We need to be whole to live a fulfilling life. Yet, our shadow work represents the disconnected parts of our psyche, hindering our spiritual journey. And, at the spark of the moment, our unflattering past may emerge to tarnish this picture-perfect view of ourselves because, our shadows can go on autopilot mode, operating behind the scenes and impacting our relationships.
The Shadow: Home for Our Suppressed Traits
Did you grow up knowing that men are not supposed to cry? Or, do you view outspoken people as nosy? Well, as a human being, when you are overcome by grief or sadness, one quick release is to cry. It relieves the tension in you. Plus, those around you appreciate that you feel their grief too.
Likewise, an outspoken person can be a great leader if they use this trait to command authority for social justice or development. But, if you are born an outspoken person, and you relegate this positive trait, you lose out on living a fulfilled life.
The two examples above demonstrate what happens when we relegate any trait, whether positive or negative, that we disassociate from our ego. These traits never go away. They lie dormant in our shadows and may crop up in your life when you least expect them. More so, others can pinpoint those traits in you even without you doing anything to provoke it. For example, you may portray yourself as a composed person, only to throw tantrums at the slightest provocation. That shows there is unresolved anger lying dormant in your dark side.
Origin of the Term Shadow
The term “shadow” originates from the Jungian psychological model. According to Carl Jung’s theory, we all have an ego, which is the center of our personalities. Anything that you disassociate from your ego ends up in the shadow or your dark side. Similarly, if there is a trait that you dislike about yourself, chances are, it is suppressed in your shadow.
So How Do You Embrace Your Shadow?
At a point when the shadow is working against us, it may destroy us. Hence, there is a need to embrace our dark side and use it to nourish our lives. But how do we achieve that?
Past vs. Present Approach to Embracing the Shadow
Now, history has records of ancient Greeks worshipping the shadow as an autonomous goddess or god. The Greeks used this approach to integrate the dark side into their egos. Not so with the 21st-century modern person. Today’s pressures from social media, family, and friends make us neglect our past wounds or negative impulses.
Many of us are too concerned about protecting our self-image. In the process, we deny that the shadow exists in the first place. Yet, cyberbullies and close friends are quick to pinpoint these shadows in others but never acknowledge their own. An issue of seeing a splinter in another person’s eye and not seeing the log in your own eyes, right?
Other Quick Tips to Embrace Your Shadow
- Have a calm mind. Life stress interferes with our attitudes towards the shadow. Yet, a collected person will find reason even in the most brutal aspects of their lives. Yoga, meditation, and crystal healing can help in achieving the right mindset for shadow work.
- Practice self-love. It will prepare you mentally to deal with the demons.
- Seek the truth, not validation. The dark side may have aspects of your life that are too painful. Seek to understand the truth instead of wanting to feel special.
- Journalize the process.
Benefits of Shadow Work – Eliminating the Projection Defense Mechanism
When we repress our shadows, we project those feelings unto others. For example, if you view an overweight person as lazy, or find an outspoken person irritating, chances are you are struggling with weight management or a level of rudeness in your life. Otherwise, if you were okay with your current or past weight, someone else’s oversize will not bother you. See, this projection happens unconsciously, as a way to defend your ego.
Shadow work unmasks our dark side and integrates it into our current life. It is about working with your disowned parts to bring out the creative, authentic, and energetic side in you. And, the benefits are tremendous.
Here are three key benefits: –
#1: Better Relationships
Integrating your dark side will ground and make you feel whole. Once you embrace your shadow, it is easier to embrace that of your spouse, child, friend, or workmate. In turn, you are less triggered by other person’s unpleasant behaviors. Even so, the grounding effect opens up channels of communication, hence improving how you relate with others.
#2: Clarity of Perception
Our perception of self determines how we view the world. If skewed, you will use the same lens of perception to sieve ideas, thoughts, and feelings from others. In contrast, integrating our shadows gives us a whole, true picture of ourselves. This realistic assessment of self results in self-awareness crucial for spiritual growth.
#3: Raised Energy and Better Health
For as long as you ignore your shadow, it becomes a burden that you carry each day. You know, you are cautious with the way you look, what you say, or how you conduct yourself, not to reveal those suppressed traits.
Integrating the dark side frees us from this daily struggle.
We discover a reservoir of energy that we never thought existed. In turn, we can focus on self-care routines that lead to better physical health.
We all have a dark side that we often want to ignore. The dark side could be the skeletons in your closet that you never want to admit. Or, positive traits like empathy, gentleness, humility that you feel make you look weak. Worse still, it could be demons from your past traumas, lingering in your present life like a shadow. We avoid these demons so as not to feel ashamed, guilty, or fearful. Yet, accepting and integrating this dark side into your current life could unlock a life of fulfillment and self-enlightenment. It is never easy to confront our shadows. But, it is worth your effort.