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Me and My Shadow

September 5, 2017

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“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Jung

The Shadow Self is the self that is hidden from view. That place in each of us that holds our secrets – those things of which we dare not speak to anyone, not even to ourselves.

You see, the Shadow Self is the metaphorical container of our repressed thoughts, shames, fears and desires. All those things that we learned so long ago were unacceptable and thus kept best kept hidden.

But, if you’re looking for a clue as to what might be held in your Shadow Self, then look at what you intensely dislike or react to in others — their behaviors, their attitudes, their characteristics, even their physical attributes. What happens is that we often project what is unacceptable in ourselves onto other people.  Interesting, yes?

Out of Sight Out of Mind?

Even though we repress our Shadow Self, it doesn’t go away. While the Shadow Self’s thoughts, feelings and desires are largely unconscious, they are still active, much like a roiling undercurrent that can surface when under stress.

As such the Shadow Self can cause us a lot of problems in our day-to-day life, playing havoc in our relationships and other aspects of our lives.

But, according to Dr. Stephen Diamond, the Shadow Self can also be a container of positive creative energy, because the Shadow does not just hold negative secret elements of ourselves, but many positive ones, perhaps in the form of desires of the heart, that we’ve been too afraid to give voice to or acknowledge.

Shining a Light into the Darkness

To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light” Carl Jung

So, how do we deal with our Shadow Self – turn a negative force into a positive one?

Firstly, we can make the unconscious conscious. Give those thoughts, emotions and desires permission to reveal themselves. Then acknowledge them and give them words. Psychotherapy, Jungian or other, can be very helpful in this regard.

Next, we can remove any negative labelling attached to such thoughts, propensities and feelings. We can see them as normal as opposed to evil, unacceptable or wrong.

We could even consider that our Shadow Self may hold the key to potentialities that we haven’t yet fully developed and that may be beneficial to us in some way.

And most importantly, we could accept that these thoughts, feelings and propensities aren’t going away. So, if repressing them doesn’t work – even making things worse — then we need to explore imaginative ways to deal with them. Re-purpose them, if you like.

As all of this requires deep work, the safe container provided by a helping professional is highly recommended.

Jacob Norby said, “Every pain, addiction, anguish, longing, depression, anger or fear is an orphaned part of us seeking joy, some disowned shadow wanting to return to the light and home of ourselves.” 

So, the question is this: What gems lurk in your Shadow?