Psychiatrist Carl Jung defined the term shadow as the unknown dark side of our personality. He called it dark, because it consists of the negative aspects of human emotion and impulses such as anger, rage, lust, striving for power, greed, selfishness, envy. Our dark emotions can lead us to unhealthy actions and behaviors like addiction, lying, depression, toxic relationships, and shame. Anything we look upon as negative or unacceptable, or that which we deny, becomes part of our shadow self.
These parts are often disowned, leading to what we know as projection onto others, so that we don’t have to identify it or confront it within ourselves. It serves us well to get to know and understand our shadow and learn what it has to teach us, rather than trying to deny it or hide from its truth.
Whilst it may seem scary to do so, honoring our imperfections and acknowledging where we play in the shadows in our lives, is part of our path to sovereignty. In getting to know your shadow, look out for ways you hide parts of yourself that you deem to be unacceptable, unlovable, or shameful.
Your shadow lurks in the parts of you that you feel no one would love if they saw the ‘real you’, which is often your shadow in hiding. It can show up in thoughts like these that so many women silently experience:
- My kids are driving me crazy. I’m so frustrated with them I just want to scream in their faces.
- I’m so hopeless at everything. Why can’t I do anything right?
- I hate how I look, I’m so fat and ugly. No wonder I’m eternally single. Who would want me?
- All I can think of is the big glass of Vodka I am going to drink when I get home. I drink every night, is that bad?
- I feel so ashamed about my childhood. No one would love me if they knew.
- My mother is so awful, I can’t stand her! She is always trying to control everything I do.
- I’m sure my husband is cheating on me. I keep checking his email and phone so I can catch him.
- I wish I wasn’t so insecure. But I just hate myself. I’m so sad all the time. I just don’t know what to do.
- Those mothers at school are such complete cows. All they do is judge me. I feel like such an outcast.
It can be confronting to face our shadow selves. But if you made a list of where your shadow shows up in thoughts and actions, what would you find? Probably not vastly different from these feelings and stories that we all share in some way, in our most private thoughts.
Go gently here. As you start to get to know your shadow, step in with grace and compassion. Acknowledge where you see darkness, and accept those parts with love rather than with shame. The more you can reclaim all parts of yourself, even those parts that you don’t like or want to see, the more you will be able to reclaim and own your power.