Our journey of Self-Realization is a bit like Dante’s Inferno.
Before making our way out of “hell” we must walk through the depths of our inner darkness. Many religions symbolize these experiences well. Two famous examples include the case of Jesus who had to face Satan in the desert and Buddha’s encounter with Mara (the Buddhist Satan) before his spiritual awakening.
When I write about embracing or integrating your shadow self, I do not mean to indulge in any desire that arises within you.
Indulging your anger, for instance, will simply result in more anger. By embracing your inner darkness I mean that it is necessary for you to “accept” it. Accepting your darkness will allow you to take responsibility for yourself, and once you truly acknowledge one of these dark traits instead of avoiding them, suddenly, they will stop having control over you.
Honesty and Courage Are Crucial
By being honest with ourselves and accepting our shadow elements, it frees us up to truly witness the uncharted areas of our minds, allowing us to see that we are not these elements, but simply possess thoughts, feelings, and drives that come and go. You cannot simply go “beyond hatred” if you don’t first admit to yourself that you do in fact possess hateful feelings.
To completely experience self-love we must learn to honestly face our Shadow Selves, and voyage into the dark, murky waters of the unknown courageously. Otherwise, every time we condemn other people for their shadow traits, we’re in essence condemning our hypocritical selves in the process.
A whole and balanced self is a reconciliation of all parts, an inner unification.
It is not an indulgence of the darker parts of our natures, but acceptance and direct experience of them in the light of mindful awareness and deep honesty. This is the entire opposite of many self-denying traditional spiritual methods of subduing, denying, or ascetically disciplining the self. To live differently (as is the aim and motivation of this website), is to be authentic. And in order to be authentic, we have to face and embrace all parts of our inner selves – that which is culturally uncommon or bizarre.
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 integrate human beings, 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.