The Shadow 13/07/2008
The Shadow is a psychological term introduced by the late Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Carl G. Jung. It is everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped and denied. These are dark rejected aspects of our being as well as light, so there is positive undeveloped potential in the Shadow that we don’t know about because anything that is unconscious, we don’t know about.
The Shadow is an archetype. And what an archetype simply means is that it is typical in consciousness for everyone. Everyone has a Shadow. This is not something that one or two people have. We all have a Shadow and a confrontation with the Shadow is essential for self awareness. We cannot learn about ourselves if we do not learn about our Shadow so therefore we are going to attract it through the mirrors of other people.
The first thing we have to do in order to begin to see our Shadow side, is to take 100% responsibility for our lives. This is a very difficult thing to do and no one does this overnight so we have to be patient with ourselves.
Being in the human experience, we have all had many painful, difficult experiences where it clearly looks like it is the other persons fault, or bad luck in life or whatever else we want to call it. So taking total responsibility for what appears to come to us is no easy task but it is well worth the effort because when we take responsibility for what happens to us, we can then learn and grow from our experiences and make new choices for ourselves.
Changing our attitude from blame to responsibility will change what happens next in our world. Our destiny is of our own making and what goes on inside of us will be reflected outside of us all the time.
I am very fond of this ancient axiom given to us by the alchemists of long ago: “As above, so below, as within, so without, so that the miracle of the one can be established.” What it is saying is that what is within us will also be outside of us. Inner states of consciousness will be reflected in outer situations time and time again. If we are willing to look at the significance of these repeating patterns, we will see the synchronicity of events and situations and ultimately once integrated the miracle of the one is established as we become one with ourselves.
We have all had experiences with other people that really irritate us. Whenever we feel ourselves over-reacting emotionally to a quality or characteristic in someone else that pushes all of our buttons (and there will be a repulsive element to it), we can be sure that we are seeing a part of our own Shadow.
We will not be able to stand this other person or be around them at all. The reaction is usually extreme distaste as these characteristics or qualities that we despise or hate in others are our own and they are usually operating outside of our awareness. They are in our unconscious and usually they will be the exact opposite of what we believe to be true about ourselves.
Now a person carrying a light part of our Shadow we will be very drawn to, and may even fall in love with, and this is the ‘Gold’ part of our Shadow. So we can also project some of our very positive qualities when we meet someone we truly admire, but most of us have more trouble with the negative experiences as we encounter our Shadow. This is the psyche’s way of bringing itself into the light meaning the light of consciousness.
Projection is an unconscious psychological mechanism. We all project onto other people parts of ourselves that we disown, that we deny. We will usually not identify with the projected quality or characteristic at all. It’s them. It’s not us.
So notice. Notice who comes into your life that irritates you or pushes your buttons. It’s usually something that is so unconscious within yourself, that it’s impossible to see that it’s about yourself. If it indeed is a part of your own Shadow, in time you are going to see how it’s going to start repeating in patterns.
Jung believed that whatever we are highly identified with in our character, the opposite extreme will be in our unconscious. He called this the law of opposites. So unconsciously we will attract the parts of us that we actually badly need.
It can be really interesting when a friend points out to us something about our character, and we will say to them, “I’m not like that.” We will resent them. We will be angry with them and we won’t want to have anything to do with them anymore because we will feel misunderstood.
So whenever you catch yourself saying “I’m not like that,” if it gave you an emotional charge when they said it, — you probably are like that, you just don’t know it. A really good way to bring your Shadow qualities into awareness is to ask a couple of really close friends to describe you on paper. They see our Shadow side way before we do. Our real friends love all of us, the light and the dark, and accept our humanity the way we accept theirs. And isn’t acceptance what we are all looking for?
How many times have you said something and then said, “I didn’t mean it that way.” Well we did mean it that way and our Shadow decided to have its say. The Shadow side of us relates to life much more authentically and it will come out whether we like it or not.
Repressing or denying our Shadow can lead us into experiences where we are overwhelmed by it and it can take us over. Then we can end up with egg on our face, acting in the very way we have denied or condemned in others and saying to ourselves, “Why did I act like that? I am not like that.” Well when we say it like that — “I’m not like that,” — we are like that, we just don’t know it.
There are many hidden and undeveloped parts in all of us and in attempting to keep our self-image intact, we will completely deny their existence. We do this because we want to be accepted by our society, by our families and our peers. Our baser qualities — our hypocritical behavior, our excessive greed, our ruthlessness, our ability to be manipulative — go straight into the unconscious. But that doesn’t mean they are not active in our life, they just live in the unconscious (unsupervised), and periodically they burst forth into our awareness and propel us into situations that we would much rather avoid.
So the more we know about ourselves, the more choices we have. We can then choose not to behave in a certain way. When we don’t know about something, then it will take on a compulsive, autonomous element to it.
Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is
embodied in the individual’s conscious life,
the blacker and denser it is.
At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag,
thwarting our most well-meant intentions.
— Dr. Carl G. Jung
We have to be willing to see the part we play in attracting certain relationship issues into our lives. We can’t change anything we don’t know about. And we certainly can’t change other people so we must be aware of our total Self, the dark and the light, and then at the same time make choices about our own behavior.
No one does this overnight. Shadow work is a life-long retrieval process and it takes years of patient inner dialogue with oneself to understand and even admit to ourselves that Shadow work is even realistic and necessary. It’s not easy to do and takes time and energy. Not always, but most often it begins at midlife when we become determined to see the truth about ourselves after a series of painful relationships.
It is impossible to truly learn about our whole Self and grow into more conscious human beings without this kind of internal self-honesty and a great deal of courage. The end result however will create a level of balance and calm in ones inner world, ultimately affecting one’s outer world.
Clinical Hypnotherapist and Counsellor