It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature. Blindly he strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true. Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware.
“On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.35 Your shadows are the truths about yourself that your own psychological processes keep hidden from you. That means the person most in the dark about your shadows is you. While some of these shadows are obvious to every one but you, others remain so well-disguised that no one can see them.
These hidden truths may be called shadows, but they actually include the superior aspects of your personality as well as the inferior that you have yet to discover.
For example, your instinctual drives are a part of your shadows when they operate unconsciously. You might think you are being generous and noble when, in reality, you might be operating from an unacknowledged need for power. Or, perhaps, you may believe you are behaving innocently with another person when you actually have a sexual agenda. A third example: you may think you are relating from a position of equality with a peer when you are really treating them like a child or a parent.
There are very few of us who, even as adults, have not heard or even said, ourselves, things like, “Stop treating me like a child,” or “You’re not my mother or father.”
A part of every individuation journey includes revelations of your unconscious instinctual behaviors. Unfortunately, these cannot be discovered by simply sitting down and thinking about it. Neither does it help for someone to point them out to you. These behaviors are usually discovered through life experience.
Claiming your shadow will bring you unexpected gifts–qualities such as strength, inner beauty, leadership ability, tenderness, and incisiveness, among others. These are qualities that you might have only pretended to have or never really believed that you could possess.
Unfortunately, until we can claim our shadows as a part of ourselves, we will tend to project them on to others. Whenever you have strong feelings, positive or negative, about another person, there is something within you that is being unconsciously projected on that person. A quality that exists within you is being seen not in yourself, where you cannot see it, but in that other person, who may or may not actually possess that quality.
Some people will cause you to feel irritated, angry or outraged, or alternately, they will receive your praise, admiration and devotion. These people will tend to possess this characteristic in an exaggerated form, which makes it easier for you to see it in them, and more difficult for you to see a subtler version in your self. If it were not a quality that belonged to you in some way, you would not be so strongly affected by it.
Once you can bring yourself to stop and reflect on why you are having the reaction you are having, you will begin to realize that the cause of your agitation is within yourself and not in the other person.
Next Week: Some ways to begin the shadow journey.