Let’s face it. In every story, there is a hero and a villain. In your narration, you are both; the bright and dark aspects orchestrate the melody of your life. It is a melody that many of us opt to listen to on one side only. See, most people opt to focus on their bright aspects and suppress the dark side of their personality. Yet, this dark side often referred to as the shadow, will always be there. Besides, it can look small or big depending on your perspective on life. Are you willing to meet your shadow archetype?
Origin of the Shadow Archetype
Carl Jung, an influential psychologist of the previous century, is one of the few people that tried to bridge the notion of psychology and spirituality. That way, he hoped to discover ways to transcend the human condition. Hence, Jung traveled severally to India and immersed himself in different spiritual practices. His work would constantly evolve to produce a comprehensive analysis of such concepts as the ego, the shadow, the archetypes, and the anima and the animus.
Understanding the Shadow Archetype
The shadow archetype is one of the four main categories of the Jungian archetypes that influence human behavior. As popularized by Mark and Pearson, these are inborn personalities emanating from the collective unconscious. The other categories of the Jungian archetypes include the persona, the self or ego, and the animus.
In particular, the shadow archetype consists of life and sex instincts constantly challenging the ego-personality. It takes intentional moral effort to become conscious of your shadow. It is about recognizing the dark side of your personality as present and real. Only then can we begin to understand ourselves and experience a personal awakening and authenticity.
Carl Jung and Shadow Symbolism
The shadow remained an intriguing topic amongst scholars. Carl Jung refers to it as a moral problem that challenges ego-personality. Further, he uses the symbolism of the shadow to portray this complex idea of the shadow archetype seamlessly and visually. Such visual imagery creates anchors with concepts already familiar to human cognition.
Hence, Jung describes the shadow archetype as dark and elusive, impossible to catch, and alters its size depending on your current life circumstances. It forms darkness and distance from the body, something not many of us are eager to confront. Yet, the shadow becomes invisible when light appears.
The Fear of Embracing Our Shadow Archetype
Now, most of us acknowledge the shadow archetype as an integral part of our existence. However, we remain willfully blind to it, conceal or camouflage it in a painful attempt to protect our self-image. It is an image that fits the narrative that we decide to expose.
Further, social conditioning helps us construct a fallacy that we can keep the substrate of our constructed identity stable. We feel safe by ignoring the unknown aspects of our lives, hoping they will disappear.
Still, how can we feel safe when what we are avoiding can invade our thought process and manifest in our actions without our control? Embracing the shadow archetype is inevitable.
Implications of Denying Our Shadow Self
Note that we are as free as the mind allows. And when the mind creates barriers between individual reality and the rest of the world, illusions and neurosis may take over. Have you ever met someone operating in enforced ignorance? If so, you’ll notice such a person denying their shadow archetype in an attempt to preserve a certain status quo. But eventually, the enforced ignorance fuels the suppressed shadow to grow bigger.
The dark side of their personality becomes more evident via projection in more aspects of their lives. Further, since the person is not even aware of the existence of the shadow, its effect can get out of control since we can only control what we understand.
The Way Forward
#1: Shadow Work
The best way to meet our shadow archetype is by undertaking shadow work. Shadow work is a lifelong process that entails intentional activities to discover the dark side of our personalities. Through it, we deal with our shadow elements like animalistic needs, sexual desires, primitive instincts, traumatic experiences, and even some positive aspects of our character that remain hidden for fear of being ridiculed.
A typical shadow work approach may involve journaling our emotions and dreams to discover triggers of our shadow archetype. It also replaces our sense of guilt and anxiety with self-acceptance.
#2: Seeking Professional Help
While facing the dark side of your personality can be scary, the ultimate results are rewarding. Still, the shadow has a challenging nature. That’s why shadow work may follow a sequence of assimilation through long hours or psychotherapy and introspection, often guided by a certified professional. Here, the therapist helps clients reevaluate and recalibrate their behaviors and beliefs.
Ultimately, clients stay disciplined in asking themselves challenging questions about their lives. Like, how often do you question the nature of your reality?
#3: Dealing with Social Conditioning against Shadow Archetypes
Now, whereas shadow work is at an individual level, society has a significant influence in making the practice a success. Ideally, the world should be a platform for dialogue and constant experimentation. The shadow archetype ceases to be a moral problem and becomes a welcome part of our existence. If you find such ideas regrettable, it may mean that there are some shadow aspects of your life yet to be dealt with effectively.
Anyone who wants full control of their life must be willing to embrace their shadow archetype. It revolves around accepting all aspects of our lives; tolerating what we are afraid of alongside what we want. Here, we face, analyze, and internalize our fears and darkness. Otherwise, denying the existence of the dark side of your personality will make you see it in others even more.
Likewise, our society is packed with people whose actions are constantly at war with your intentions. That’s why; we should strive to define the moral imperatives that could alleviate our suffering. And, we should view everything beyond that with skepticism.