You will find what you seek in your shadow

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Avatar for rogerhayos
10 months ago

Counting my undergraduate education, I have been trained in many psychotherapy approaches for 20 years, following how to realize one's true potential, and as a mental health professional at this stage of my life, I can say that the main reason for not feeling happy or whole and complete is not being able to face the shadow.

The term shadow was first coined by Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and founder of Analytical Psychology, to describe characteristics that we deny we have. Your shadow side is probably the part of yourself that you decided to repress in childhood and unconsciously still repress. Your shadow sides, which were your strategies for coping with trauma and difficulties as a child, no longer serve you as an adult. On the contrary, they prevent you from expressing yourself fully and reaching your potential, they drain your energy and you will never know who you really are.

Carl Jung used the psychological term "shadow" to describe the "dark aspects of personality". By definition, the shadow is associated with that which is obscure, outside of conscious awareness and light, as well as that which is evil or harmful. The psychological material within the shadow has the potential to be actively destructive or harmful. But it is only a potential and it is not certain whether it will be realized or not. It may never be expressed, but it is possible that some aspect of the shadow can be used and directed in a purposeful and creative way.

In addition to the ambiguity of darkness, there is another quality inherent in the shadow, namely that the shadow has a counterpart. On the physical plane, a shadow exists only as a result of light falling on an object, so that the shadow remains a secondary function of that object. To this extent the psychological shadow function is similar to the physical one: It exists in relation to an "other". The other in this case includes the conscious aspects of the personality, which Jung (1971) used the term "ego" and Rogers (1951) called the "self-construct".

However, there is a difference between the shadow as we know it in the physical realm and its psychological function. The shadow cast by light falling on an object is a direct representation of that object. It can be distorted and fragmented, but essentially the shadow is a two-dimensional reflection of the three-dimensional object to which it relates. On the psychological plane, the relationship between the ego and the shadow is certainly more complex. The shadow is not simply a mirror of the ego, but there will be shadow elements within the ego that will have direct counterparts. There will also be other aspects of the shadow whose roots are not so easily visible in the consciously recognized aspects of the personality.

The foundations of the personal shadow are laid at an early age, but manifestations often do not emerge until adulthood. As you grow up as a child, valued behaviors, qualities, skills, emotions and desires are encouraged and you tend to integrate them into your consciously experienced sense of self. You often form a personal identity or sense of self that is governed by the aspects of yourself that were favored by those who had influence over you as a child and by the social and cultural context in which you lived. In the meantime, you develop a shadow side, and so you repress and send into the shadow those aspects of yourself that you have learned are unpopular or unacceptable to those who have influence over you, and your self experiences a kind of split.

But such a split comes at a psychological cost: Unexpressed emotions are a significant drain on your psychic energy. We can understand this well from Bly's (1988) definition of the shadow: The shadow is a heavy bag that we have to constantly drag around and fill with all the unwanted aspects we encounter.

The image in this definition allows us to better understand the impact of having a shadow: It is difficult to move through life when you have to drag a heavy bag all the time! Just defining the shadow so far indicates that we need to do something about it. Because by its very nature, the unexpressed shadow continues to grow and grow in the unconscious.

For this reason alone, it is very important to work on the shadow. As the shadow is merged with the self, we realize that it has the potential to be creative and inspiring as well as destructive.

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Avatar for rogerhayos
10 months ago