“Shadow is our psychic twin that follows us like a mirror image.”
The shadow starts in childhood as we are discouraged from expressing our true nature for fear of upsetting others. In order to gain the love and avoid the disapproval of parents and others, we repress parts of ourselves completely out of our awareness. We do this because not being loved would at that stage have been risking a loss of existence.
Often the shadow is seen as our ‘darker’ nature, something as entirely negative, composed of the unknown aspects of personality. In reality, the shadow refers to all the parts of ourselves that we do not express, both known and unknown. Sometimes we know them, but we do not admit them to ourselves.
The shadow holds all these parts of ourselves which we have for one reason or another disowned. They may have positive or negative qualities. They maybe parts that we do not like about us, or that we that we think are bad. It holds all our unexpressed feelings – shame, fear, anger, and guilt, but also our unexpressed capacities and talents, and creative energies.
There are treasures in the shadow. For example, a person who grew up in a family where rational thinking prevailed and such things as art making were not given much value may discover some artistic talents hiding in his shadow.
The shadow can be viewed as the unlived life. It holds everything that has been repressed over years of our life, and embodies all of our life experiences that have not been allowed expression. The narrower and more restrictive the society in which we live, the larger will be our shadow.
We all have shadow. To be human is to have a shadow. The shadow is unavoidable and we are incomplete without it. No one can be complete without shadow.
If the shadow is not recognized, if we are not conscious of it, the shadow – its energy can be projected onto others. That we disown in ourselves will be projected outwards. Then the faults, qualities and abilities we see in other people are really the mirror image of our own.
Our first task of growing whole is to ‘own our own shadow’. In order to be whole, we need to include our shadow. Much of the self-discovery involves a gradual uncovering of our shadow, and accepting more and more of the disowned parts of ourselves. Accepting these parts of ourselves enables us to become more of who we actually are, moving into our authentic personality from the survival personality which we adopted for survival reasons in our early lives.
By uncovering the shadow we will regain many lost gifts – new source of spontaneity, wonder and creativity, but also our vulnerability and all unexpressed feeling of anger, resentment, fear. They are all part of our story, they make our path, and our wholeness.