I want to be honest here and speak from experience so I’ll explain to you my perspective on what the shadow is and why it is the single most important part of ourselves if our goal is to grow and become complete human beings.
The shadow is everything in yourself that you are not aware of.
It is no easy work, making the unconscious, conscious.
The shadow manifests itself every time someone makes you feel angry, every time you feel jealous, everytime you see someone and become enraged. That is your shadow, all that bad feeling is something in yourself that you don’t like and hide (you don’t accept it), so it becomes tense inside and knots form in the belly, stress builds and the shadow grows.
Have you ever seen a movie about war or just about criminals and feel a sick sympathy for the bad guy? We all have, at least in some personal way. This is the shadow.
However, everytime we see some good or worthy action, the shadow is that as well, you see, the shadow is not something good or bad, it is just a part of our psyche.
We go through the world managing as best as we can, in order for us to do that we have to learn, and when we are young we learn a lot, and fast.
Just imagine the fact that for the first 10 years of our lives we need our mothers to take care of us. What happens is that we become cultured creatures. We need to cope with society to survive. When you are little you don’t know much things so you look outside and try stuff out to explore terrain. Exploring makes us conscious of what can be called good or bad, at least in your world.
Maybe you liked to scream, but you tested your screaming ( maybe a singing calling) and got punished by it, so you suppressed and repressed that urge. Maybe you liked to kick your brother, and then you learnt that it was not a very good idea as he is much older and bigger than you.
So, as you move through the world you experience stuff and that stuff makes you learn what is good and what is bad. This is all very subjective and can be just plain wrong. This is how our shadows formed. Things happen in our life and we learn it to be good or bad depending on how it is presented to us and we act upon what we think is correct. If you were born in a family of doctors, you learnt that you learnt that “success” is dependant on whether or not you become a doctor.
One example in my family is, now that I remember, nobody could have something, that the whole family didn’t have. Say, if we were going for ice cream, everybody should have ice cream. That seems pretty normal, but what happens when you take that idea to the world outside your family?
What I saw is that I lost my ability to be egoistic at times, and I tried to hide my hard earned stuff, pleasing others all the time and feeling guilty when someone else is not enjoying what I am enjoying, that is not right, but then again, when I think about it, is not something bad, it just is and what would be truly bad is myself not being conscious about it.
Every shadow is different, our experiences mold us into what we are now, and if we do not know how is it that we operate we will just keep operating the same way through our whole lives. Most of our actions are unconscious, so most of our actions happen in the shadow realm.
Not every part of the shadow functions against us. When we become conscious about our shadows, they actually become jewels.
But first I need to talk about the phenomenon of the ego.
Our ego is constantly trying to maintain its image.
I is is basically not completely ours as well. It is just the recollection of the rewards and punishments we got as we grew up. It’s what the world outside told us what we were supposed to be and we, subjectively interpreted and acted upon.
Maybe we were rewarded for being nice to people as my case is, maybe we were punished for being greedy as kids or maybe we were rewarded for humility.
All of these manifests in the ego and becomes our way to function in life. This is just bloody interesting because you see, maybe we want to be rich, but for example in my case, if i would get to rich I would feel too guilty and therefore maintain my economical status thinking that i don’t deserve as much because I’m praising my humility and therefore protecting my ego (leaving me in the same place).
Maybe you are a great public speaker but you were told that being quite is what is nice so you don’t really exploit that attitude. Our ego and our sense of self, is not our true personality, in all ways it functions more like a prison, a prison of belief to which we are nervously attached to because we don’t know any better.
But there is a way out and that is attention.
When you see a movie and you feel good about someone, what do you feel good about? Maybe gladiator, what do you find great about the character? His courage? His family values? His indifference to carnage? Or a villain, the joker, for example, many people feel sympathy for him, maybe you like that he laughs at danger or that he literally burns money just to show that evil is what moves him. Maybe you like his lack of empathy and whatever else.
This is called projection. Everything I just mentioned you yourself are, everything you like about the villain or the hero, you yourself have. You see every person sees something different. We see our abilities and values in the character we admire. They might not be pretty but they are there. We are villains and we are heroes inside, we are not just one united being, there is evil, and there is good within us. You don’t want to suppress evil, as evil has , many gifts, wouldn’t you like to have all that you admire in the villain and use it for good? I certainly as jung famously said, dont want to be a “good man” I want to be complete and I want to be great.
Your ego imprisons you, you don’t need to act as what the image of yourself tells you, you can act from value, which is hidden inside you.
In the shadows, projection helps us figure out what our potential is and what is it that we value the most.
We can use projections to define our strengths and values but we are not all strength and power. We are also weak and pitiful. Projections works just the same, when someone disgusts you, a poor men, or some fat guy eating kfc puring ranch over it, think deeper, we see in others what we admire or hate about ourselves. We do not see them objectively, but quite subjectively. This happens everytime we get angry and blame someone else of something, when we are not doing well in business, when we feel jealous. Every Time we are being a “victim” we are protecting our ego, projecting our insufficiency and incapacities into someone else. But neglecting this part of ourselves is neglecting our shadow and if we don’t attend this injuries sooner or later, they become big and scary and manifest in our lives in one way or another. Be careful with what you criticize and what you are a “victim” of, for those are the areas you need to work the most in.
This is not “bad” it just is, it is the ying yang we carry in us, as the whole existence does.
There is a scene in the dark knight, were the joker has the chance to kill batman, he has a knife in his throat. Batman tells the joker to kill him, but the joker says, no no no no, you see batty, you complete me.
This tension is what makes life possible, we cannot neglect our disgusting side as it shows us what our inner hero need to work in, our dark side gives something to fight with and our bright side gives us something to fight for and realizing that the two are essential for you to be complete, is transcendance.
This realization makes you understand your suffering, and understanding and acceptance it what makes us transcend it.
nothing in yourself is to be neglected, attention and acceptance is our duty if we are to become complete and individual human beings.
This is why this journey is imperative for everyman to become a man, a complete man.