Something I have been delving into over the past few months is exploring and embracing my shadow. And as the synchronicity of my life always plays out, this month I just began studying a Psychology unit as part of my course and delving heavily into the kings of the shadow theory – Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.
The society we live in turns a blind eye to the ‘dark side’ of human nature, aka our shadow. From the earliest stages of our lives, as young babies and early childhood – throwing a ‘tantrum’ is often perceived as a bad thing and often put to a quick halt of repression and the conditioning thereby plays out as we grow through adolesce that showing anger, fear, sadness, or any emotion for that matter is a sign of weakness or ‘weirdness’. We are told how to feel, what to feel and when it is socially acceptable to do so. So no wonder we are all so confused when it comes to connecting to our self, as to answering the simple question ‘How do you feel today?’ Most of us reply ‘good’, or ‘fine’. When in actual fact we might not be ‘good’ or ‘fine’ we might be pissed off or extremely angry or going through some heavy internal processing; yet we don’t dare reply these words of complete honesty, in fear of our shadow being seen and thus the fearful consequences of an unknown reaction out of our ‘character’.
We all have a shadow. My interpretation of the shadow is likened to popular story character development. The shadow is the ‘bad guy’ – the character that silently swims amongst the dark unconsciousness of everyone they may encounter. They are on a path of self and social destruction and usually the social outcast. The shadow yet challenges the light and popular characters beyond measure. The shadow is the character we often on face value dislike, yet are so intrigued by and kind of love because they have no filter, no moral code or anything to lose through their destructive behaviours. They say and do what we all wish we could without consequences. Our own shadows embody exactly this. It is the part of whom we are that we chose to filter. Its that part of us that is capable of the worst acts possible to human kind, it is the bitch in us, the feisty fire, the manipulator, the controller – all those ‘bad’ parts of us that we know we are capable of yet we chose not to reveal them in fear of non acceptance and social isolation.
According to Jungian psychology, shadow is a part of the unconscious mind, both individually and collectively. Shadow consists of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. Everyone carries shadow to one degree or another. It is part of who we are as human beings and it is part of what we collectively bring as we are in relationship with each other. We don’t want to talk about it because we want to focus on the light and the things we love. We want to pretend it isn’t there and in so doing we actually give it energy and life of its own. By ignoring our shadows, causes a whole host of issues.
Carl Jung wrote, “the less the shadow is embodied in an individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. Shadow is instinctive and irrational and thus is prone to projection onto others.” We don’t so easily see it in ourselves but we do see it in others and in our group dynamics. Which is why certain it is so effective to be aware of people/groups that trigger dark feelings in us – as this is normally our shadow being revealed. Because we instinctively project it out and onto others, it becomes difficult to speak about or to own and it seems simply easier to try to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, believe we are better than it. The more we try to ignore it, the greater the likelihood it will take root in us and in our group dynamics, ironically doing exactly what we have been trying to avoid: getting in the way of progress, harming interpersonal relationships, feeding judgment and frustration and just generally wearing us down.
Thus it is so important to be aware and embrace our shadow; for to accept one self wholly, we must accept all parts of ourselves – and this includes the shadow. This goes for all our relationships not only with ourselves – for us to accept and love truly from our hearts; we must embrace both the light and shadow in all our relationships. By sweeping shit under the rug is just denying the inevitable and the recipe for neurosis and plain old unnecessary drama. The shadow doesn’t have to be revealed in extreme ways like going around and telling everyone what really think of them, although this would make for such a more honest world. It can be explored in many safe ways. My personal journey of self-acceptance has thus taken this route of late. I do a lot of 5 Rhythms dance, and during the ‘chaos’ dance, this is when my shadow reveals. I go into a dark place and feel angry, controlling, manipulative, violent and wild. I have been consciously feeling into, embracing and acknowledging it. Through this I am feeling more comfortable with those parts of me that I know I am capable of yet I fear in my own a way, ironic; I fear, fear. But by acknowledging and slowly starting to accept is slowly closing that gap of fear and repression. And thus loving myself WHOLLY, the good and the bad.
What if we just knew that shadow exists and acknowledged it, making it normal for people to name, explore and be curious about? And, what if, in our curiosity, we could throw ourselves open to what can be learned from shadow as it shows up and, in the process, disempower shadow’s potential to derail us, our mission and our relationships? What would it take to open up to this exploration? Definitely some food for thought!
Guest post by Nadine Ominski from Nadine Lee Nutrition.
Image source: Photo Net
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