Friday, March 20, 2020

[Shadow Work Series] The Purpose of Shadow Work: 10 Benefits for the Witch

So far, we've talked about Carl Jung and the creation of shadow work as a form of analytical psychology.  During that same article, we discussed problems with his work, why shadow work got picked up by some witchcraft practices, and how the shadow work of witchcraft differs from that of psychology.  In the last article, we defined the shadow as an archetype of the psyche and outlined traits of an unprocessed shadow, including the most blatant tell-tail sign: Projection.  In this article, we're going to talk about why someone might brave the difficulties of shadow work, especially as it might relate to witchcraft.  Just what do we get out of facing the uncomfortable?

Five Practical Benefits

An Improved Relationship with Oneself
We learn to love ourselves, be gentle with our self-talk, and generally enjoy our own company.  In turn, we can truly relax with ourselves the same way we might with a good friend or family member.  This allows our lives to be more peaceful and happy. As a bonus, as we get more comfortable with ourselves, we learn more about our true wants and needs, our passions, and ultimately, what we feel is our life's purpose.  This gives us a sense of direction, new goals to achieve, and an improved outlook on the future!

Improved Relationships with Others
As we build more compassionate self-talk, we also become more accepting and gentle with others as a result.  We treat others with more respect because we respect ourselves.  We become less reactionary to others because we have greater control over your own emotions.  Because we're more rooted in our own inner peace and happiness, we radiate that to those around us.  Additionally, we find it easier to recognize the shadow in others when we can recognize our own shadow within.  We drop the blame and stop judging others because we know this is simply their shadow talking.  So when someone reacts rudely, we recognize it as a projection of their own concerns and fears, of their own shadow, and we treat it as such.  But this isn't to say those who regularly engage in shadow work become a walking doormat.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Because we are now more confident in our own self-worth, we find it easier to walk away from those who question it.  We're also able to speak our truth, regardless of the results, because we can now better accept when we need to part ways.

True Authenticity, Self-Awareness, and Maturity
Have you ever felt like you didn't know who you really are?  Carl Jung believed that the self strives to be whole.  Shadow work encourages us to own the parts of our personality that are maybe a bit less desirable.  As we integrate those parts, we learn how to deal with our not-so-great selves and get a better grip on our reactions and emotions.  We become our real selves, in all of its gritty glory, rather than a perceived self we've built as a sort of armor against the outside world. By integrating our shadow and becoming whole, we improve our self-awareness and maturity, which leads to truer authenticity.  

An Improvement of Personal Energy and Mental Clarity
In the previous article, we talked about the shadow self as a sort of invisible, weighted bag of personality traits we've refused to look at.  Dragging all of that weight around is exhausting, and keeping up the facade of the persona is tiring work.  While shadow work may take a lot of effort, it's even more draining to leave the shadow unexamined.  We devote so much energy and thought to upkeeping our perception of ourselves we find most comfortable and ignore all the nasty little bits of us that we don't like that we often can't devote as much thought and energy to, well, just about anything else.  As we integrate the shadow, we stop having to put on a mask and act our way through life.  The proverbial bag we're dragging around becomes a little less heavy.  This allows us to tap into a hidden reservoir of energy, which means we can do a little more and think a little better without all the extra effort!

A Discovery of Hidden Skills and Increased Creativity
Our shadow is formed by negative social cues we receive throughout the first 20 years of our lives.  If our family, friends, teachers, and other authority figures give us negative signals regarding certain skills we have or want to develop, we may file these skills under the shadow.  For example, if everyone makes fun of your singing as a child, you may file singing in your shadow.  As you integrate your shadow, you may find that you really enjoy, and perhaps are even good at, singing.  Tada!  A new skill has come to light.  Those who dive into shadow work often find a plethora of hidden skills at varying levels of development sitting in the shadow, simply waiting to be processed.  Add confidence, a solid support network, and some extra energy, and a new skill you want to pursue and poof!  We have increased creativity all because of a little shadow work.

Five Witchcraft Benefits

A Reclamation of Power
When we become our most authentic selves and at peace with that authenticity, we're able to reclaim our own power.  This often involves practical benefits, like being able to say no when we previously could only say yes or being more aware of our self-worth.  But it also affects our Craft.  The more we stand firm in our own inner power, the more we can project that outward through divination, spell work, ritual, and the like.  We become stronger and more confident in our own practice.  we become our own energy source - and feeding off of your own energy can be an enthralling experience!

Refined Meditation, Energy Work, and Astral Work
It may be difficult to ground and center or to clear our mind during meditation if we're preoccupied with our own persona or personal flaws.  If we struggle to ground and center or meditate, we also likely find it difficult to engage in astral work.  How can we get outside your own body if we feel trapped?  All of these practices that may be a part of our personal Craft require the ability to clear our minds and focus on the here-and-now.  The integration of the shadow creates a wholeness that exudes confidence and peace.  It also frees up our personal energy and allows us to redirect our efforts elsewhere.  By engaging in shadow work, we're able to refine certain parts of our practice that may have otherwise been difficult in the past.

A Better Connection for Divination and Dreamwork
Shadow work requires the use of archetypes and images.  Divination and dreamwork do the exact same.  In fact, as we continue forward, we'll even talk about how the archetypes of the shadow can align with the Major Arcana of the tarot, and how the symbolism in our dreams can be used to dig deeper into our own shadow.  By practicing shadow work, we refine the skills that make us better diviners, giving us the ability to better recognize important symbols and interpret them in a way we might not have been able to before!

An Improved Relationship with Deities and Spirits
If shadow work improves our relationships with physical beings, why wouldn't it do the same with the noncorporeal?  Some ancestors, though certainly not all, who have passed on to the Other may have done their own bit of shadow work while not on this mortal coil.  If we do the same, we gain a better connection with those family members, both blood and non-blood.  Deities and spirits may even require us to engage in shadow work as a means of initiation or as offerings or dedications to them.  And even if none of this applies to those you work with, shadow work still gives you an increase in confidence, respect, compassion, and peace when interacting with entities in your personal Craft.

A New Source for Spells and Rituals
The shadow, in and of itself, is a pool of energy.  When properly integrated, the witch confident in their own shadow can then manipulate and control it at will. It can be utilized as its own entity, as an energy source, and as endless inspiration.   We can build spells and even whole rituals around the shadow and shadow work.  Even if that's not your thing, shadow work can improve the spells and rituals we already do.  Diving into shadow work increases that creativity and energy that's so essential to building a great experience in the Craft!

Shadow work is no easy task.  It requires us to process our deepest traumas and most uncomfortable personality traits.  However, as we recognize these expressions of the shadow, we begin to grow, both as a person and a witch.  When we learn to own the shadow rather than ignore it, integrate it within ourselves, and properly balance our shadow with our persona, we clear multi-generational blockages that have impeded our day-to-day lives and our Craft.  When we're able to integrate the shadow, we make more room for magic.

Exercise Four
Matching Traits

In this exercise, you’re going to look at the opposites list and the list of traits for each person you dislike.   What traits on the right-side column of your opposites list line up with the traits you've listed out for people that bug you? Circle or highlight these traits.  Consider picking a few specific traits that bother you in particular and write them at the top of their own individual blank pages for later use. 


  1. There were a couple turns of phrase in your post that caught at me, and I have a horrible feeling I'm going to have to start doing some proper shadow work soon. I'm not looking forward to it at all, even though I've known for years it's something I need to do, at least as regards certain areas of my life anyway. Thankfully you and Witchy Words are around to light my way.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this series. I have been looking into starting shadow work but wasn't sure how. This has really helped me. I look forward to the next installments. Thank you for your time!!!