We all have a shadow side.
There are parts of ourselves that we do not understand—that are seldom revealed to us in our day-to-day lives. This is what depth psychologists refer to as “the unconscious” or “the shadow.”
The unconscious is made up of the things we’ve repressed about ourselves, that we’ve pushed down because someone considered them “unacceptable” early on in our lives.
Perhaps it’s a result of early childhood trauma—coping mechanisms we developed as children in order to survive. Some of it may simply be the darker destructive elements of human nature we developed over thousands of years to stay alive.
It’s so important to accept and understand our shadow.
Think of it this way: human life is made up of the known and the unknown, things we understand and things that we do not understand. Our waking mind is made up of “the known” and the unconscious is made up of “the unknown.” We must have a balance between the two to be healthy and effective as human beings.
For example, an excessively compulsive person may be so orderly and systematized that if one thing is out of place, they descend into mental chaos. This is someone who constantly clings to the domain of the known—the realm of order—so much so that their shadow is exploding through the seams.
An opposite example would be a violent criminal. Someone who gave themselves up entirely to the destructive tendencies of their shadow side. This is someone who dwells in the domain of chaos—they have virtually no impulse control. They are incapable of adapting to the norms of society.
What we ultimately want is to strike a balance between our waking mind and our shadow side. This can only be achieved through consciously attending to our own inner-workings and not being apprehensive about doing so.
Carl Jung presents a great perspective on this subject in his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, to help diminish this apprehension.
“The psychoanalytic aim is to observe the shadowy presentations—whether in the form of images or feelings—that are spontaneously evolved in the unconscious psyche and appear without his bidding to the man who looks within. In this way, we find once more the things we have repressed or forgotten. Painful though it may be, this is in itself a gain, for what is inferior or even worthless to me as my shadow and gives me substance and mass. How can I be substantial if I fail to cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole, and inasmuch, as I become conscious of my shadow I also remember that I am a human like any other.”
To be a person, we must cast a shadow.
There is nothing to be ashamed of. We all contain a certain amount of darkness. What matters is how we act and, particularly, how we treat other people.
Let us inquire into our shadow side, and not be afraid to do so.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Kathrin Honesta/Instagram
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Yoli Rammazina