There Are Empowering Qualities Hidden in the Shadow
It’s astounding to realize that often the mundane characteristics in people are the ones that are socially acceptable.
In essence, any “primitive” traits within us get sent to the Shadow, but at the same time, any creative, unique, innovative, and different qualities within us also get confined within the Shadow because they’re not socially acceptable.
Exploring your darkness is not necessarily all doom and gloom. In fact, you’ll likely be surprised by the endless array of creative and interesting things you find that have been secretly buried away for years.
To accept and embrace your Shadow Self is to become Whole again and thus taste a glimpse of what authentic “holiness” feels like.
3 Illuminative Ways to Encounter Your Shadow Self
I must also have a dark side if I am to be whole.
– Carl Jung
There are several different ways to get to know and explore your Shadow. If you wish to become a more whole and integration human being, it’s crucial that you face your Shadow and do some shadow work. I explore some simple shadow work practices below:
1. Draw or Paint
Art is the highest form of self-expression and also a great way to allow your Shadow to manifest itself. In Psychology, an effective way to better understand a client is through art therapy: to allow them to draw whatever they’re feeling or thinking. But you don’t necessarily need a therapist in order to do this activity.
Simply get a blank piece of paper, find a quiet place, and turn your attention inwards. You may like to ask your Shadow, “what do you want me to know right now?” and then paint or draw whatever comes to mind. Even the strangest mental images or scenarios can hold a seed of wisdom, helping to reveal hidden feelings, thoughts, or memories.
Make sure you approach this activity non-judgmentally and with an open mind. When you fear judgment from yourself, you’ll be inhibited and won’t be able to benefit fully from this practice. So be gentle and receptive. Allow whatever to arise, arise. Remember that your Shadow is a part of you, but it doesn’t define you.
Goethe’s Faust is, in my opinion, one of the best works featuring the meeting of an Ego and his Shadow Self. His story details the life of a Professor who becomes so separated and overwhelmed by his Shadow that he comes to the verge of suicide, only to realize that the redemption of the Ego is solely possible if the Shadow is redeemed at the same time.
Writing a story where you project your Shadow elements onto the characters is a great way to learn more about your inner darkness.
If stories aren’t your thing, try journaling or keeping a diary every day for a few weeks where you record both good and bad emotions, thoughts, and habits. This practice will help shine a light on the bright and darker elements of your nature. Reading through your journal entries can also help you recover the balance you need in your life, and accept both light and dark emotions within you.
3. Use the World as a Mirror (Projection Technique)
The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. – John Elder
Projection is at the very heart and soul of the Shadow: it’s how the Shadow hides and protects itself.
Quite simply, we project the qualities of ourselves that we dislike onto others so that we don’t have to deal with them within ourselves. Projection also helps us to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves and instead helps us to make others the culprits and scapegoats for our unresolved issues.
However, projection is actually a powerful shadow work tool that helps us explore our Shadow Selves when done deliberately. When you approach other people and the world at large with mindfulness, you’ll be able to discover who and what you project your Shadow onto (and why).
What’s interesting about the Shadow is that we not only project our negative traits and elements onto others but our good ones as well. It’s as if we unconsciously refuse to embrace our noble elements because the Ego is afraid that these positive elements will change and upset our current personality structure.