In the Shadows

“The task in life is not to become perfect, but to become whole”

For a long time, I believed that I was a responsible and disciplined parent until someone mentioned that within each one of us our complementary parts exist. If there is a disciplined part of me then to complement that part, a fun and liberal part also lies within me. To keep the belief of responsibility alive, I do not have to reject the complementary part of me. Both can exist and I can embrace one part today and another at another time. This information gives me freedom from the labels I assign to myself. I can be this or that. I don’t have to make a choice about myself.

This makes me explore a bit more about the complementary parts that exists in all of us. Carl Jung calls this the “shadow self” and calls it the unknown dark side of our personality. It is a part of us and we cannot eliminate it from ourselves.

So we come back to ourselves and all that we deny within ourselves. What is it that I reject in myself that over time lies dormant within me and operates as my shadow without my full awareness?

One interesting way to find our shadow aspects is to observe what we really notice in other people but refuse to associate with ourselves. These are parts of our disowned self. The parts we consider “not fit” with our current definition of ourselves. These “not fit” parts are not necessarily bad. Somewhere along the way of life we can sometimes also disown our positive qualities simply because our ego refuses to associate with them.

I believe that as children we are very influenced by our family and what they consider “acceptable” or “unacceptable”. In order to feel the belonging with our family, we start to internalize the good and bad within us. What meets with approval becomes good in our eyes and what is met with disapproval gets rejected by us. Over time we learn to express only the parts I think are “good” and keep in the shadows the parts that we have internalized as “not good”. Maybe in my family self-reliance is frowned down upon, maybe it is considered a threat and not approved. This can then lurk within me as a shadow aspect and not surface consciously but unconsciously works on my thoughts and behavior taking me on a downward spiral. But what if I was willing to see my shadow aspect and accept it, then my growth can be phenomenal. 

This is best explained by Carl Jung: “The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.”   

So is there a way to integrate our shadow such that we become whole. There is a nicely written article on integrating our shadow within us. Click here to take a look at it.

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