A shadow is formed where light cannot be seen because it is being blocked. According to renown psychologist Carl Jung, humans have a shadow aspect to their personalities; parts of our personalities that we cannot see because it is blocked from our conscious awareness. Jung says that coming to know your shadow, however, is an integral part of individuation- becoming whole.
The shadow aspect of our personalities is what we deny and avoid facing in ourselves. It can consist of our emotional wounds, shame, hidden anger or pain. The more positive side holds our personal power and self-esteem, our dreams and latent potential.
When we do not face this part of ourselves and become aware of it, we can end up projecting it onto others and blaming them or making them the cause of our unhappiness and discomfort, or we can act out in ways that are self-destructive or harm others. You can see the shadow play out when ministers who speak out about the wrongs of homosexuality come out as gay or very conservative sexually repressive cultures like the Mormons report cases of incest and child abuse.
We can also live lives of quiet desperation and yearning, knowing that we are not quite living out our dreams and ambitions, that we have settled for less, because we fear to ask for more out of life.
I recently became aware of emotional wounds in my shadow that had been buried deep inside me, so deep that I did not even know that they were there. No matter how many times I come across an emotional wound, I always find that there is an initial stage of denial and resistance where I find it difficult to let go and allow myself to feel the pain and walk through it.
And yet I know from my experiences of coming to face and heal past emotional wounds, that the only way to heal is to allow myself to walk through the pain that the wounds bring, to walk on through to the other side of them. As I walk through my emotional pain, I endeavour not to dwell or identify solely with it, but to be with it, to be in a space of allowing.
This allowing is much like a dance to me, where you have your part and you allow, your partner, your emotional pain, to interact with you in a rhythmic way. Sometimes your pain will take over and you will feel like you are just along for the ride, with no volition of your own, sometimes you will be leading, though you will also be aware of its presence and connection to you.
It takes a lot of energy to deny and repress your shadow and emotional pain, energy which often takes on the form of addictions, neurosis or a life filled with distractions. So you can spend time avoiding your shadow, but it is likely that this will only mean that you end up acting out in some way in your life.
Coming to know and integrate your shadow self is deeply profound work, I have found that it will take all the courage and tenacity you think you have the capacity for, and then some. It involves owning what it is you are not wanting to face about yourself and then allowing for the dance of awareness of it in your psyche.
If you are able to do so, however, you will find that this is a very powerful process where you reclaim your whole self. You walk a little closer to the part of you that is real, and with that comes authenticity, truth and potential.
The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek ~ Joseph Campbell
I know that when I take responsibility for my shadow, I feel more empowered. I know that to continue to feel a sense of empowerment in my life, I have to be honest about where I am at each point to myself. I have to face where I am, even if where I am is deep in emotional pain, denial or downright discomfort. Because empowerment comes from truth.
The very first step to knowing your shadow and coming to wholeness is to make the decision to do so, then just allowing for the dance.
To be the hero in my life’s journey, I know I have to take responsibility for my shadow. So I do. I allow for its presence in my life. I know that the shadow parts of me are really just the parts that I am not aware of, the parts that I just need to become conscious of, and that becoming aware does not mean that I create them or make them into anything more, but merely bring them into a greater cohesion into my psyche and life, and this loosens any destructive hold it can have over me.
When I choose to have the courage to show up in my life and look at my shadow, even when I’m unsure of whether I can face what I see, I go a little further along my path to reclaiming my whole self. I also move closer to my latent potential.
Creative professionals like artists, writers, musicians and performers often lead dysfunctional lives, because they draw from their shadow to create their art form. They give form to the parts of ourselves that we cannot always access and that’s why we connect so viscerally with their work and art. They are able to express what we long for, or run from or don’t recognize as part of who we are. Both our dysfunctions and talent.
In my efforts to come to a greater understanding of my shadow, I have found a desire and passion to write and share this journey of my psyche and life. You may also choose to take a step into the hidden aspects of your personality, your shadow, and even though there may be wounds and pain, ultimately, this is also where you will find your greatest potential.
I invite you to journey with me as you explore your own shadow.
What lies in your shadow that you may not be wanting to face?
What potential do you have in your shadow that you have not reclaimed as yet?