Shadow work and the great deception.


  • Author Emily Rose
  • Published January 22, 2024
  • Word count 485

There is a common denominator among coaches and the world of "shadow work," the latest trend where coaches don the metaphorical fedoras of personal development, promising to illuminate the dark alleyways of your psyche. Why confront your subconscious with proven therapy techniques when you can explore your shadow with someone who just finished a weekend course called "Delving into the Darkness for Fun and Profit"?

Now, to those leaning into the neuroscience, brace yourselves as we explore why you might want to avoid these self-proclaimed gurus of the mind.

First up, let's talk neuroplasticity. It's like the brain's superpower- the glitter charge if you will- allowing us to learn new things and change throughout our lives. Through safe and evidence-based techniques, you can actually rewire your brain. But when it comes to shadow work, there's a risk of reinforcing negative neural pathways—pretty much giving your brain a map to "Dysfunction City with a first-class ticket in hand.

Let's not forget the all-important neurotransmitters. Dopamine, your brain's own brand of motivational chocolate, is supposed to be released when you do something rewarding. But what happens when a self-proclaimed shadow coach has you digging through the muck of your subconscious? Well, you might get hooked on the emotional rollercoaster they strap you into. And just like that, you're hankering for another hit of cryptic guidance like a dopamine junkie.

The coaches of these shadowy realms often lack the credentials but have a black belt in emotional dependency. They whisper sweet, ambiguous nothings into your cortex, and soon, you're seeing shadows everywhere—even where they don't exist. Is that a repressed memory or just last night's gluten filled pizza trying to haunt you? No one knows, but your coach will definitely sell you another session for another look-see.

In the absence of rigorous oversight, anybody can claim they're a shadow boxer of the subconscious. Instead of developing the skills to navigate life's challenges independently, one might end up chasing the elusive approval of a coach who's more interested in their growing bank account than your growing self-awareness.

And let's give a round of applause to the placebo effect, the brain's magic trick, making you feel like something's working even when it's as scientifically grounded as a helium balloon at a birthday party. It's not to say self-reflection isn't valuable—it is! But it should be done within the safe confines of evidence-based practice, not through a spiral of endless navel-gazing fed by vague techniques with murky end goals.

In conclusion, if you're looking to deal with your inner demons, aim for the science-backed methods rather than a coach who's more shadow than substance. Remember, for every complex psychological issue, there's a coach out there with a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong. Stick to the facts, kids, and let your neurotransmitters thank you for not sending them on a wild goose chase through your grey matter.

I have specialised in neuroscience for over 28 years and work primarily with business owners on unpicking their obstacles in a science backed way.

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