Carl Jung defined shadow as:
Everything of which a person is not fully conscious.
In other words, that which you are unable to see in yourself. Shadow is also prone to projection: taking a personal inferiority in yourself and unconsciously attributing it to someone else. Shadow expressions can be either passive and subdued, or actively in play. Your personal shadow holds some of your most vital untapped resources.
How do you find it?
The tricky thing about shadow work is finding a way to gain access to what is not fully conscious. In my own experience, I’ve usually had to have a huge meltdown or blow-up for a shadow piece to be revealed to me. In the midst of such emotional turmoil, it takes tremendous courage to see what you really don’t want to admit or see about yourself…yet, once you do, you’ve usually got that piece handled for good. The people around you, such as your friends and family members, are often the ones who can see what you can’t.
Why would I even want to?
If it’s so hard, why should we bother? Because there’s no faster way to shift lifelong patterns and belief systems that no longer serve you than by integrating shadow aspects. It’s a kind of soul retrieval; gathering in those lost and disowned parts of yourself that you’ve banished. Sometimes they even show up as younger parts of you and can be worked with as if they are separate beings. In a way, they are separate beings that are aspects of you. Ultimately, they all just want to be loved and accepted.
Shadow work takes commitment!
I’ve been committed to ongoing personal shadow work for many years, starting with recovery from self-diagnosed sexual addiction in 1998. One of my biggest pieces of work emerged in 2016 when I was deeply triggered and what arose in me was the murderous rage.
Now, I’ve been a healer and high priestess for over 15 years, and this came as a huge surprise to me. And yet, it was a tremendous opportunity to integrate a very dark, powerful shadow piece of myself. With some deep inner work, that murderous rage part of me revealed itself to be nothing less than my inner divine masculine!
Religion and Sexuality
Patriarchal religions deemed anything to do with sexuality a “sin” a long time ago. And yet, sexuality is how we were made;
We are sexual beings!
Sexual energy is also a source of great power, and religious governing bodies sought to control people and their sexuality as a way of keeping them apart from their power. Sadly, this is still pervasive, even in the 21st century… but it’s getting better all the time.
The Creation of Sexual Shadow
Deeming sexuality dirty, sinful and evil drove it underground. Those who were attracted to the same sex had to hide it in peril of imprisonment or their lives. Those who were not sanctioned by the church (married) had to make love in secret. When something is driven underground, it quickly becomes a shadow aspect.
This is why there is such a huge market for pornography.
When something goes underground, the black market takes over. Dark, shadowy parts of people surface and act out, which can translate into pedophiles, rapists, and unconscious sexual behavior. We also see the paradox of sexuality being used to advertise and manipulate even as women are slut-shamed for being the sensual, beautiful creatures that they are.
What can we do about it?
Though sexual shadow is pervasive in our collective humanity, we are always at choice about our personal actions. We cannot control anyone else’s behavior, but we can certainly make conscious choices about our own. When we choose a path of conscious sexuality, we make a commitment to acknowledge and integrate our personal shadow pieces as they arise (and they will).
A Simple Practice
One of the easiest ways to get familiar with your own shadow is to notice what you don’t like in other people. Then, take an honest look at yourself and see if you can find that unpleasant quality in yourself. Once you do, rather than push it back down, make friends with it. It takes courage to do this shadow work, to look at what you don’t want to see about yourself. And yet, those lost pieces hold so much power in your psyche, and you have the capacity to claim that power.
Here’s a relevant example: The US elected Donald Trump to the presidency. Mr. Trump does not hide the fact that he is a racist, bigot, misogynist, and narcissist. Why did this happen? I believe that we each carry a little Trump shadow part inside of us that is un-integrated. Even if you didn’t vote for him, and I most certainly didn’t, there is still a collective responsibility for his ascension to the presidency. We must look inside ourselves for that part, which is probably very hidden for those of us who choose to be conscious participants in life.
Can we locate, heal, and integrate that part of ourselves?
I realize this is a very provocative concept, and you are free to take it or leave it. But I ask you to at least consider the possibility. To do so, you must peer underneath the anger, fear, and shock that will lead you right to denial of any personal responsibility, thereby pushing that shadow piece back into its dark place.
We are in an incredible place of opportunity right now. A big, collective archetypal shadow piece is no longer hidden just below the surface but has come roaring up, flaunting its intention to break every rule and moral standard. We can no longer ignore it or pretend it’s not there.
We must take action.
The best action we can take is to do our own inner shadow work, to become as conscious of our own shadow as we can, piece by piece, and to gently support those we love in doing the same.