It’s always standing right behind us, just out of view…. our shadow.
Shadow is a psychological term for everything we can’t see in ourselves. Most of us go to great lengths to protect our self-image from anything unflattering or unfamiliar. It’s easier to see the shadow in another before acknowledging the shadow within each of ourselves.
Every human being is susceptible to this avoidance of looking at our own shadow. Yet, I find working with my shadow (in a slightly twisted way) is a rewarding, yet challenging, and humbling process.
As a philosopher, trainer, facilitator and author, I have observed that most – but not all – people that I have encountered in their initial journey of self-discovery begin with the ‘yang’ (the White or light side of themselves).
It doesn’t matter whether they start the unravelling of the divine mystery of who they are through a spiritual awakening, or a personal crisis, or a cathartic call to action, they tend to focus on their perceived goodness, the light within themselves.
This means that they are mostly ignoring the ‘yin’, (the Black or darkness that is within) of themselves.
The yin-yang symbol (also known as the Tai Chi symbol) consists of a circle divided into two halves by a curved line. One half of the circle is black, typically representing the yin side; the other is white, for the yang side. A dot of each color is situated near the center of the other’s half. The two halves are thus intertwining across a spiral-like curve that splits the whole into semicircles, and the small dots represent the idea that both sides carry the seed of the other.
The white dot in the black area and the black dot in the white area connote coexistence and unity of opposites to form a whole. The curvy line signifies that there are no absolute separations between the two opposites. The yin-yang symbol, then, embodies both sides: duality, paradox, unity in diversity, change, and harmony.
I personally discovered the ‘real Neil’ when I was finally willing to take a peek at the darkness that resided deep, deep within me. The side that harbored resentment. The side of me that was selfish, pouty and moody. The side I denied having. The side I hid from my friends.
My own deepest work came from coaching processes that had me look at my Shadow side.
What is the Shadow?
The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists chiefly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power.
Another way to put it is everything we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—becomes part of the shadow.
Anything incompatible with our chosen conscious attitude about ourselves relegates to this dark side.
The personal shadow is the disowned self. This shadow self represents the parts of us we no longer claim to be our own, including inherent positive qualities.
These un-examined or disowned parts of our personality don’t go anywhere. Although we deny them in our attempt to cast them out, we don’t get rid of them.
We repress them; they are part of our unconscious. Think of the unconscious as everything we are not conscious of.
We can’t eliminate the shadow. It stays with us as our dark brother or sister. Trouble arises when we fail to see it. For then, to be sure, it is standing right behind us.
Have you ever had a Dr. Jekyll moment in your life where you said or did something that was out of your conscious character to do? There is a very good chance it was your shadow self reacting to a situation.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve had your shadow show up and you don’t know what to do with it… Or if you want to know more about shadow work.
Call me at 403-285-5266 or email me at email@example.com