The Shadow Self
January 24, 2013 12:11pm CST
In a book I read, the shadow self is compared to a compost heap of emotional issues and past situations that we don't want to deal with or know how to deal with. Like the compost pile, if we don't turn it, it becomes stagnant and affects our lives on all levels. Yes, this means work people. If we properly tend the compost pile it becomes useful and helpful. If we face our shadow self and sort through all the negativity, we are able to release our pain and move forward making something terrible into something productive and enhancing to our life. Whereas I understand and somewhat agree with this analogy, I think that our shadow self also encompasses our fears, nightmares as well as our secret desires. It isn't just the things we have refused to look at. You know how you are busy, minding your own business and all of the sudden this painful memory comes up and slaps you upside the head? These too are things we don't know how to handle and are afraid to look at. The shadow is not Jack the Ripper, or the monster under our bed. It is our own creative mind numbing irrational beast of burden. Well, I decided to look a bit more into the idea of the Shadow Self. 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 sides, 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 oustide 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 syncronicity of events and situations and ultimately once integrated the miracle of the one is established as we become one with ourselves. 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. As the Greeks inscribed at the temple of Delphi "Know thyself" and "Nothing in excess." Two very wise statements. 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 as Robert Johnson says in the book Owning Your Own Shadow, it takes a great deal of courage. One important insight is that the Shadow Self is actually created by the way we deal with our unwanted feelings and thoughts. In our society and especially when we are growing up, if we express feelings such as anger or jealousy, or other socially unacceptable behavior, we are often told by our parents to "stop it" or "don't do that" which is a message to take our feelings and shove them inside. At first we may not do this well, but with repeated commands from our parents each time we experience these feelings, soon we develop skill at shoving our unwanted feelings inside. Eventually, we learn to do this automatically and the process becomes unconscious. We don't even know we are doing it. These unwanted feelings don't simply go away, but accumulate in the unconscious mind, still very much alive and often even more angry and resentful for having been rejected in such an uncaring way. These Shadow Self feelings take on an identity of their own, retain a great deal of energy and are intent on expressing themselves. Because the Shadow Self is in the unconscious mind, we are unaware of it and the influence it is having on our lives. It is through this process that the Shadow Self is empowered and motivated to create difficulties in our lives. So, if we want to get to know our Shadow Self, all we need to do is look at the condition of our life. Unwanted experiences are actually a reflection of our own Shadow Self. This means that if there is someone in your personal life that you have strong negative feelings about and wish would go away, it is your Shadow Self that has attracted them to you and caused you to feel the way you do toward them. And in fact, it is likely that the characteristics of this unwanted person that you dislike the most are characteristics of your Shadow Self. In other words, you have these same or similar traits within you. This is sometimes a difficult thing to accept at first, but if you can, it becomes possible to stop yourself from directing your negative feelings toward the outer person, and turn your attention inwardly to consider your inner state and search for any aspects within that may have the same feelings or characteristics you dislike so much in the other person. This about face in your behavior requires humility, but the effort is worth it. It is a step in the direction of healing and of changing not just your inner world, but your outer world as well. Once you begin to do this, a process of inner discovery and healing becomes possible. The Shadow Self exists because, rather than heal the feelings that have created it, for one reason or another, you chose to ignore and deny them. If you are to heal, it is necessary to reverse the process by paying attention to the Shadow Self and accept it as part of yourself. When you begin to do this, only then is it possible to heal. Once the Shadow Self begins to be accepted and the healing process begins, you will find it much easier to accept the outer person as well, making it easier to find solutions and resolve issues. Or it may result in the person going away with little direct contact needed, or in you simply not being affected by them as you have in the past. Okay, I know that made you stop. See, I've heard that many times. If you have an issue with someone you need to look within and see what it is within yourself you are seeing reflected back at you. This is not always the case. Sometimes you can drive yourself nuts trying to see something that isn't there. Been there. Done that. Sometimes it is you being attracted to the other person for the benefit of them dealing with their shadow self. What are your thoughts?