(An) Unknown Woman: #A-Z Challenge
” I realize now that no one will ever again be able to tell me something about myself that I don’t already know. Not that I’ve brought back to full memory everything I’ve ever done or every thought I’ve ever had, but that I’ve looked at all the things about myself that used to make me say, ‘No, I’m not like that.’ But I was like that. And still am. The mere fact of my trying to hide it was enough to make me look under the denial to discover what it concealed. Now I know all of it….I’ve torn down the fortifications. The thing inside doesn’t require defending anymore. I don’t even have to think in terms of defense against attacks. I refuse to be attacked, because I agree at the outset that I am not what I’ve tried to appear to be.”
Koller is talking about her shadow, Carl Jung’s term for all of the things that are hidden in one’s unconscious.
What’s in Your Shadow?
‘Shadow’ can be such a scary word, summoning up images of all of our darkest fantasies and emotions. And it’s true that your shadow (and mine) does contain jealousy, selfishness, and anything we don’t want to admit to ourselves.
But your shadow might also contain joy, compassion, or creativity if your upbringing or community rejected these qualities.
So rather than imagining your shadow as the shameful aspects of your personality, think of it simply as the part of you that you don’t know very well.
The liberation of our shadow, our…most unconscious energies, is part of a quest, not for perfection, but for completion.”Kathleen Brehony
Owning Your Shadow
Jung’s theory is that your shadow develops in adolescence. That is when you first make conscious and unconscious decisions about what face (persona) you wish to present to the world.
In midlife and beyond, tension builds between your conscious mind (your ego) and your unconscious mind (your shadow).
To become your fully alive and authentic self, you need to bring your shadow to conscious awareness. This requires accepting everything about yourself–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Three Ways to Recognize Your Shadow
- If a female appears in your dreams, she likely represents some aspect of your shadow. For a simple, but highly effective Jungian process of dream interpretation, see my post.
- Jung said, “the brighter the light, the darker the shadow.” In other words, if your personality is skewed heavily in one direction, look for the contrasting shadow qualities. An example is a desire to help others even when doing so is detrimental to you. The contrasting shadow quality might be selfishness.
- One of the easiest ways to see your shadow is by considering what you project on to others. I’ll give a personal example. When I was teaching and we’d have a class party, if a child clamoured for the biggest piece of cake, I would feel a rush of anger that I recognized as being completely unreasonable. The intensity of my reaction was a sign that greed was and is part of my shadow, a part that I didn’t want to acknowledge.
Sometimes it’s easier to see the negative aspects of your shadow, but remember that there are often hidden and unrecognized positive aspects as well.
Are you acquainted with your shadow?