Integrating your Shadow Side
The Shadow is part of the Jungian psychological model, and it is the place where all the repressed traits go to. Those are the traits that our conscious mind wants to repress and dissociate from because it considers them demeaning, unworthy or negative. Integrating your shadow side is the end goal of every personal development program, even if it is not stated that way. You can only achieve peace and prosperity when you stop fighting against your repressed side and integrate it.
The shadow comes into being because we are raised, trained, and cultured into having it. Because we live in families and societies. That means we have to mold ourselves in such a way as to fit in. And that means accepting the judgments of other, about what is good and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable to the larger structures that we inhabit. As a result, we suppress, negate, and push into subconsciousness certain characteristics of who we are. These characteristics become part of the shadow, and if kept repressed, they will build up the pressure, pain, and distress. They will haunt us from the depths of the mind. That is how you become disintegrated. And your life’s mission is integrating your shadow side so that you become whole.
Read more on the Jungian Psychological Model, for more information.
How the Shadow Forms
Your shadow exists because you have repressed and hidden away into unconsciousness a part of you. And it is constantly trying to resurface and reintegrate. But since you are not willing to accept it, you push it down even more. That creates conflict. Not all repressed shadow traits are necessarily bad.
Let me give a few examples. Lots of people live in families where assertiveness and self-interest are punished. So children grow up repressing those traits; They think of them as negative. So, they learn that it’s rude to say no, it is aggressive to be assertive, and putting your own interest ahead is selfish. These are usually families where things are never discussed, and problems are shoved away just to avoid conflict. If you are not assertive, integrating your shadow side could potentially be the solution.
Positive traits like kindness, generosity, and affection are often part of the repressed shadow traits. In certain households, cultures, and societies it is considered a weakness to show love and affection. Lots of young kids grow up in environments that are harsh, so they learn that being affectionate is a sign of weakness. As a result, that trait gets repressed and the person does not want to be associated with it. I myself am one of those guys who can’t show love to a puppy, out of fear of being categorized as weak.
Everyone has shadow material, and the more traits you repress, the larger your shadow is. And the stronger and denser the shadow, the more control it has over you. You can’t make it disappear, no matter how much you try. Repressing it is like dimming the light of consciousness to its presence; It doesn’t go away, it is still there, but you don’t see it. The only thing you can do is to explore it and pay attention as much as you can. That is the best way of integrating your shadow side.
If you repress and push it further down, it will manifest itself in your life in ways you can’t even imagine: in your actions, decisions, speech. In your perception of the world, in your dreams, wishes, needs, goals, and your most fundamental drives in life. Your shadow may very well determine your life mission, unbeknownst to you. It is a part of who you are, and it will want to manifest.
Why Integrating your Shadow Side is Important
Imagine that someone made a joke on your behalf, and fooled around with you for a bit. And because you suppress your aggressive, assertive, threatening side, you just accept that kind of treatment with an apologetic smile. Lots of people feel ashamed and guilty about causing conflict, even when it is in their own interest. And after you have been mocked, you harbor thoughts of revenge, you feel angry, furious even, and you spill your aggression over someone else, or you kick the furniture. Like people who throw things around and break stuff when they are angry. When you repress your shadow traits, they will find ways to express themselves, and maybe at a much greater cost. The person lying to themselves about their aggressive side, with spill their aggression on somebody else, with any lame excuse for it. Of course, they wouldn’t see it as evidence of their aggression, since they are unable to define themselves as such.
When instead they should have been more assertive and threatening when the situation called for it. That is why integrating your shadow side is important. Lots of people commit atrocious acts because the shadow takes control over them, and it spills its wrath over unsuspecting victims.
To be fully enlightened means to shed the light of consciousness to the entire shadow. It is the act of becoming more conscious to your shadow material, and to accept it with open arms as part of your being. Only then will it work for you, not against you. You will be able to enact both kindness and assertiveness, affection and harshness at your will. Instead of allowing them to seep out, accidentally and aimlessly.
There are no positive and negative traits, that you need to exaggerate or repress. And you can’t get rid of what you perceive as negative traits, you can only learn how to use them better.
How to Find your Shadow?
Lack of self-awareness is a symptom of not having your shadow integrated. The shadow comes from ego not wanting to associate itself with certain traits. Lying is a way in which the ego dissociates from the negative sides of self. We suppress anger because we think of ourselves as good people, and a good person never lashes out at someone. But of course, the anger slips by undetected and we pour it on other hapless victims, like close family, or on ourselves even.
The Shadow also keeps strong emotions under control. When you feel like you are keeping yourself from bursting emotionally for some reason, or another, you are in fact suppressing a very important part of you that wants to express itself. Lots of men hold their emotions under control; They don’t cry because of their fear to be considered weak. The ego does not want to be associated with weakness.
Projection is another indicator of the existence of a shadow. When you suppress a trait, you make yourself blind to its manifestations in your own life. But at the same time, you tend to over-compensate and perceive the trait only in others. In the case of a fundamentalist religious follower, he sees transgressions everywhere around him, because he blinds himself to his own sins. In fact, he doesn’t even want to acknowledge that he is capable of sin because it would crunch his self-acclaimed ego as a favorite of God. During the Salem Witch trials, the people saw enemies of Christ everywhere, except in themselves. They were judging and hanging people while lying, gossiping, committing false accusations for land grabbing, and hanging innocents.
Integrating your shadow side makes you a better more tolerant person because you realize that evil is a part of you and you have to manage that. Imagine if Hitler, Stalin, and all the mass murderers would have done that. The world would be less dark.
When you suppress being assertive and threatening, for example, your mind will screen for it in every interaction, and detect even the slightest hints of forcefulness from others. It goes back to the Christian saying: “Don’t obsess with the speck in your neighbor’s eye, before seeing the log in your own eye.“
Turning a blind eye to reality, ignoring certain aspects of what the world is, are indicators that your shadow is covering something up. I know a lot of people who have a distaste for brutality and would like to think that the world is a nice, innocent place. They avoid reality and even watching the five o’clock news. They never see horror movies, and they stay away from anything that might threaten their worldview.
Repressing your talents or passions is another sign of having a shadow. In a traditional society where there is social pressure to conform, young children, learn to suppress certain creative, sexual, or taboo desires. Imagine what it would be like to do pole dancing in an Amish community. You would be shunned, criticised, and emotionally punished. You would learn to suppress your desire for pole dancing. That is why people don’t always follow their natural talent or creative streak.
I know a lot of people who felt like they had to do law school or become doctors, to make their parents proud. Integrating your shadow side might open up highways of opportunities for your, and uncover hidden talents, that you never knew you had!
Denial is also an indicator of how dense your shadow is. Remember those moments when denying even the possibility that something might be true about you. You feel that it is so far fetched from who you are, and how you see yourself than even considering it might be true seems blasphemous.
The Law of Attraction
There is the metaphysical law of attraction, which states that you attract and manifest in your life that which is in your vision. That is true! Unless you are disintegrated as a person, in which case your shadow governs your subconscious drives, dreams, perception, and frame of reality.
If that is the case, you attract what your shadow commands. In other words, that which you fear, disprove of and suppress. So, the law of attraction only works to your advantage if you have integrated your shadow, and as a result, have become enlightened. Integrating your shadow side means to become master of your own destiny.
Integrating your Shadow Side
The Ego is the part of you that rejects certain aspects of your “self”. The Ego wants to be perfect, so it blinds itself to what it doesn’t like. It casts a part of your true self into darkness. To become the most powerful version of who you can be is to, integrate your shadow, and benefit from all the gifts and strengths it has to offer.
Enlightenment begins with the realization that your Ego is an illusion. Once you transcend it and stop defining yourself in that limiting way, the shadow naturally integrates. Just stop fighting against it. That is the core of transcendental meditation, spiritual self-discovery, and even NLP. They all have the same goal, ultimately.
This is the Jungian notion of practicing self-awareness, introspection, and meditation. People usually experience a lot of mental noise (disruptive thought) throughout the day and they don’t pay attention to it. Recurring dreams, day-dreams, wish-projections, needs, wants and desires, inabilities and self-criticism, these are all parts of the mental noise. And they are indicative of something emerging from the depths of sub-consciousness, something that is unexpressed, and much needed.
Shadow work is really just listening to your own thoughts, emotions, actions, and see what your mind is projecting. It will inevitably lead to the shadow. This practice will help you become more aware of who you truly are, and it may even help you fall in love with certain parts that you may have tried to suppress. The final goal is integrating your shadow side.
The core of shadow work is to get in touch with all the aspects that you repress. Just observe your own thoughts, emotions, judgments, especially the negative ones. If you have a really bad opinion about hippies than search inside of yourself to see which part of you is projecting that judgment. Most likely, hippies are the outside projection of an inner quality that you have and really
dislike in yourself. So you are repressing it and casting a harsh judgment on anything that reminds you of that aspect of your self.
The path of enlightenment is through that darkness, and not accepting your complete self is the equivalent of self-betrayal. Like Carl Jung said: “Real liberation comes not from glossing over or repressing painful states of feeling, but only from experiencing them to the full.” “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.”