To live authentically, we need to know ourselves completely and holistically. This means knowing the good and the bad. It means getting back in touch with our shadow self. This is the first of a series of posts delving into how the shadow self can hinder us in living our best, authentic life.
So what is your shadow self? The term shadow self was coined by psycho analyst Carl Jung who defined it as composing parts of yourself that you reject. Even though they are a part of you, you refuse to see them because those aspects of your shadow are part of your personality developed back in childhood.
As we have discussed in previous posts, your early memories and beliefs are formed from your parents and other adult figures. Your shadow self is also formed early in life. As a child you become engrossed in the way they think and do things.
If part of your shadow self involves speaking your truth, then if you were ever scolded as a child for speaking up, then the chances are as you grow you remember how that felt. As a result, your fear of speaking up develops as you grow into adulthood. You become to feel that speaking your own mind is not safe and even frowned upon.
The more you are made to feel that you cannot speak up becomes ingrained in your subconscious mind and as a result will be a trigger for you as an adult without you realising it. A trigger may be in the form of when you see someone else speaking up for what they believe in, you may feel unexplainable anger or frustration towards them. You don’t mean to feel that way, it is the way you were programmed as a child to believe it was not safe to speak up.
Deep within each of us are two parts – the person we are and the one we want to become – our ideal self. Often the two sides are in conflict. As our psycho analyst friend Carl Jung described – the unconscious part of our character that does not align with our ideal version of self is known as the ego.
In other words, the ego and shadow self will cause us to reject what we don’t like about ourselves. We unconsciously then project these disliked parts onto others and can be seen in our reaction to some people. Those parts we don’t like about others will often be what we don’t like about ourselves.
As it turns out, there are the parts you both like and dislike. The parts you dislike are those that you tend to hide from the world. These parts may trigger or embarrass you, but they make up your shadow self and are the parts that are bursting to come out and be heard.
Yet, it is not easy to accept and confront our shadow self as those parts of us have been hidden for a long time. Many people avoid admitting they have a darker side and push it further and further into the shadows. Despite all effort to hide and forget the shadow self, it will always be there.
However, by hiding your shadow self can not only impact your ability to live authentically, it will also affect your health and wellbeing. Your shadow tends to show itself through emotional triggers and reactions that you have yet to fully accept resulting in them coming to the surface in sometimes unexpected circumstances.
But all is not lost, you can learn to understand your shadow self in a healthy way through self-awareness, guidance and most importantly – courage. The healthy way involves shadow work which is designed to assist you integrate and accept your whole self so that you can thrive and live your best, authentic life with clarity.
Over the next couple of blog posts we will delve into shadow work deeper to explore what it means, what the benefits are and how you can begin practising your own shadow work.