Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, theorized that we all have two sides to our personalities; the known conscious side that deals directly with the world around us, and the deeper hidden side that lies below the conscious mind, locked away in the dark cellar of our psyche.
He dubbed this part of our consciousness the shadow aspect. The shadow aspect is essentially composed of bits and pieces of us that we have repressed, discarded or abandoned for being unacceptable. The shadow embodies all of the traits that do not fit in with our views of our ideal self – the persona we wish to present to the world. These rejected characteristics have been deeply buried within to keep them at a safe distance from consciousness so that what the shadow desires is generally unknown to the conscious mind. Sometimes though, when we are overly stressed, the shadow aspect may make an appearance. Behaviours that are normally curtailed or avoided because they go against the image that we have built for ourselves rise to the surface in moments of psychic weakness. Afterall, they are a part of who we truly are – whether we like it or not.
Jung believed that in order to be whole, you must strive to integrate the conscious with the unconscious, a process he called individuation. But the process doesn’t happen on its own. It requires much introspection, self-examination, and a desire to know oneself completely without any of the ego defences blurring reality. It is in fact, part of the process of personal growth; the uncovering of all of the layers that prevent you from knowing who you really are. It means removing the rose-coloured glasses and seeing things in a real way. Including those things that are simmering in the dark, way down below. It means coming face to face with your shadow, saying hello, and negotiating some sort of agreement.
Those who are not at all in touch with their inner selves are the most at risk when dealing with their own shadow aspect. When you don’t know your dark side, it can become your enemy. You can have no power over it if you can’t see it. There is no negotiating and no compromising, it will stealthily come out of nowhere and interfere with your life. And you will have no understaning of what is happening.
Becoming familiar with your darker side – and we all have one – will allow you to understand it better, and to deal with it in a more open way. But it`s a fine line. There is some risk of succumbing to the shadow aspect once you come into contact with it. Having a strong sense of Self will help you to have a good working relationship with your shadow without getting lost or being consumed by the dark side.
Once you have seen, acknowledged, and accepted your shadow, you will begin Jung`s individuation process. Uniting both sides of your psyche will make you a more integrated and whole person, help you to drop the persona – the mask – and allow you to become and embrace the real you. Warts and all. When you know your shadow and can examine it, you can perhaps accept it. Either way, you are in a better place to see the reality of who you really are. Only then can you make a conscious decision to live your life the way you want to live it. Your behaviours will be guided by the clarity of knowing who you really are, all the way through.
But not all shadows are dark. Some people have shadows that Jung calls the Golden Shadow, containing the positive repressed parts of our lives – the unmade choices. And just as the dark parts of the Shadow must be integrated to achieve Jung`s individuation, so must the positive features of the psyche - the Golden Shadow.
For some, rejected pieces of personality are left undeveloped and cast aside at some time in the past for one reason or another, but the subconscious refuses to let them go and continues to cling strongly to them. At various points in our lives, these neglected features call for attention. There is much positive that can be gained from acknowledging the golden shadow when the time is right. When it does call, it is usually related to our higher calling, the thing that puts us straight onto the road to self-actualization.
If there is a feeling of doubt and loneliness, it is usually because we have not been made whole. We have not yet greeted our golden shadow. Assimilating one`s golden shadow means catching up on all of those needs and desires that have not been lived out adequately.
One thing is clear, dark or light, all aspects of the personality need to be integrated in order for us to be whole.
- Darkness and Light (jjhiii24.wordpress.com)
- For_theshadow (thelabyrinthofthechemicallysensitive.wordpress.com)