Fall is upon us and that traditionally spooky, scary holiday – Halloween is almost here. While it may seem that we only bring out those scary monsters and costumes once a year to play, the truth is each of us is always haunted by our own inner demons and scary monsters. The renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung called this place the “shadow self.” These are the aspects of our selves that stalk us, lurk hidden in the shadows but pervasively and stealthily influence and impact our lives every day, often times wreaking havoc and creating chaos.
In your journey to wholeness and healing, it is important to explore the dark and hidden crevices of inner selves – your shadow self. In the shadow you will find the un-owned parts of your personality — the part of you that stays unknown, unexamined, and out of the light of your conscious awareness. We often deny or suppress these parts of ourselves because it makes us uncomfortable or afraid. Whatever doesn’t fit your image of your ideal self, or what you have been told is who you are becomes your shadow. The shadow is all of our disowned, despised and repressed traits and parts of our selves.
Rather than run from your shadow it is important to turn around and face these darker parts that stalk you and keep you stuck in unhealthy patterns and relationships. The shadow has a sacred purpose in your life and can help you transform. Carl Jung refers to the shadow as “our sparring partner”, the opponent who exposes our flaws and sharpens our skills. It takes a great amount of energy to “fight” with our shadows and even more energy to repress it.
When you make peace with your shadow you no longer have to pretend to be someone you are not. You no longer have to expend massive amounts of energy to prove you are good enough or lovable. You no longer have to live in fear, struggling to get away from the claws of the shadows that stalk you.
When you give yourself a safe place to express all parts of yourself, your true emotions and feelings; allowing them to have a voice and a healthy part in your lives your shadows are no longer the scary boogie monster of the darkness.
Uncovering your Shadow
The way you view others, especially those that push your buttons is what gives you clues to what your shadows are. Your “projections” is the guide that can help discover your shadow and allow your true and authentic self to come forth. Projections occur when you subconsciously cast your shadow on to the world around you, which is then reflected back to you.
All of your world is a reflection of what you carry and hold within you. If all you see around you is angry people then your shadow has suppressed anger that needs a voice, even if you don’t feel angry. It is much easier to notice others then own it within ourselves.
This simple exercise can help you to uncover your shadow so that you can begin to bring it into the light to help empower you rather then hold you back.
1. Write down the names of three people you really don’t like, someone who you despise, pushes your buttons and annoys you beyond no end. The person who has the traits that you would say “There is no way I’m like that.”
2. Next to each of their names write down what qualities they have that you don’t like. Are they arrogant always angry, think they know everything, selfish, aloof, or whatever? The clearer you can be the easier it will be to get to your shadow.
3. Now review your list of people and their traits. Notice what happens to you when you think about them. What happens in your body? Does your stomach turn, your throat constrict, your chest feel heavy, etc? Your body is the indicator of whether or not this is a shadow. The more visceral it feels in the body the deeper that shadow may be hidden. Make a note of what and where in your body you feel it.
4. Now as difficult as it is. Accept that there is a part of you that has this same trait. You can’t see or be bothered by what is not already within you. Give this part of you a name – “Arrogant Andy or Know-it-all Tami”.
5. Now in a safe and sacred meditation allow yourself to go inward, bringing your awareness to where you hold that shadow in your body and imagine that you are having a conversation with it. Ask the following questions –
What is most important to you?
What are you most proud of?
What are you most afraid of?
What do you most want?
What can I learn from you? What is your gift?
What can I do to integrate you into myself?
How can I honor you?
Knowing what our shadows are and allowing them to have a voice brings the sacredness of them to the forefront so that we can be more empowered in our lives. For example, if you discovered that one of your shadows was cold and uncaring, perhaps you are not setting good boundaries in your life and have unwillingly become a doormat. Allowing your “cold and uncaring” shadow to have a voice will help you set better boundaries without feeling guilty. This is the healthy and sacred side of your shadow.
Through acceptance, forgiveness and unconditional love the shadow seizes to have power and control over our lives and we can integrate all aspects of ourselves, working with our shadow selves to empower and transform our lives. So, don’t be afraid of what’s in the dark. Turn around to face your shadows that are stalking you and you will find a sacred part that will empower you!