In this article, I am going to dive into everything you need to know about the shadow. How to face it, own it, integrate it, and use it as your rocket fuel.
Ignore this advice, and your shadow will own you. It will wreak havoc in your relationships. Left unfaced, your shadow becomes the anchor being pulled behind the boat of your life, dragging along the ocean floor and slowing your progress in all that you attempt to accomplish.
After releasing my recent article 7 Of My Favourite Quotes That Will Turn You Into A Better Person, one of my readers asked me what I thought Carl Jung meant when he said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
To me, shadow work is the epicentre of this painful self-discovery process. It takes courage and grit to be willing to look into the darkest, most repressed parts of our psyche.
Enter: shadow work.
What Is The Shadow?
The shadow is a concept that Carl Jung (a genius dude, way ahead of his time) coined.
Simply put, our shadow is the so-called dark side of our personality.
We all feel fine presenting the bright, shiny, nice parts of ourselves to the world (kindness, benevolence, generosity, thoughtfulness, etc.)… but the parts of ourselves that we fear society would deem unsavoury often get relegated to the shadow.
How Does Your Shadow Come Into Existence?
No matter how healthy and positive some people’s childhoods are, everyone experiences invalidation at some point in time.
Say you displayed a specific character trait (like rage, envy, or greed) when you were a toddler and one of your parents shamed you for it. You would then infer, “When I show these parts of myself to the world, I am less lovable. I am less safe. Therefore, it is not safe to show these parts of myself to the world. These parts are less lovable than the rest of me.”
When this occurs, we cast these seemingly less lovable things into the discard pile of our own personal shadow.
Compound this trend over time, and we learn to make certain parts of ourselves so ‘wrong’ or unlovable that we never give them any time to come out and play. And the longer we suffocate these parts of ourselves, the more power those traits gain over us (while lurking in the shadows of our subconscious mind).
In short, the things that we are in rejection of are the things that come to form the building blocks of our shadow self.
What Happens If You Aren’t In Right Relationship With Your Shadow?
If you haven’t done conscious shadow work to face into and integrate your shadow, some of the most common side effects are:
- Difficulty in relationships (friendships, intimate partners, familial, business/colleagues, etc.)
- Persistent feelings of distance, separation, and isolation from others
- The same frustrating lessons appearing in our lives over and over again (for example, thinking that you’ve finally met a romantic partner who is completely unlike your last five and then finding out they’re the exact same – in the most frustrating ways – as the previous ones)
- Misalignment in your career and relationships
- Lashing out at people with anger, jealousy, or being manipulative, in ways that are seemingly completely out of left field and incongruent with who you think yourself to be
- A lack of passion and energy throughout your life in general
Someone who hasn’t integrated their shadow is also a risk factor (to themselves and to the world).
People who perpetually suppress aspects of themselves and have an increasingly large shadow side are at a greater risk of turning into rapists, murderers, suicide statistics, and mass shooters. This might sound dramatic, but it isn’t. When parts of the psyche are hidden away for too long, those suppressed emotions convert themselves into demons – and those demons need to find a way out, one way or another.
If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. – Gospel of Thomas