If you are considering exploring your shadow, you might be wondering if it is a safe undertaking.
In this article, we will be looking at how to explore your shadow in a positive and safe way. I will be sharing insights from a decade of work around the shadow aspects of the psyche.
Is Shadow Work Dangerous?
Shadow work is not dangerous if you come at it with the right frame of mind. But it can feel intense, frightening, and uncomfortable. If you have the will to look at your shadow, you will gain a lot of growth and insight.
Shadow work is designed to help you explore the repressed aspects of your psyche.
It is a technique for bringing to light your trauma, negative patterns, and coming back into balance. The risks come in if you find you are already unstable, overwhelmed, or in a deep depression.
If you feel you have good mental health, then there is a lot to be gained by this work.
Risks of doing Shadow Work
When you start undergoing Shadow Work, you will see a lot of deep and painful inner-work ahead. For most people, this is a safe undertaking, but there are some risks involved.
One of the most significant risks is amplifying your shadows.
If, while examining your shadow, past trauma’s come up that you are unprepared for, it can amplify your coping strategies, such as acting out, addiction, and projections.
This work can also open up past wounds in unexpected ways.
This is why it’s essential to come into this work with patients, clarity, and knowing you are stable enough to handle what you might uncover. A therapist can help you along your path if you feel unstable or overwhelmed.
When to seek help doing shadow work:
- You feel mentally unstable
- Addiction patterns come up
- You feel agitated or angry a lot
- You become confused or lost on what to do next
- An overwhelming trauma comes up
- You are impatient with the process
Safe ways to do shadow work
Certain activities make this process of discovery a lot safer and easy to manage.
Yeap… I had to say it.
Therapy is helpful during this process because you will have an ally you can rely on. A therapist can help you integrate whatever traumas or confusions that come up while exploring your shadow.
Meditation is another beneficial tool. Meditation creates a safe space for your mind to unravel. Loving Kindness meditations are a great example of techniques to unlock your shadow and bring compassion to the dark places of your psyche.
Self-reflection and writing are other great ways to integrate your shadow. Allowing yourself to write with a stream of consciousness can let your shadow bubble up to the surface. It also gives you something physical to review later.
Working with a Group
Working through such a life-changing experience, such as Shadow Work, can be beneficial to have a few buddies helping along the way. This is where Men’s groups, group therapy, and accountability groups come in handy.
Having others give a helping hand while also reflecting on their journey can be a deeply powerful thing.
The real key to safely doing shadow work is by following the three P’s; Practice, Patience, Persistence.
Don’t try to rush yourself. There is no deadline or right way to do it.
Take your time, and with conscious effort, you will begin to see big shifts in your life.
Why is shadow work so hard?
One of the reasons people ask if Shadow Work is dangerous is because of the effort involved.
Shadow work is not easy.
When doing this work, you are constantly examining your ego, identity and staring right at every flaw of your psyche. It can be exhausting and miserable.
It’s challenging to look at your repressed darker aspects and accept that it is you.
But just because it is hard doesn’t mean it is dangerous.
Benefits: Is Shadow Work Worth it?
Shadow work is deeply beneficial. A study by Lesley University documented that 80% of people that undergo Shadow Work come out feeling an improvement in their mental wellbeing and understanding of themselves.
Benefits from doing shadow work:
- Self Acceptance
- Recognize and working through triggers
- Freeing yourself from the unconscious shadow
In another report on the effectiveness of Jungian Psychotherapy, they found:
“All of the studies report positive effects in a wide variety of disorders with good or very good effect sizes on: symptom reduction, well-being, interpersonal problems, change of personality structure, reduction of health care utilization, and changes in everyday life conduct.”
One of the biggest benefits from Shadow work is Self-actualization, or what Jung would call Individuation. It’s the process of becoming whole.
As we grow up, parts of ourselves can break off or be underdeveloped due to trauma. We unlock all this potential through integrating our shadow.
In this way, the risks of facing your shadow are far outweighed by the benefits.
Carl Jung puts this wonderfully:
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge. (From the Collected Works of Carl Jung)
In my own life, I have gained a lot through Shadow Work. It has helped me face sexual shame, repressed anger and move past trauma that held back my potential.
I have seen many people’s lives changed through Shadow Work.
Integrating your shadow is like gaining a new well of energy, inspiration, and excitement into your life.
Don’t get me wrong… It’s still hard work, but the benefits far outweigh it.
Shadow Work is very safe for anyone that feels they have a stable environment and a strong baseline of good mental health.
If you come to this work with patients, compassion, and dedication, you will see an amazing benefit.