檙e hesitant, let me say enthusiastically, YES it is worth it!! I would鈥檝e never ever grown, evolved, and healed as profoundly as I have now if it weren鈥檛 for inner work.

Thousands (perhaps more) across the world can testify to this reality within themselves as well.
What type of inner work are you doing right now? Do you have any questions? If so, you鈥檙e welcome to share below in the comments!
What is Inner Work? (& Why Most People Are Terrified By it)


7 Signs You鈥檙e a Free Spirit (Let鈥檚 Drop the Stereotype)
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About Aletheia Luna
Aletheia Luna is a prolific psychospiritual writer, author, and spiritual mentor whose work has touched the lives of millions worldwide. As a survivor of fundamentalist religious abuse, her mission is to help others find love, strength, and inner light in even the darkest places. She is the author of hundreds of popular articles, as well as numerous books and journals on the topics of Self-Love, Spiritual Awakening, and more. [Read More]
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Reader Interactions
(57) Comments
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  2. Hamod
    September 15, 2021 at 8:24 am
    Self love, but I think am done with that I wanna move on to inner child.
    REPLY
    • Aletheia Luna
      October 22, 2021 at 11:42 am
      Go for it Hamod, slowly and steadily. :)
      REPLY
  3. Old Wiz
    July 19, 2021 at 1:37 am
    The most profound form of guidance is through meditation and meditation symbols gained through the higher self. And it has been proven many times in history that those that have had much privation, lack of sight, hearing, etc., have indeed gained tremendous wisdom through this ability to tap the inner resources.
    REPLY
    • Aletheia Luna
      August 27, 2021 at 10:38 am
      Thanks for sharing your perspective Old. I love how seamlessly meditation can be incorporated into everything 鈥 especially practices such as self-love, inner child work, and shadow work!
      REPLY
  4. grace
    June 03, 2021 at 3:30 pm
    Hi Luna & Sol
    Loved everything I鈥檝e read on your site; left me with heartfelt gratitude
    Yes, your work is beneficial. Appreciated. First came across your giftings on 鈥淲ake Up World鈥. Thank you.
    REPLY
    • Aletheia Luna
      August 27, 2021 at 10:38 am
      Thank you Grace 鈾
      REPLY
  5. nancy
    May 13, 2021 at 9:07 am
    This is interesting, but I can鈥檛 see to see what the issues might be with going within.
    I have done years of soul searching, and have never had an issue with it, or found it in anyway , confronting.
    I suppose I just see things as ( if something needs fixing, then just do the research we need to do, and get on with fixing it).
    REPLY
  6. Amy
    April 02, 2021 at 3:22 am
    Thanks for this article, this last year has been learning all the lies, and reading lots on different new perspectives. Just learning meditation and I felt like I was ready for something more and found this. Thanks so much.
    REPLY
  7. Donna lee
    March 02, 2021 at 9:25 pm
    I am humbly loyal to your messages I receive often thru email and want to thank you for the information. It had changed me personally for the better. Truly thank you. So informative and to the point. And real. Your are so honest and human. Much love.
    REPLY
  8. Stacy
    December 10, 2020 at 7:54 pm
    I recently purchased the inner child journal, the shadow work journal, and the dark night of the soul journal鈥 Do you recommend competing them in any particular order?
    REPLY
    • Mateo Sol
      December 11, 2020 at 9:22 am
      Hey Stacy,
      Thank you for supporting our work. I鈥檇 definitely recommend the Inner Child Journal first, Dark Night and Shadow ones are much more heavier to work with and require you to be firmly grounded in a strong sense of self-love as they can be misused in some cases to further any debilitating self-beliefs.
      I hope that helps :)
      REPLY
    • Niya
      January 10, 2022 at 11:50 pm
      Thank you for this article.
      I feel the same, I鈥檝e been doing inner work for the last year and it is HARD, and scary and so transformative. I鈥檓 glad to know I鈥檓 doing it right because sometimes I feel everyone just living in bliss in spiritual community until you realize so many are simply spiritually bypassing.
      Thank you
      REPLY
  9. Sharon
    November 11, 2020 at 7:09 am
    It was interesting reading here鈥 have been going through deep deep healing over the last few weeks which I now know as shadow work鈥t has been so painful for me and it wasnt by choice I had a trigger which set it off..i have actually gone on the sick as I was and still not able to work鈥y guides have made me stop in order to heal鈥 have worked on my inner child in the past but this was so much lighter compared to the shadow work鈥eading your work has helped me join up the dots to some questions I had鈥.thank you so much for for your insite into this鈥.I hope it helps others like it has helped me鈥 am ok now and I feel my connection and intuition is stronger for going through it..
    REPLY
  10. Pablo
    September 12, 2020 at 7:58 pm
    I鈥檓 so grateful to finally read this article!! I鈥檝e been doing inner child work for so long now (I actually have your journal), combined with therapy, and I鈥檝e still been feeling so low and lost. Then slowly I realised that it鈥檚 because I never took care of developing self-love first! So it has been such a rough process, dealing with such traumas, without self-love! Now this article also confirmed it to me, that this is what I have to develop right away.
    I love your website, I鈥檝e been reading for a while now :) Much love!
    REPLY
    • Alex
      November 04, 2020 at 8:27 am
      I agree! I was also trying to do inner child work and overcome negative beliefs, but it was so overwhelming and made me feel terrible overall; it felt like an unbearable uphill battle. When I came across this article again, I tried implementing self-love alongside my efforts and felt so much better; much less pressured, more able to enjoy things as they are, even if they鈥檙e not perfect. Self-love really is important!
      REPLY
  11. ofir
    July 21, 2020 at 4:29 am
    hi Luna, how can i feel self-love if i feel failure in most areas of my life?
    your site its outstanding and gives a lot of answers i saw nowhere else
    thank you!
    REPLY
    • Kathryn
      August 10, 2020 at 12:39 pm
      Ofir, i would suggest you start small and acknowledge the things in your life you can be grateful for. Indulge in the small wins and move up from there. Change your perception and your life will begin to change
      REPLY
 
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