There is a dark side to all of us. One that we keep locked away behind a veil of socially acceptable behaviors that prevent, as Carl Jung called it, the Shadow self, from emerging.
The Shadow is the subconscious side of our personality that we’re never entirely made aware of. Our conscious self doesn’t identify with the Shadow that is mostly made of all the negative impulses that we’ve repressed or rejected over the years.
Keep in mind that while the Shadow self consists of your repressed urges and your most base instincts, it also houses your creativity and your true inner motivation.
Our Shadows are created by our minds when we don’t want to confront something that we don’t like. We pretend something didnt happen or that something doesn’t exist by repressing the thoughts and feelings that we had surrounding it. This can include sexual desires, aggressive impulses, fears, immoral urges, taboo thoughts, and more.
When we’re born, we don’t know right from wrong. We’re all impulse and needs-driven. It’s through the efforts of our parents, teachers, and society that we learn to repress those impulses and start to build a facade that’s more socially acceptable. This is our conscious personality, the side that is out in the light. The part of us that people see. Typically, this is the side of us that we work on, the side that people see, and how we judge ourselves.
In times of stress, fear, anxiety, depression, and longing, our facades can become cracked, allowing the Shadow to leak out into the light. Typically, this leak affects us in ways that are contrary to our societal facades. It makes us do things outside of our normal character, things that we typically look down on coming from others.
“The Shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself.” -Carl Jung
The longer you keep this Shadow at bay, never striving to understand it, the darker it is, the more dangerous your leaks become. This is why self-examination is so critical to living a fully engaged life. By understanding your most base instincts and how your subconscious drives your conscious life, the more fulfilled you’ll become.
This is no easy task as the Shadow is thick and syrupy. Its sheer vastness can be daunting and both frightening and exciting. It’s not without its allure. But, you must not give in, you must maintain that separation of conscious and subconscious by resisting the temptation to allow your conscious self to identify with the Shadow.
Jung said, “It must be Jekyll, the conscious personality, who integrates the Shadow … and not vice versa. Otherwise the conscious becomes the slave of the autonomous Shadow.”
By allowing the Shadow to examine your conscious personality, you run the risk of giving it free rein. The facade you’ve built over the years, your more logical conscious self, must learn to examine the Shadow without identifying with it. This can be a struggle as you work to maintain awareness while not identifying with it. But, this is the only way to heal your brokenness and become more fully you.
This takes considerable effort and a strong moral compass, but the better you understand how the Shadow was formed and why you feel the way that you do, the more grounded you’ll become. The more fulfilled you are.
Most people go their whole lives without looking behind the veil. They ignore the why behind the feelings that come from the cracks during moments of stress. They work overtime to cover it up by pushing it deeper into the darkness, making excuses as to why it happened. If you take anything away from this post, it’s this:
The longer it takes for you to examine your Shadow, while at the same time pushing it deeper and deeper within the well, the more fractured your life becomes.
We all long to be whole. Both depression and anxiety come from playing a role, from not being complete. That’s not to say that you should allow your impulses to control you, I’m just asking that you understand the why behind them. Know what makes you tick. Don’t be afraid to examine your impulses and to ask yourself the tough questions. Knowing your Shadow gives you more depth, it completes you. Keep in mind that while the Shadow self consists of your repressed urges and your most base instincts, it also houses your creativity and your true inner motivation.
It’s not just the negative that we repress, we also repress the desire to succeed. We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough, or smart enough, or that the world is out to get us, so we push our want for more back behind the veil. This can cause leaks of jealousy down the road, depression, and a longing for more. But, instead of confronting all of that, we push it back down, ignoring it, telling ourselves that it’s foolhardy to want more.
When you sync your conscious personality with your subconscious Shadow and begin to accept who you are and why you are, the world will open up to you as you’ll finally be whole. Once that happens, nothing will be able to darken your light. You’ll radiate joy and confidence. Conquering the inner world is the first most crucial step in overcoming the outer one.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Stop feeling repressed by the evils of the world, look inside, and fix what’s there. Make yourself whole and then help others to do the same. The best part of this world is a whole you. We’re all broken and that’s okay. Just remember: that doesn’t mean you have to stay that way.