Today I would like to talk about the shadow, what it entails and why soul therapy or shadow work are so important.
Perhaps the best and simplest way to generically explain the shadow, is by taking a closer look at the story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. Dr. Jekyll was a brilliant man who was “properly adapted” to society…the perfect gentleman. However, he hid a very deep secret; at times without being able to control it, all his impulses, inclinations, desires, repressed emotions and fetishes would take control of his life–because he did not want to acknowledge that he was capable to experience these, he would go in denial, allowing the emerging of Mr. Hyde (the shadow in its most twisted expression).
What you deny controls you. What you accept transforms you.Carl Jung
Although Carl Jung was not the first to study the shadow, he certainly spent the majority of his work focused on it. He would say, within our conscious we can find all that which we are willing to recognize about ourselves; there we can find the ego (false or real), and it is there where we form our so called “identity”. All the things which we like to define us and the qualities we value, are all stored there, as well as the general social programming we all undergo–the things we are taught by others as wrong and right and which vary according to the society we live in. It is based on that sense of identity that we create our persona (personality); those aspects of ourselves which we show to others and which often we like to believe is the only real depth we have.
On the other hand, it is within our subconscious where all the characteristics, archetypes or personality traits, which our ego has labeled as “bad” and refuses to acknowledges as part of self are hidden. Since they have been relegated to our subconscious, it may seem as if they don’t exist within us, but just like the occult, they are simply hidden from plain sight. That is what Jung called “The Shadow”. This shadow keeps getting bigger, stronger and works against us the more we choose to deny it.
Our shadow has been there the whole time, the moment the programming started, our shadow started to take shape. Our strongest desire as children is to be accepted by our parents and then the rest of the family, friends and other members of society. As such growing up being raised by already wounded people, who themselves have been programmed to believe what should and should not be acceptable, we start to reject anything in us that would jeopardize the so called unconditional acceptance. We learn from early on, that unconditional usually means…“as long as you do as I say”.
Once we have labeled something in us as bad, it becomes part of our shadow; for example, if someone labels himself hard working, he relegates to his shadow anything that may take away from his cherished label. Likewise a person who may choose to considered himself all moral, automatically hides all his “unmoral” desires, which then become repressed within the subconscious; but such pressure will eventually explode, this is why Jung used to say that if you deny your shadow–the characteristics that you don’t like about yourself– they will come out to the surface masqueraded as something else, and more distorted and damaging than if you had accepted and worked with them. Usually the result of negating the shadow is “passive aggressive behavior”. There is nothing worst than “passive aggressive behavior” or what some politely confuse with very diplomatic people; for they often tend to preach about peace but will hurt others through silent actions or insults hidden under a false sense of humor.
Let me be clear that what hides in the shadow are not all “bad” traits, rather our perception of them as “bad”, because that is what we have been told–lastly we all have a shadow, there is no escaping it.
The shadow when unattended is the cause for a hidden sense of imbalance; it is powerful psyche energy which has been separated from the conscious. This is why most people live incomplete; a one winged butterfly, the sun without the moon, light without darkness; as such it is only natural that imbalance would be the result. Interestingly enough, within such a dysfunctional society, if one chooses “equilibrium” rather than imbalance; in other words, if one chooses to embrace both aspects, the conscious and subconscious, the light and darkness we carry within; one is usually considered a misfit, which is a general way of saying one is not “balanced”–yet often those passing such judgement are the ones who are often blinded to their own personal imbalance.
Life has proven it time and time again yet we like to pick and choose when we use these primordial laws; when they are not convenient to our hypothesis, we tend to deny them or pretend they are not there
The worst lies, are the lies we tell ourselves”Richard Bach
Life and science have shown to us that for every action there is an equal or greater reaction. That is a rule, not just a hypothesis; which means, for every attribute we choose as part of our “persona”, its opposite is being relegated to our subconscious. This means the more we hold onto the ego as the only identity or archetype within us, the more our shadow grows. Sooner or later our shadow will manifest; some times subtly, other times like a violent child throwing a tantrum. At those times we get tempted to simply repress it even more and the result is often worst. Ask yourself, if a child was throwing a tantrum, would you simply grab him and lock him up? Would it not be more productive to sit with the child, listen, shower him with love and watch him transform right before your eyes from a sad person to a beautiful strong one? One whose sense of self is much deeply connected with all aspects of his persona, than the child who lives to please or who gets locked up for expressing his emotions. The shadow’s ability to communicate with us might be precarious to say the least; like a little kid; nevertheless, its power and abilities are great and when properly embraced and channeled, they truly are gifts.
To hide from our shadow means to take away layers and colors from our lives in order to fit in. We need to remind ourselves everyone has a different perception of life, so to live people pleasing, truly is a waste of time. Hidden emotions will affect us psychologically, spiritually and psychologically. A great example of how hiding the shadow can affect us at a spiritual level, is the person who sees himself as moral yet his spiritual practices are not meant to fulfill and unite mind, body and spirit, but instead are meant to ran away from the shadow–hence usually that type of person believes in surrendering his divine power to something outside of self; in that way, he can avoid self responsibility…everything comes down to introspection and motivation.
The shadow will continue to manifest negatively until we are willing to pay attention to it and acknowledge it. When we are willing to unite those aspects of ourselves hidden within our subconscious, with the aspects of self we proudly carry in our conscious, we manage to achieve true equilibrium; where mind, body and soul are united. Such is the aim of shadow work or soul therapy; a work process where we bring to light our subconscious and accept those repressed parts of ourselves as natural…making them conscious. At that moment of integration is when one gains integrity; for integrity is not the ability to pose as rigid but as one who can openly accept the fact we are the sinner and the saint; and its all good.
Shadow work is not a simple process and is not time sensitive; it can last your whole life. This doesn’t mean you will need someone to counsel you your whole life; it simply means the work of loving self will be with you as long as you live; for life is not constant but always changing. Shadow work or soul therapy is not for the fain of heart, as it requires genuine strength; strong will to want to face that which most fear. As Nietzsche also taught, to become our own “superman” we must be willing to face the darkness of the abyss. Shadow work or soul therapy may not be easy or fast, but it truly is the best gift you can give yourself.