What is Shadow?
Shadow are the unknown parts of us, as human beings that we repress and have an emotional response to, when (unconsciously) we recognise these in others.
Shadow points to behaviours, feelings and emotions that we have disowned and are created by the opposite/polarity. So when we choose to be one way and strongly identify ourselves with this we are automatically un-choosing to be the other.
By doing this, splitting occurs between an individual’s conscious identity and their Shadow. An example of this is to identify ourselves as independent. Through being fiercely independent, being the opposite (dependent) is strongly rejected. When a person shows signs of dependency in the face of the ‘independent’ the independent one will become triggered, unaware of what is being reflected back to them. They will have experienced at some point in their life an event which allowed them to believe that being dependent was not ok. This choice may have been to their advantage in that moment but it then creates a problem in identity, a crisis, when that person needs help as they have attached negative meaning to the asking of this.
Thomas Moore in The Care of the Soul states that, “The person we choose to be, automatically creates a dark double – the person we choose not to be.”
Our younger self
Our Shadow self is born in our younger years. As children we would have been praised when being good and where negative emotions were displayed there would have been negative consequences. Through this certain behaviours become repressed, disowned, rejected. Not socially acceptable therefore not accepted by us so left in the unconscious awareness.
Further examples of shadow are:
anger, judgement, disrespect, creativity, beauty.
A person’s creativity may have been suppressed at an early age. They may have grown up in a household where to be creative was not viewed as a positive and so were told to focus on the more academic subjects at school. They will therefore experience strong emotions when witnessing creativity in others, either positive or negative. People will resist the positive Shadow, known as the ‘golden’ Shadow as well as the ‘dark’ Shadow and this can be through fear of realising their greatest potential. After so many years of suppression of this part of them the thought of now integrating this and presenting themselves to the world in this way can be too much and so this stays repressed, in their Shadow. Others will welcome in the ‘golden’ shadow and take full advantage of pursuing their passion, this can truly be life changing for an individual.
Golden Shadow will often arise in the moment. People like people like themselves, so will (unconsciously) admire others who they deem to be like them in certain ways. For example someone with sparkling blue eyes will be in deep admiration of another with similar eyes without even be aware that this is the reason why!
Shadow, in its true, deepest understanding can therefore be confrontational. People can find it hard to recognise and it is at times dismissed by individuals.
Well the ego wants to tell the individual they couldn’t possibly be like that person who bothers them so much so the concept is disregarded. The ego is in defence mode in this moment, creating a false identity which prevents connection to the Shadow and therefore to the whole self. There will be a belief structure a person is holding which determines how they view themselves and how they show up in reality. The gap here will differ from person to person depending on their level of awareness.
Some may at first reject that shadow is possible and later find, through their own personal development and increased self awareness, that shadow does exist within them. Others may never accept this.
Shadow arising in the moment
Those who fully embrace Shadow are able to catch themselves in the moment that it arises. As an example, a person is talking to a friend about another saying that ‘they are so disrespectful’. In this moment they themselves are displaying disrespectful behaviour by talking about that person in this way. This is shadow arising in the moment. This does not mean that the person was not being disrespectful in the first place but the mere fact that the other would bother themselves with this points to disowned behaviour of their own.
There is of course a difference between observing behaviour in others and Shadow. So in the example above had the person observed the disrespectful behaviour and not felt an emotional trigger around this then this does not point to Shadow. A way to check-in on whether this is Shadow is to notice is there any feeling/emotion connecting or arising in the body when speaking/having an active thought about a person’s behaviour?
The more aware of Shadow we can be the more we are able to catch this in the moment. The polarity of this being the more that we suppress Shadow the more we will experience projections of our Shadow onto others. These will continue to present themselves throughout our life, in a variety of ways/situations until we acknowledge and accept them as apart of us.
‘What you resist, persists.’ – Carl Gustav Jung
Shadow Integration – There’s freedom in the light
Firstly recognising/foregrounding and then reintegrating Shadow, by bringing the unconscious into the conscious awareness, is a truly freeing experience. Fear plays a big part for people not choosing to acknowledge Shadow, to look to those places can be scary but in reality to not look here is to reject a huge part of who we are. There is great transformation available in the discomfort of this. Once we can acknowledge Shadow from a non-judgemental perspective and not label it as bad or good we have the opportunity to free ourselves from psychological struggle. In the reframing of this we now have the choice to do something about it. Continue as we are and love and accept every part of us or change it if this is not serving.
Through our own acceptance of our Shadow we are able to accept others more. What used to trigger us has now dissipated and relationships shift, just as our relationship to self has shifted. We are now open to the possibility of a mind free from struggle and a heart of unconditional love.