“I’d rather be whole than good.”
-Carl Gustav Jung
How many of us have sold ourselves out to be good, to be liked, to be accepted?
WHAT IS THE SHADOW SELF?
We all are born whole, but somehow the environment we grow up in demands that we refuse some part of our nature.
Jung used the term “Shadow” when he refers to the “repressed portions of the personality.”
The Shadow goes by many familiar names: the disowned self, the lower self, alter ego,
The basic notion is straightforward:
“the Shadow represents the person you would rather not be.”
When we classify aspects of ourselves into good or bad, we began the Shadow-making process which divides our lives.
These are the faces we don’t want to show the world, and it contains those dark aspects that we believe are not acceptable to our family, friends, and most importantly, ourselves.
What is accepted and what falls into the shadow can vary for different people in different families and cultures. For instance, some permit anger or aggression to be expressed; others do not. Some allow sexuality, vulnerability, or strong emotions; many do not. Some permit financial ambition, or artistic expression, or intellectual development, while some don’t.
But the refused and unacceptable characteristics do not go away; they only collect in the dark corners of our personality.
The message we get from this hidden place is simple: there is something wrong with me; I need to do my best to keep this unwanted part hidden; its expression is not accepted.
By choosing not to allow parts of ourselves to exist, we are forced to expend vast amounts of psychic energy to keep them beneath the surface.
HOW THE SHADOW PROJECT ITSELF
We don’t get to know our Shadow easily because his nature is hidden, but there is a mechanism within ourselves through which it is manifest: It is called projection!!
We can define the projection of our own Shadow when we feel repel or attract by the attribute, quality, or behavior of other people.
The dislike we feel about a particular behavior in other people came from the fact that we also act in that specific way.
We project by attributing this quality to the other person in an unconscious effort to banish it from ourselves, to keep ourselves from seeing it within:
It is a defense mechanism because we would feel pain, shame, or fear realizing that we also have those attributes.
"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." -Carl Gustav Jung
Yes, projection is a defense mechanism, but we can also see it as a way for becoming whole:
Because the imperfect quality in other people activates some aspect of ourselves, we can take care and work on those parts which have been disowned. If it weren’t for the phenomenon of projection, they might stay hidden from us for a lifetime.
Let’s make some example:
Maybe we don't like when people became angry, either when they do it healthily or unhealthily.
Here, we could ask ourselves which type of belief we hold around this emotion and our relationship with it.
If I accept and embrace my anger and maybe express it healthily, someone else won’t upset me when he manifests it; I might notice it, but it won’t affect me.
THE INDIRECT PROJECTION
It is not always possible to understand the projection directly.
Sometimes the behavior we dislike in others is not related to our Shadow.
There might be a case when we have a good reason for disliking someone for its behavior.
If with our irritation for that behavior, we feel a visceral dislike for the person, which means that our shadow self got activated!!
Here, we might ask ourselves if we would have felt the same irritation for that action if another person did it.
With this example, knowing our Shadow can help us take action, for whatever the person did, without coloring the interaction with our projection.
“Knowing your darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” - Carl Gustav Jung.
THE SHADOW AND OUR UNEXPRESSED QUALITIES
There is also another sign about Shadow projection.
Usually, when we think about something “hidden within us,” we tend to think it is negative. Well, it’s not always the case.
In the definition I gave you about the Shadow, I also mention that we might be attracted to a certain quality.
In fact, within the hidden part of our psyche, there are also unexpressed gifts and potential that we are longing to develop.
When we are fascinated about the qualities in some people, we project the same qualities also present in ourselves; this is the reason why we admire so much certain type of people who became famous: we see an expression of something also present in us.
They embody some qualities we also have within ourselves, but we haven’t expressed them yet.
Unlike ourselves, they take the freedom, the courage to embody and express those qualities.
Concerning our unexpressed potential, we project onto others, sometimes we might not feel admiration, but a feeling we rarely admit to ourselves: envy!
They remind us of our unexpressed potential.
We usually cover up the envy with the intellectual justification that the person does not deserve to be where it is.
Usually, the feeling of envy emerges when there is an unconscious belief that the expression of that quality is wrong, so because we haven't overcome that belief yet, it is just easier to put the person down rather than work on the knot present within us.
INTEGRATING THE SHADOW
In conclusion, should we be afraid of our Shadow selves?
In a way, Yes, because some of those energies we repress in the first place when they go into the Shadow became distorted, and when they have the chance to show up, usually unconsciously, they manifest negatively.
Still the good news is we can integrate and transform them.
If we are ready to do that, the first step is to learn about our history and how it affects us; during this journey, we might discover things we don't like about ourselves, which will become essential to develop self-compassion and understanding about oneself.
At this point, there is still one obstacle that prevents us from embracing our Shadow, and it is called the “I know that” syndrome.
If we’ve been through trauma, the shadow side of ourselves brings about pain, suffering, or fear.
Knowing intellectually prevents us from experience the pain and shame relate to it, and it doesn’t help us from experiencing through our entire being and became whole.
It is a journey worth to be taken
The Shadow manifests every day through fear or desire and normal interaction with people. If you feel to explore this topic, you can contact me for an introductory session.