You have probably started to explore the Shadow Self but wonder why you even do shadow work or the benefits to Shadow Work?
There are a lot of real, tangible, and life-changing benefits that might surprise you. In the rest of this article, I will be sharing 10 evidence-based effects of Shadow Work and why you can gain so much from this work.
If you are new to Shadow Work, read this article on the basics of Shadow Work
1. Stronger Mental Health
The Shadow Self is the repressed aspect of your identity. It’s the things you don’t want to admit or face about yourself.
It takes A LOT of energy to keep pushing these parts of yourself into the dark corners, and the amount of work it takes is taxing on your mental health.
Facing the Shadow can free up a lot of energy and help improve your mental health. A study on Evidence for the Effectiveness of Jungian Psychotherapy by University Basel found marked improvement from clients that underwent Jungian Psychotherapy and Shadow Work.
Shadow Work was just one technique used in Jungian Therapy but gives us a good understanding of the effectiveness of the technique.
The study found that before therapy only 39.4% of people considered themselves to have good mental health.
By the end of the survey, 86.6% of participants believed themselves to have good mental health, and after 6 years, that number increased to 94%.
This shows what a big impact Shadow Work can have on your perceived happiness and mental health.
2. Breaking free of Negative Behaviors
The Shadow is where a lot of negative behaviors come out, and this can happen due to Emotional Suppression that is associated with the Shadow.
Shadow work helps you recognize where these negative behaviors come from and gives you a clear path to breaking free from them.
Negative behaviors that you can heal through Shadow Work.
When I was younger, I never saw myself as an angry person, and I prided myself on being upbeat and easygoing. But the reality is I still had anger.
Out of the blue (or so it felt like), my anger jumped out.
It was because I wasn’t conscious of where my anger came from and pushed it into the Shadow.
Over time I created a more conscious relationship with my anger by bringing that part of myself out of the Shadow.
This is just one example of how bringing consciousness to your Shadow can help you heal negative behaviors and patterns in your life.
3. Increase your Creativity
I have heard so many people say, “I could never make art like that” or “I am just not that creative.”
Often, that is because they have some shadow belief that holds them back.
There can be some trauma from that past that stunts creativity or a limiting belief about taking risks to express themselves.
Shadow Work can help you break free of these limiting thoughts and reinspire you creatively.
Psychologist Arielle Schwartz said when talking about Shadow Work and Creativity:
Attending to the Shadow not only illuminates the darker parts of our personality but also gives us access to the disowned positive parts that we find too risky to bring out into the world. New possibilities awaken when working with the Shadow. Now rather than “either-or” polarities we have access to a “both-and” reality.
– Arielle Schwartz
Doing Shadow Work can help get you out of strict linear thinking and open up creative potential.
Depth psychologist Carl Jung explained: “…in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness — or perhaps because of this — the shadow is the seat of creativity.”
4. Leadership Development
You can’t be a good leader if you do not reconcile your Shadow.
Leadership is about understanding yourself and others. If you don’t face your Shadow, it will be a subtle poison that destroys people’s trust in you.
In the Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies, John G. Corlett and Laura F. Chisholm say:
A “true” leader who, above all, is introspective and who learns through inner work the importance of refraining from projection and of creating and maintaining a clear boundary between the Self and the collective Psyche. Self-reflection leads the “true” leader down the path of self-development
-John G. Corlett and Laura F. Chisholm
Another study by the Journal of Management Development found a big correlation between Shadow Work and Leadership – when a leader actively reflected on shadow behavior; they were more equipped to deal with issues within their organization.
You can see how the Shadow Self can jump out and undermine CEOs all the time. Like sex scandals, embezzlement, and other negative behaviors that are surfacing out of the Shadow.
If you want to be a good leader in your community, family, or career, then Shadow Work can be an essential piece to your success.
5. Healing intergenerational trauma
Many of us experience Intergenerational Trauma.
An example would be your parents growing up in extreme poverty, which leads to stress around money.
The trauma of our parents, generation, or ancestors can travel down to you and cause unexpected negative behaviors. You might still be holding on to the trauma of growing up poor, living through war, or displacement.
A study was done by the National University of Administrative and Political Studies that found Shadow Work and Analytical Psychotherapy can be used to break free of intergenerational trauma.
Shadow Work can help you recognize this intergenerational trauma and bring these patterns into conscious awareness.
6. Can Lead to Individuation: Becoming Self-Realize
Carl Jung, the founder of Shadow Work, believed that everyone had the potential of Self Realization, and he called the process Individuation.
Shadow Work is a big part of becoming your fullest potential. To become fully realized as an individual, you have to reckon with the suppressed aspects of your Psyche.
If you are still attached to your parents, unable to move past trauma, or unconscious of your negative behaviors, then you will always be held back from your potential.
The process of Individuation is a big topic and beyond the scope of this article, but if you want a good start, I highly suggest the video below. It explores Individuation and the Shadow Self.
7. Acceptance and healing shame
Shame is a powerful emotion that can bring immense stress and protection and be a source of healing.
Samantha Brennan from the School of Psychology in New Zealand said: “… having a safe space to acknowledge shame and vulnerably share one’s experiences with shame is beneficial to overcoming shame and building resilience.”
Shame is deeply tied to the Shadow. If you are ashamed of actions you have taken, or aspects of your identity, then this part of you probably lives within the Shadow.
Shadow Work can give you a framework to recognize shame, move past it, and heal.
In the book Healing the Shame that Binds You, the Author John Bradshaw explores how healing toxic shame can lead to great healing.
It can help you Heal:
- Trouble forming friendships and romantic relationships.
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Abusive behavior
I highly suggest the book Healing the Shame that Binds You. Grab a copy on Amazon here.
8. Improved self-esteem
At its Core, shadow work is about radical self-acceptance, and it’s about being ok with every aspect of who you are.
If you suppress parts of yourself, you say there are parts of you that you do not love or like about yourself.
A strong sense of self-esteem comes from embracing the Shadow.
A study by Ulrich Orth in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bernhigh found “self-esteem prospectively predicts success and well-being in life domains such as relationships, work, and health.”
Shadow Work can help you improve your self-esteem, which can improve the well-being of your life.
9. Healthier intimate relationships
A relationship is only as healthy as the partners involved. If you are hiding from your Shadow, it will inevitably come up in your romantic relationships.
Read more on Relationship and Shadow Work.
If you are dealing with addiction and codependency, then Shadow Work can be of great benefit. Shadow Work can also help you uncover sex addiction and give you a path to healing.
Benefits of Doing Relationship Shadow Work:
- Partners can help each other recognize negative behaviors
- Having openness and honesty about your shadows can strengthen the relationship
- Less fighting/bickering
- Fewer grudges
- Exponentially grow together
- Build or rebuild trust
10. A deeper level of self-awareness
The Shadow implies a lack of awareness.
If something is in your Shadow, it is just outside your conscious mind. The “work” is about bringing these hidden aspects of yourself into conscious light.
By doing Shadow work, you begin to learn about yourself on a deep level.
This deep inner knowing can lead to improvement can have a wide range of positive side effects, like a better relationship, stronger friendships, leadership, and so on.
I truly believe that the point of this life is to increase our Self-Awareness, and it is a process of knowing yourself on a deeper and deeper level.
Without this, It’s just taking meaningless actions.
In this way, I find Shadow Work essential to the very meaning of life.
As Carl Jung once said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
Ultimately Shadow Work is about growing as a person to your highest potential. It’s about increasing your understanding of your Talents and Weaknesses, so you can continue to grow.
I have seen firsthand how powerful Shadow Work can be through working with different men’s groups and organizations.
I have seen men that were caught in a rut.
They had no passion for life.
Deep down, they felt something was wrong with life and lost their sense of purpose. Through Shadow Work, I saw them unlock their creativity, improve relationships, and find a new sense of happiness.
I am constantly working with my Shadow because I have seen so much benefit from it. It’s helped me break free of sexual shame, fear of intimacy, and insecurity around money/wealth.
Because of the impact, I have seen in my own life and the people I have worked with, I am inspired to share more resources around Shadow Work.
If you want to continue this journey with me, check out the articles below: