"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate" - Carl Jung
One of the most potent tools for inner peace has been confronting and accepting my shadow side. I don’t think I could have good relationships, a thriving marriage, and be a calm parent without having gone through this threshold. Accepting the existence of the shadow, its function, and the fact that it is something everyone has to some degree has been a defining rite of passage into my maturity.
Whenever I had an unexplainably strong reaction to an event, I began to see it as a clue. The things that threatened my identity, or disturbed what I would have liked others to see in me tended to evoke fear that I’d be “found out.” I was pretty secure in some aspects of my identity, for example, I never felt stupid, but quite insecure in others. A strangely touchy thing was being perceived to be funny. I was convinced people had to believe I was funny to maintain a certain view of myself. That led to a lot of bizarre tension early on in my relationship with my husband, who seemed to find me insufficiently funny for my liking. So I tried harder to be funny, which was extremely awkward, of course, and then had sleepless nights thinking about how he was not laughing at my jokes on purpose. Sounds nuts in retrospect, but it was an aspect of myself I valued a lot and had been validated by others as a sparkling addition to my personality and it seemed like he was just not that into it. It took me a few months to make peace with the fact that I didn’t have to be the class clown in my relationship, that there was no malice in my husband’s reaction, and that this was just an aspect of my personality that I developed to feel special throughout my formative years and that was ok, independent of the reaction of others.
This is just one, admittedly more benign, example of accepting your shadow side. Have you had any experience with confronting the more loaded aspects of your subconscious?
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Love this. It requires the kind of self-honesty that can feel existentially threatening to even recognise your shadow, let alone do the work required to choose whether to shake it off or integrate it. I keep wanting to write about my own experience of this - and how I've encountered the still raw and unnoticed shadows of others - but it feels so exposing to do so. Without saying too much here, my approach wasn't Jungian as such. It was via Transactional Analysis group work, then with a truly remarkable holistic therapist along with disciplined mindfulness practice. Perhaps the hardest part of becoming yourself is to learn when to let go of others whose shadow is visible to you, but not them. My shadow has two main components and shrugging one off while integrating the rest hasn't been easy. But few things that are really enriching are also easy.
Analysis, including introspection can be valuable, but it can also be stifling and lead to sheer stupidity. I suppose you need balance in all things, but ironically the search for the ever elusive balance can chew you up and spit you out. How does one manage both conscious and subconscious complexity? The answer is perspective. My go to is what I call “the bear”. He wanders around without internal conflict. He forages, takes care of his cubs and does all the things that encompass the life of a bear. The bear has no Ego; no grandiose ideology about his own importance. Nonagenarians interviewed about their biggest regret most often answer, “I wish I hadn’t worried so much”. Over analyzing is a species of worry. Im not opposed to it, but it should have its limits. Anytime you veer into introspection you have to ask yourself if it’s truly worthwhile or if your just the calisthenics of an overly indulgent ego. I knew a priest who used to say, “you can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can certainly stop it from landing on your head, building a nest and laying its eggs.
I'm not sure exactly what "shadow" means here. However life has thrown some personality aspects in my face recently. Like you, being humorous was been a significant part of my personality. However excelling at flippant and sarcastic defensive humor has really walled me off from people, relationships and perhaps myself. I'm trying to actually listen and connect more, but the effort has always been difficult.
Also I've had a couple secrets that only recently decided to own up to, one health related, one guilt/shame related due to my own choices. Things I told no almost no one for fear of judgement and rejection. The thing is, if you never discuss them, they end up being buried in your subconscious, buried black holes that you run into when prospects for deep relationships develop.
Yeah sure, spend a bit of time on this, but not too much. Ultimately you have duties and need to get stuff done.
Not sure which is best, to never introspect at all and behave like a stupid person / animal and thus remain forever oblivious to all your weaknesses and vices or introspect like some 1970's Californian and run the risk of becoming even more self-absorbed than you already are. On balance, it probably IS worth taking a long hard look at yourself, as Alex recommends, and concluding, 'Actually, I really do have a tendency to be way too touchy and precious about myself'. Being brutally honest with yourself is probably the hardest part of this process but once you've admitted to yourself that you really are a bit of an arse then being called it by someone else should feel less threatening. And you can always respond with, 'Yeah, I know. I've noticed that too. Not much I can do about it though'.
Yes, I have tried writing about it a number of times. It isn't easy but it's beneficial. For me it's just wanting to go off and act like a loner and push people away. Or at least that's a good chunk of it or how it manifests.
Very often. I chase my shadow quite often and I never catch it but I do yell at it because it is an endless struggle. Also, you with the face tattoos "Get in there!"
"pretty secure in some aspects of my identity, for example, I never felt stupid, but quite insecure in others."......that strikes a chord with me; supremely confident (from an early age) intellectually, exam-passingly etc but with everything to do with people...not so much.
Before hearing of Jung or any other theories I remember moments when I've seen glimpses of what they call 'the shadow'. Moments that felt like small cracks in my splendid and seemingly airtight self-esteem. Years went by, I changed nothing. I acknowledged I am not as special I once thought I was, I had some 'things' hanging around me, but didn't want to look in that direction. Overall I was good.
Now I came to a point where... I guess life made me look.
"Leave irony and cynicism at the door" Meta Nomad once said. I guess my shadow is excelling in these, and in consequence my sense of humor, just like NEPete's, doesn't always help in relationships. Defensiveness, victim-think, distrust, apathy, disdain, self-aggrandizement and maybe more also stem occasionally from my shadow's direction. It looks like a random bunch of awful stances I flip though depending on context. But the roots seem to be in irony and cynicism. I will try to get to know them better. If they will not be "left at the door", maybe I can put them to good use instead of letting them at the wheel.