BEFRIENDING THE SHADOW
Psychologist Carl Jung advanced our awareness of the shadow. It is composed of all the things you reject and refuse to identify with. This includes feelings you don’t like, fears, past trauma, and anything you weren’t able to understand. The smaller your idea of who it is acceptable to be, the bigger your shadow. When you reject unpleasant feelings, you project them onto other people and situations. Projecting unwanted feelings outside of you prevents wholeness and self-acceptance.
Befriending the shadow is important work if you want to be whole again. Wholeness is freedom because you are no longer afraid of the truth. “The truth shall set you free!” Befriending your shadow is also self-compassionate. All those dark pieces are now welcomed and loved for the first time. The objective isn’t to try to correct or fix the shadow. Neither are you using the mind to prove that your fears are unfounded. You are simply loving every part of yourself. You are making friends with your shadow, not declaring war on it. A whole being accepts every part of itself. A whole being makes space for darkness and light because it is all part of creation and it can’t be threatened. You aren’t vulnerable to any of it because you are the space that holds it all.
The shadow is created through conditioning. Everyone is conditioned, so everyone has a shadow. Some fears seem to be common to most humans. Fear of loss of control is common. There is also a natural physical response to pain and death. The source doesn’t matter. What matters is becoming aware of what you fear, accepting it, and offering compassion to the human self. Yes, you are still afraid of some things. Love the one who is afraid. Love the part of you that still feels vulnerable. Love the human. Bring all of yourself into your embrace, even the darkness and the remaining fear. You are the space that holds both darkness and light. Stay as the spacious Self and watch your own version of demons come and go. The space that you are can hold it all.
The worksheet below is a good exercise to help you discover your own shadow. Be as honest as possible. As a very brief example, I’ve included a sample process to help you understand how to use the questions. Have fun coming out of the shadows! Share your biggest fears in the comments section if you dare.
Example: I am afraid of tornadoes because they are completely beyond my control. My worst nightmare is that unknown demons are waiting for me. I hate Adolph Hitler. Hitler was controlling and prejudiced, without compassion, and power hungry. The demon in “The Exorcist” is also without compassion and power hungry. I have no control over tornadoes.
My shadow themes are no control, no compassion, and violence.
I have been judgmental and without compassion towards crooked politicians and closed minded people. I have been power hungry when I insist that everyone takes a vacation when I want to go and when I ask my family to behave a certain way. I have been violent in my judgments toward myself and others. I have lacked compassion when I haven’t listened to others and when I mistreated my body.
- Name anything you are afraid of or repulsed by in the world. Include animals, insects, weather phenomenon, etc.
- Describe in 3 words each thing listed above that you fear or loathe:
- Write a brief synopsis of the worst nightmare or horror story you can think of:
- Name 3 individuals, living or dead, who epitomize the worst of humanity to you:
- Use 3-5 descriptive words for each of the people above.
- Review your answers for #1-5 above. Make note of any recurring ideas or descriptions that they have in common.
- Find ways in which you have felt or behaved in those ways or parts of yourself that are in any way like the above ideas.