Our Shadow Side

It intrigues me that great success is this brilliant light, but also every brilliant light creates a dark shadow. I think wisdom only comes when you can navigate both.
— Sting

If you've spent much time with me via this blog, you're well familiar with my philosophy that we learn to hide/cast away parts of us (personality traits, emotions, desires) that have been directly or indirectly deemed unacceptable. Those unacceptable parts are shamed deeply affecting our mental and emotional health. This collection of cast offs results in the formation of the shadow. What Carl Jung describes as the "dark" side of being human.

We decide that we only present the respectable part of our personality and hide the socially unacceptable parts of us which ultimately gets buried in our unconscious.

No one is without their own shadow. But the difference is one's awareness of their shadow. 

If we're not aware of what is happening within, it contributes to "self destructive behaviors so many individuals struggle with and are unable to control despite consciously knowing they would be better off not engaging in such actions...The task in life which thus confronts everyone is to become conscious of and integrate one’s shadow into one’s conscious personality: accepting it with open arms not as an abhorrent aspect of one’s self, but as a necessary and vital part of one’s being." (Academy of Ideas)

Way easier said than done. I am aware. I've said it before and I'll continue to say it: this process is not for the faint of heart. You must truly long for wholeness because only then will you work towards it. Many are unwilling. And they settle for an unexamined life becoming shells. 

We must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, not someone we assume or fantasize of being.

However, for those who dare venture to look they'll discover the shadow isn't all bad as we would like to believe (it would be easier if it was because it would justify keeping it in the basement). Recall that we hide any part of us that isn't acceptable to others. These can be positive traits: sensitivity, compassion, creativity, intellect, the list goes on. These aspects that would "lead to greater wholeness and harmony" are met with condemnation from others (family, peers, society) and in order to belong, away they went. 

When positive traits are relegated to the shadow, one is by necessity less than one could be...growth of the individual becomes blocked, and life becomes sterile.
— Academy of Ideas

In order to grow, we must accept those parts we've been afraid to recognize. Growth requires more than mere acknowledgement or awareness. We must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, not someone we assume or fantasize of being. Take an honest assessment. And that's where the real growth can begin take root. As you become aware, you can then internally negotiate which parts lead to wholeness and which parts detract. Because they are no longer hidden, you are able to determine what and who you want to be. You are not bound by the fear of what might be hidden in the shadows because you've taken your flashlight and revealed the truth. 

This is why you will hear therapist after therapist describe their clients as some of the most courageous people they know. They risk for the sake of growth and truly living an engaged and present life. 

Will you join their ranks?

Tiffany Dang

Tiffany Dang, LPC, Austin, TX