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.
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.