The one in the shadow


Last week’s blog was about projection. The phenomenon that when we are uncomfortable with a character trait or an emotion within ourselves, for example anger, our eye will automatically search and find angry people around us that we will start judging.

In this week’s blog I would like to take it one step further and dig a little deeper into those so-called bad traits or emotions that we are so keen to hide from ourselves and the outside world. Which brings us back to Carl Jung who tells us that our shadow is the person we would rather not be. Our shadow is everything that annoys us, horrifies us or disgusts us about ourselves or other people. Our shadow is made up of thoughts, emotions, impulses that we find too painful, embarrassing or distasteful to accept. So instead of dealing with them, we repress them, as dealing with them is too hard, too shameful. And we carry this invisible bag on our shoulders, going through life.

Who created this shadow?
Our shadows are mostly created early in our lives. It might be a teacher who called us stupid, or someone who bullied us in school. Whatever the cause was, we responded to it by feeling ashamed, guilty or fearful. And these negative feelings, over time hardened into our shadow. The one thing we don’t want to think of, let alone make it visible to others. And that’s where the problem starts as we create a duality in ourselves which makes us feel incomplete and might lead to unwanted behaviors or even worse addiction. And there is more bad news: the more we suppress our shadow, the more it will appear. Mostly when we don’t want it: when we want to give a stellar presentation, or when we are stressed out and our defenses are low. No matter how the shadow manifests itself, it is all about self-sabotage.

The good news
There is no good without evil, no North pole without a South pole, no joy without sadness. To have a shadow doesn’t mean we are flawed, it means we are complete. The real authentic us! Which goes beyond good and evil. So the solution is exactly there: not staying at the level of the problem, hiding it, but moving beyond it. An example: when you hear that a colleague dislikes you, instead of finding reasons to dislike that colleague (which is staying at the level of the problem), we need to learn to move beyond it, don’t label, blame or judge.

We are all about authenticity nowadays. We want to live an authentic life, be an authentic leader, feel complete. If we really want all that, we will need to acknowledge our shadow, dive into it, learn from it and move beyond it, to find what we ultimately want: being completely authentic, whatever the situation we are in.

Next week’s blog will be about how to find our shadows and move beyond it…

Source: The Shadow Effect by D. Chopra, D. Ford & M. Williamson