Every year as winter begins, I often feel sadness and heaviness in my soul as I honor the cycles of death and life around me. Winter reminds me all at once to revisit and rest in the places of pain that I may have avoided before when there was more light. Just like Persephone who spends three months of the year in the underworld, I feel my own preparation and initiation into my darker parts with this change of the seasons.
While the holidays offer sparkles and the promise of a new year, there’s also a silver lining to the often internal and cold darkness of winter–spring. The same can be said of our personal underworld or the shadow, the silver lining, or in this case gold, is the golden shadow.
In Jungian psychology, the soul strives for wholeness and an important step in discovering this involves reclaiming parts we may have rejected…aka our shadow. Our shadow forms early on in our psyches as we are told how and what we should or shouldn’t be. We are praised for being good and reprimanded about parts of us that are “bad.” We learn to hide and disown any parts of us that our parents or society would view as shameful or destructive.
Of course, not all that glitters is gold when it comes to the shadow, as this hiding creates an internal splitting and forgetting that while we reject the bad parts of us, we also push away the good that comes with them–the golden shadow. These positive traits, which become invisible to us, we then see in others but may not claim for ourselves. We project and disown both our negative and positive shadow sometimes making it difficult to see either.
The golden shadow often reveals itself through our insecurities and other qualities that speak to our life challenges. Early traumas or deeply-rooted self-doubt create our superpowers and strengths that we eventually share with the world as a part of our healing. This submerged potential is a portal to our power and holds the keys to our unconscious, undeveloped and underdeveloped skills or character traits linked to our life purpose.
I look to my golden shadow to discover more of my life legacy as it reveals where and how my healing and pain meet the gifts I have to offer the world. Our shadow and golden shadow are unique to us, and something to be proud of even when it may feel like otherwise.
The other side of shame about our shadow is the portal to our power, made possible by some gold-digging. Use these tips for discovering deeper treasures in the darkness:
- Observe jealousy and envy of people, particularly their qualities or character traits.
“…Envy is a misunderstood compulsion to achieve something within oneself that one has neglected.” ~Marie-Louise von Franz
I used to dislike my jealousy, it often showed up when someone was recognized for their creativity or accomplishment, and yet again I felt unseen for my own vision or inventiveness. Though now I’ve learned to sit with my jealous and love it. Not only does it tell me more of what I want, but the qualities I have that I might be repressing as they could be parts of my shadow I haven’t seen yet. Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz described envy as a deficiency that needs realization or a lack that wants fulfillment. It points to our own, often repressed, self-expression to things we wish to embody more.
2. Notice admiration and idolization of famous people or gurus.
“We build our pedestals out of untapped potential.” ~David Richo
While the dark shadow often shows up as dislike or resentment of someone’s qualities, the positive shadow reveals itself in intense admiration. Perhaps we worship famous people’s humor or intelligence while denying our own. One of my favorite authors and psychologists, David Richo, whom I look up to very much, said the quote above in a course I attended. It spoke clearly to looking at our tendency of idolizing someone to understand more of our own potential and set the tone for all of us ground more into our own value during the workshop. Throughout the day I became less and less interested in what he had to say and instead curious about finding new ways I could express my own wisdom in the world. For this reason, examining whom you admire and why accesses the golden shadow with lightning speed.
3. Examine insecurities and feelings of unworthiness
“Knowing your power is what creates humility, not knowing your power is what creates insecurity.” ~Nayyirah Waheed
Often the parts of ourselves where we feel the most wounded or that something is wrong with us, ultimately become our greatest superpower. Like many, my own insecurities often create a sense of unworthiness and emptiness. Now working as an astrologer, I help soothe self-doubt in others by acknowledging their superpowers in their astrology chart while reaffirming my strength in seeing the power in others. Knowing our gifts allows us to live in the space of gratitude for our own talents and minimizes moments of self-doubt.
4. Flip the script on perceived faults.
“Negative only means not yet redeemed by conscious integration.” ~David Richo
Re-examining our beliefs outside of norms of what “bad” and “good” can mean may reveal blessings disguised as burdens. When we seek the treasure in something instead of a quality that needs to be overcome, we can come more into contact with a superpower we didn’t even know we had. An example would be that our society tends to think of extroversion as being valued over introversion, though now we have seen how much success comes from internal discovery. Or that laziness can also be appreciated as the ability to relax. The Golden Shadow has counterparts and opposites that we may need to rewire our thinking to see clearly. With this alchemical process the aspects of ourselves we don’t like, help us see more talents we may not even realize we had.
Enduring the winter brings us closer to the brightest time of the year and more of our own light. If the dark shadow is the descent process, the golden shadow is the ascension that isn’t possible without going under first. In other words, we have to come into contact with the worst parts of ourselves before we can discover more the best.
Like the journey of exploring the dark shadow, the discovery of our Golden Shadow never ends. We will catch glimpses of our inner light and then at another time we will need to go down deeper into darker, more painful places and unfamiliar territory each time. Though the payoffs are endless, just as with the shadow itself, as with each deep dive we access deeper intimacy with ourselves and others. Discovering the golden shadow is priceless. Not only does it offer the ability to shine more brightly in our paradox of light and shadow but knowing how our painful places become our greatest gifts in the world truly is worth its weight in gold.