Life coaching versus shadow work

When someone mentions shadow work, what comes to mind? The chances are it sounds a bit scary...


Well call me intrepid, but I decided to undertake some professional development this summer and be coached by another coach. One who specialised in shadow work. 

This actually turned out to be a fantastically positive experience, which is perhaps another article. But what I've been keen to explore since, is how shadow work differs from life coaching. Because both systems involve assisting the client to swap out negative personal beliefs and replace them with new positive beliefs.

But let's go back to the beginning and examine what the 'the shadow self,' as defined by psychologist Carl Yung, actually is. The shadow self resides in the subconscious mind. It is dedicated to storing everything about ourselves that we have repressed during childhood. All the edits and so called bad behaviours that were deemed to be inappropriate or wrong. It's actually necessary that we develop a shadow self at a young age, in order to develop the ego, accommodate society and fit into family norms.

The persona or conscious mind holds all the aspects about ourselves that we feel are acceptable to society. What we want everyone to know and think about us. Our 'social media selves' or the ego mask.

The aim of shadow work is to integrate the repressed parts of ourselves into what is known as the persona or conscious mind and to become truly authentic. It's only in later life that the ego or personality is thought to be strong enough to investigate what lies in the shadow and to merge the shadow into the persona. 

Strangely, the shadow work process becomes a reverse editing situation. As children, our repressed concepts became self beliefs sent from the conscious mind to be buried in the subconscious. But in shadow work, these old beliefs are transformed into new beliefs we can benefit from and are moved back into the conscious mind. 

How we created our original beliefs by converting something an adult told us or implied, into an idea about ourselves is also another article!

Work with beliefs is key to any progress with self-development. All wellness activity will benefit you but without attention in this area you are likely to be cutting a weed back without digging up the roots. You can tell if this area needs work, because areas of your life will still stagnate, unhealthy patterns persist and you will likely not be as fulfilled as you could be.

But back to the original question. Is life coaching the same as shadow work? Well life coaching also encompasses the ousting of old negative beliefs and replacing them with new positive (client created) beliefs. However life coaching then sets off on its own path by using the now 'free of limiting beliefs' landscape to facilitate and support the client to work towards life goals where the client is held accountable for progress. 

This is the difference, as shadow work does not function to facilitate the client meeting goals or use gains from shadow work towards specific aims. 

It should be said that Jungian psychologists practise as therapists. Whereas life coaching is not therapy even though there are various accredited coaching models that are inspired by shadow work.

Well the lines may be blurring, but as a life coach I work with clients who have goals but are feeling unable to achieve them. Like shadow work, my sessions involve facilitating and supporting the transformation that occurs when beliefs are changed.

I did my shadow work with Debbie Gill (Clear Beliefs Tm) in the US and may I say, it was an amazing and life changing experience. This methodology certainly helps you embed your new beliefs but you do have to engage fully.

As with any personal development journey, you have to be committed to the changes you want to see in your life and this means practising the tools you've been given by the facilitator; in order to establish your new, empowered and fulfilled self.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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