Psychiatrist Carl Jung described “the shadow self” as the place of unknown, unexamined, and repressed desires, emotions and impulses hidden from our conscious awareness.
Embracing your Shadow simply means accepting these unconscious desires as part of us and integrating them into our lives.
Fortunately, we are not born with our shadows. We end up accumulating beliefs about ourselves based on our earliest childhood experiences. These can include things that we were told about ourselves, such as when we did something out of the norm, we would be chided with remarks such as “You are stupid” or “You will never learn.”
Because children do not have the protective shields that an adult has, they cannot filter the feedback they receive, and so accept negative statements about themselves as true. Wounds such as these can sometimes develop later in life. Embracing our shadow allows us live from a place of wholeness and expansion.
Do you remember the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Dr. Jekyll was a respectable gentleman (the good side of the personality) who took a potion to separate out his darker impulses to create a creature free of conscience named Mr. Hyde (the dark side of the personality). That is a perfect case of the Shadow at play.
Another instance of the Shadow at play is Projection – we project onto others anything we bury within ourselves.
Common examples of the shadow include selfishness, aggressive impulses, being self-centered, arrogance, shame and fear. Which lead to certain types of behaviors, such as criticizing someone else that has your flaws, feeling entitled, judging others, or always playing the victim? Often, we try to hide or repress these by engaging in self-destructive or negative behaviors such as Addictions, Uncontrollable rage/anger, Social anxiety, Obsessive/compulsive disorders, etc.
Here are few ways of working with your shadow:
Watch Your Emotional Reactions – One of the best ways to identify your shadow is to pay attention to your emotional reactions toward other people. Focus on what and who evokes an emotional charge in you. It doesn’t matter what the emotion is; it’s a clue you are denying something within you.
Engage in Inner Dialogue – Have you ever done or said something and then wondered why you did or said it? A part in you was taking charge. By having an inner dialogue with our Shadow in our imagination or in a journal, we can integrate these parts into our conscious selves.
Challenge the Good Part – Many of us identify ourselves as being a “good person” because we were praised as children for being a “good boy or girl,” and that identification stuck with us. This intensified the split between our conscious identity and our shadow. Make a list of all of your positive qualities. Then, highlight the opposite. Try to identify the opposite within yourself.
You will never be completely fulfilled until you look in every corner of yourself to reveal what lies deep within. Embrace your shadow, and live life to its fullest.