(Photo credit https://www.leahday.com/quiltshadowself/)
In the past few weeks, I’ve become well acquainted with my shadow self – that part of us that remains hidden, because it embodies all the things that we’ve denied in ourselves – incarcerated anger, jealousy, lust, greed, desire for power, resentment, etc. In Jungian terms:
“The shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. It is one of the three most recognizable archetypes, the others being the anima and animus and the persona.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology)
Everyone carries a shadow. The more we try to hide from it or suppress it, the blacker and denser it will become. According to Jung, the shadow is characterized by its tendency to become irrational; it will often project its personal weaknesses or faulty perceptions on to someone else.
So how do we work with our shadow self? As long as these projections remain unrecognized, the shadow self will then have free reign to create an unhealthy or destructive situation, which may benefit the shadow self, but will ultimately cause pain and suffering for the recipient of these projections. We must have the courage to take a look at our shadow selves and accept this as being a fundamental part of who we are. It is impossible for us to always be good all of the time. There are times when it’s totally appropriate for us to get angry and genuinely express our anger without losing control or becoming violent. The key is to honor our dark side as we do our light side, keeping a natural balance between both. When we only acknowledge the light, our shadow self will rear its ugly head.
To give you an example of what I mean, can you remember in your teen years or even as a young adult a period in your life that you felt you needed to reform yourself? Thus, you stopped drinking alcohol, eating junk food, smoking cigarettes or whatever bad habits you had then with the firm intention of becoming a ‘better you’. Perhaps a week went by or a month, before you found yourself dreaming about drinking a nice cold beer or having a big Mac and fries. You just couldn’t get those intense yearnings out of your mind, until you finally caved in and totally went for it – eating the big Mac, gorging on the fries and then stopping at the bar around the corner for too many beers for you to count. The next day you wake up with the dreadful realization of what you did the night before. You’re horrified by your actions – your weakness and lack of will. You’re stupefied by how easy it was for you to fall back into your old destructive ways. Stop this recording! Yep, we’ve all been there and done that – well most of us have anyway. What went wrong is that we thought by completely closing down our shadow self – the one with all the bad habits – that we could tame the wild beast. But instead, we just made the wild beast even stronger and hungrier! All of this is unconscious of course, so six months, a year or five years down the road, we do it all again. It’s the age old conflict of saint –vs- sinner – a belief that is drilled into many of us who have been raised with a religion as being the key to our salvation. It’s hard to break free of that kind of conditioning, but it isn’t impossible.
When I was a young woman, I battled with depression. Yes, this was a dark time for me and certainly quite painful, but it was also a time of tremendous creativity, as my sorrow was a catalyst for me to write deep and moving short stories and poetry. According to Carl Jung, our shadow self is the seat of our creativity. When we our brave enough to trudge through our ‘dark side’, we have the opportunity to find gems of inspiration which have great potential to ignite our passions and shape our visions.
I learned how to befriend my shadow self at that time, accepting this as an important aspect of myself that I could no longer deny. With this acceptance came a profound healing within my being, eventually lifting me out of my depression. Today I stand before my shadow self and I see how it has actually served to enrich my life, bringing me greater depth and wisdom.
Copyright© 2010 Michele Cempaka
Michele is a Hypnotherapist, Energy Medicine practitioner, Transformational Coach, Teacher & Writer who specializes in transforming people’s lives using a variety of tools. She receives direct transmissions from her guides, enabling her to offer her clients greater clarity about specific life issues and assist them with resolution. She has lived on Bali for 12 years & incorporates the indigenous spiritual qualities within her unique healing & coaching practice, providing a transformational healing experience for everyone she encounters www.spiritweaverjourneys.com
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