Me and My Shadow

Monday, August 27, 2012

My shadow in Phoenix, Arizona

I believe that the Jungian “Shadow” archetype has been given bad reputation by pop culture and those who don’t understand its importance to human personality.   The Shadow is everywhere in popular culture.  It is Bruce Wayne’s Batman or any other character with a dark superhero alter ego.  It is the evil Mr. Hyde to the good Dr. Jekyll.  Ask anyone you know and they are likely to refer to the shadow side of one’s personality in a negative way, but is this really true?

According to Carl Jung, everyone has an energy within that stays hidden from the conscious mind (ego), yet it contributes to the overall structure of one’s personality.  This energy, which contains more of man’s basic animal nature than any other part of the unconscious, is the shadow.  The shadow is amoral—neither good nor bad, just like animals.  It simply does what it does.  It drives our normal instincts and appropriate responses that have survival value.  It also has the ability to be the most powerful and potentially dangerous part of the psyche, so it’s no wonder we often work hard to suppress our shadow side.

The funny thing is, your shadow is persistent and does not want to be ignored.  It is always around and works with your ego. When your shadow and ego are in close harmony, you feel full of life and vigor.  The harder you work to suppress it, the likely you are to sink into depression, spin out of control, or project those unwanted parts of yourself onto another person.  When one unconsciously suppresses the shadow, you do so at the expense of the best part of the psyche that is also hidden. Unrealized talents and gifts, spontaneity, creativity, strong emotions, and deep insights all live in the power of your shadow.  Your ability to handle situations that require immediate decisions and reactions or actions, come with your shadow. 

Bruce Wayne knew that the only way to truly be himself or help Gotham City, was to become Batman at the appropriate time.  He embraced his shadow and so should you.  Those sometimes socially considered unattractive, dark, and annoying traits or behaviors are what make you whole, real, and three-dimensional.  The key is to find ‘acceptable’ forms of expressions for your shadow, so that the whole personality, its light and its dark sides, can be brought into greater balance.  So, the next time your shadow shows up, acknowledge its presence, smile, and take it by the hand.


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