Shadow work has sparked a lot of interest in people recently. It seems as if everyone is doing it.
Some people are wondering what are the benefits of doing shadow work, others are wondering if there any dangers in working with their shadow.
The name “shadow work” can sound a bit confusing, you may not be sure whether you want to start doing it, or even why should you do it.
In this article, I am going to speak about the 10 main benefits that shadow work can bring you, and also tackle the controversial topic of shadow work dangers.
Understanding What True Shadow Work Is
Shadow work is a type of healing work that stems from Carl Jung’s therapeutic approach, which emphasizes the importance of accepting and integrating the undesirable aspects of our personality.
Jung stated that we all have a shadow – a dark side, that consisted of nasty personality traits, bad habits, dysfunctional behavioral or emotional patterns, reprimanded needs, and hidden fears.
He also believed that these traits, needs, fears, and patterns will dictate our lives from the subconscious side of our mind, sabotaging our life and goals.
For example, the fear of uncomfortable situations can sabotage one’s ability to pursue the career he/she wishes, or the fear of intimacy could sabotage the ability to form happy relationships.
A need for affection that was suppressed in childhood due to emotionally unavailable parents, can become the tendency to suffocate your partner, and so on.
To put it simply, we all have a shadow, or a dark side, as we are human beings, who came to grow and develop spiritually.
Ignoring the shadow is not going to make it disappear, the same way that ignoring the dirt in your house isn’t going to make your house clean.
You have to get up and clean it – and it’s the same with the shadow.
I believe that every person has to do shadow work, but before they start doing it they should understand why shadow work is useful.
If they understand the amazing value of doing shadow work, they are motivated to remain persistent in doing it, and also to do it as thoroughly as possible.
So, if you are contemplating the idea of doing shadow work or simply trying to understand how shadow work helps you, go ahead and read the following 10 main benefits of doing shadow work:
10 Benefits of Shadow Work
#1. Getting to know yourself
I believe that to know what you want and to live a happy and fulfilling life you must know yourself very well.
Knowing yourself means acknowledging both your good side and your bad side, and having a thorough understanding of your personality as a whole, as well as an understanding of the factors and aspects that shaped it.
We all have a good and a “bad” side, as no one is perfect.
Understanding your qualities and flaws will help you see why you fail in certain areas of your life and also will show you in which areas you are doing well.
Self-knowledge is the foundation of self-love, self-esteem, and a positive self-image.
If you have a good relationship with yourself, you can start developing healthy, authentic relationships with others.
#2. Achieving self-love
Self-love is another benefit of shadow work, and a concept everyone is talking about.
Loving yourself sounds great, but no one tells you how to do that.
Or even if they do explain certain steps that you must take in order to love yourself, sometimes it’s a bit more complicated than that, because love is not something that can be understood, but has to be felt.
This being said, shadow work can help you start loving yourself, as it will help understand how all your undesirable traits or behaviors are the result of childhood or past life trauma.
Therefore, it will help you get rid of the idea that you are “bad”, or “broken” or that something is inherently wrong with you.
You will understand that who you are is a result of your past, and that all the bad experiences were given to you to help you grow and learn from them.
Secondly, shadow work can help you love yourself by consolidating your self-esteem, which I am going to talk about in the next paragraph.
Related Self-Love Articles:
#3. Raising your self-esteem
Shadow work will help you improve your self-esteem by improving your self-understanding first.
A lot of people were made to believe from a very young age that something is wrong with them since they were not given unconditional love and acceptance.
They were taught that they should be ashamed of their flaws, needs, and wants.
Also, many people don’t really know who they are – what they want, what keeps them motivated, what they don’t want and which are their limits or hidden needs.
Shadow work will help you bring all these to light and to understand yourself better.
By learning all this about yourself, you will know how to pursue what is for you and how to leave what is not for you, as well as how to set healthy limits and boundaries.
In this way, you will respect yourself more as a person, accepting both your light and your dark side.
#4. Feeling whole as a person
As we go through life, we acquire a lot of traumatic experiences, some more painful than others.
We are told that we are not good enough, we are criticized, let down, and looked down on.
We lose the people we love or we even experience different types of violence.
All these painful experiences are stored in our subconscious mind, in our energetic body, and our soul. Thus, every painful experience that we have is carried as a heavy burden and has an impact later on.
For example, some people can subconsciously believe that that they deserve to be unhappy, hurt, used, etc, and then draw the right circumstances to make that happen.
Shadow work will help you heal those experiences and emotions caused by the traumatic events, and will make you feel whole again like you were when you were just an innocent child.
Only when you are fully healed and feel whole as a person you can start feeling genuine happiness and you can build a life based on authenticity and integrity.
As seen in the dictionary, integrity is “the quality of always behaving according to the moral principles that you believe in, so that people respect and trust you”.
The problem is that when we have unhealed trauma, sometimes we step away from our moral principles because we can reach a point of not even knowing who we are anymore, or what are our principles and values.
Pretty much like your inner compass has broken, and whatever was guiding you through life has now vanished.
Shadow work can help you feel whole again, as you will work on every painful memory, taking back your power and releasing all the negative thoughts and emotions.
#5. Healing generational trauma
Another important benefit of shadow work is that you can heal generational trauma through it.
As children, we may have acquired a lot of trauma in our relationship with our parents, or took their traumas on ourselves, because of the very strong emotional bond that is formed between parent and child.
Our parents also took on traumas from their parents, and so on.
Trauma and certain thinking-feeling-behaving patterns are transmitted from generation to generation. In science, they call it “genetic equipment”, in spirituality we call it family karma.
As we are connected to all our ancestors through energy cords, when we heal ourselves, we also heal our whole family lineage.
This cleanses a lot of the karma we have and also diminishes the amount of karma that our children will receive.
#6. Developing new ways of meeting your needs
As a big part of shadow work focuses on your childhood, through these exercises you will also have a more clear understanding of the unmet needs and wants you’ve carried with you your whole life.
In childhood, you were dependent upon your parents for having your needs met – whether we’re talking about emotional, physical, or any sort of needs.
If your parents didn’t manage to meet all of them or didn’t know how you were left feeling unfulfilled. This even affected your self-esteem and formed your attachment style, influencing how your needs or the needs of others.
As you go through shadow work, you start discovering which of your needs haven’t been met and how you can meet them now, to gain a better mental state.
Shadow work is very empowering because it helps you see that now, as an adult, you have the power to fulfill your own needs and to create the life that you want.
#7. Setting boundaries
Boundaries are an important part of relationships because they make the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
The ability to set clear and strong boundaries is also formed in childhood, in the way we interact with our parents or siblings.
If your parents were too authoritarian or controlling, you may not know how to set boundaries as an adult, because as a child you were never allowed to do so.
Shadow work teaches us how to set better boundaries as adults, by helping us see when and how our boundaries were crossed, and implicitly, how to prevent that from happening now.
When a person cannot set healthy limits in relationships, they are subconsciously still thinking and feeling like the child who was not allowed to speak up.
Shadow work helps you understand at all levels that now you are an adult, and that you can take your power back because you’re not a small child who needs to listen to his parents anymore.
When we don’t have clear boundaries set, we tend to attract unhealthy relationships and people who take advantage of us, humiliate us and ultimately, destroy our self-esteem.
People who cannot set certain limits in relationships always end up in destructive, toxic relationships.
Therefore, if you were not allowed to have boundaries during your childhood or adolescence, it is time to learn how to set them now, and for this, you can use shadow work.
#8. Seeing others for who they really are
In our relationships with others, we tend to make two common mistakes:
- The first mistake is when we either idealize someone, putting them on a pedestal.
- The second common mistake is to demonize them, looking down on them and only focusing on their bad attributes.
We tend to idealize the people who help us or whom we admire for a certain reason, and we tend to demonize any person that doesn’t fit our standard, or maybe has wronged us in any way.
As shadow work helps you see yourself realistically – a human being with both good and bad attributes, you will develop the same type of understanding when it comes to others.
You will not label people as good or bad anymore, nor will you condemn someone who has made a mistake.
You will just understand that they too have a shadow they need to work on, and you have more forgiveness and compassion in relationships.
#9. Better relationships
Improving your relationships in many ways is a benefit of shadow work that you will appreciate.
First, by healing and loving yourself you will start feeling better, and when you feel better you also attract better. As your self-esteem will grow, you will only choose to have in your life people who respect you and support you.
By knowing how to meet your own needs you will not be dependent upon any other human being, and will not tend to develop co-dependent relationships.
By knowing how to set clear boundaries you will also keep the narcissists away – and anyone who doesn’t have good intentions towards you.
Overall, you will develop more empathy and compassion for yourself and others and even better communication skills.
10. Creating a successful life
As shadow work helps you improve your relationship with yourself and with others, and helps you heal generational trauma as well as your own, you will acquire a better general mental and emotional state.
Trauma is something that we carry as heavy baggage, that often can prevent us from moving forward in our lives.
Also, with shadow work, you will identify a lot of dysfunctional patterns, such as self-sabotage.
Once you work on all that, you will be more aligned with the life that you want and will be more successful in most areas of life.
Can Shadow Work Be Dangerous?
A lot of people seem to ask themselves if shadow work can be dangerous.
I believe this question comes from the fact that the term “shadow” is usually used to describe something dark, misunderstood, possibly even related to dark magic.
I am here to tell you that there is nothing inherently dark about shadow work, and it has nothing to do with using any sort of dark powers.
This term stems from psychologist Carl Jung’s view on the human psyche, and as mentioned before, it just describes the least pleasant side of any human being.
From my point of view, the only thing potentially dangerous about shadow work is not doing it.
When people are not aware of their shadow, they relive the same cycle of generational trauma and dysfunctional patterns.
Some of them are also stuck with the same old negative emotions and thoughts for their whole lives.
If you are new in the world of self-development and spiritual growth, I strongly encourage you to at least try doing shadow work, whether you do it by yourself or you work with a professional.
If you need more information on how to do shadow work, you can have a look at my latest article in which I describe the 7 most effective shadow work techniques. Or check the article I did called 30 shadow work prompts [that are perfect for beginners].
Thank you, I hope you enjoyed this article on the benefits of shadow work. If you have any further questions about shadow work, feel free to ask me in the comments section below!