According to Carl Jung, everybody has a shadow self that must be integrated. Jung was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst of the early 1900s who founded Analytical Psychology and influenced many fields including psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, and religious studies. Essentially, what Jung meant was if one does not embrace the shadow self, the deeper and darker it will become. Additionally, the more we will project our inner darkness upon others. Interestingly enough, our shadow self is more evident and clear to others than to ourselves. We also identify this concept in the law of attraction. What I suggest by that is, I believe the harder we fight against our inner darkness, the stronger it will manifest itself into the world. Regardless, everybody has a shadow self that needs to be attended to and integrated.
It has been mentioned that we can use others as mirrors for ourselves; as a reflection of our shadow selves: When we dislike something, it is a projection of our own perception. Our shadow hides between the thoughts of "unacceptable" traits of those around us; it hides between the blame we shift onto others.
"If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us."- Hermann Hesse For example, if you label most of the individuals around you as "lazy and selfish," it might be a projection of self-centeredness. (How can we become more gentle with others?) Do you repeatedly suffer from jealousy within your relationship? It is possible you suffer from low self-esteem causing you to perceive those around you as more attractive or funnier in comparison. (Your partner is with you for a reason.) Maybe you can't trust people since you are untrustworthy. In contrast, it is possible you can't rely on people because you are overtly independent or lack emotion regulation skills. (You are stronger than you think). Maybe you work so hard because otherwise, you feel unloveable, and accomplishments make you worthy of receiving love. (You have always been worthy.) Behind its veil, we often find many fears.
So how does one who desires self-actualization learn to integrate their shadow self without running away? Seriously, how does one learn to love the deepest, darkest, most shameful parts of themselves? Mix in the fact that we are usually unaware of most of the shadow self... It is truly a disastrous recipe.
As someone who has perpetually expressed an innate curiosity for psychology, the concept of a shadow self has woven itself in and out of my life at various points. I've reflected upon the concept of a shadow self many times and there is one thought that has always been most evident, "love your shadow self the hardest." It is not easy to accept that such negative traits might live within us. We must develop deep compassion for ourselves; we must learn to love our shadow self the hardest, for it is the most difficult part to love.
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." - Carl Jung Look for part two. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself.
With warmth, Allison
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to provide mental health treatment or medical advice. It not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not a replacement for the therapeutic relationship in psychotherapy or the coaching relationship.