This article presents a somewhat different perspective on transforming what is known as our shadow self. The process described here is based on the work of Carl Jung as well as some of internal family systems concepts and then my own experiences in personal growth work. How do we create a shadow and what how does our shadow affect us? Well, first, volumes of written material exist describing our shadow self. I will give a very brief overview from a practical perspective. Then we’ll see how to work with our shadow to re-integrate the segregated part of self.
The dynamics that create our shadow occur when some part of self that experiences judgment and rejection by a significant other person, usually in childhood, aka emotional trauma. As a result of our thought process in the trauma response, we come to believe that this judged part of self actually endangers our life. Survival instinct then leads us to also reject this part our self. We separate a part or parts of self as a reaction to emotional trauma and our shadow is born.
Shadow may oppress us or it may impulsively move us into some harmful behavior, but either way, the shadow performs its service to protect us. Initially, it can be challenging to recognize this role of our shadow. Shadow does not consider the big picture, just immediate safety. The threat is all that matters, not the consequence of the chosen strategy to maintain safety.
Self-defeating behavior reveals the shadow as does our inner dialogue just before a self-defeating act. The dialogue may include self-talk about inabilities, inferiorities or pointing out personal limitations. Shadow may convince us that certain others are dangerous to us, convincing us to act out. Shadow actually devotes itself in love to keeping the larger self safe. Of course, at these times of self-defeatingbehavior we just want to reject the shadow this much more. But understanding its devotion and love for you will aid in bringing this shadow into the light.
Our reflex response to this shadow is to withhold love from the part of self that came into existence because of withheld love. Ironic, I know. We reject our shadow part, trying to deny it exists or push it away. That’s our primitive brain (PB) or Limbic System response. But how can withholding love solve what withholding love caused?
The surprise in the shadow world is that this part then remains dedicated to us, just like it was when it was integrated in our whole being. Ours shadow part is actually always dedicated to us but goes about it in a different way than when it was part of the positive whole. My belief is that the shadow is restricted to negative communication due to its separation from the positive-light of whole, original self.
Shadow is rigid in form and function as it is a product of our PB. No prodding or efforts to persuade it will make it change. Many traditional approaches to working with shadow involve understanding what benefits the shadow has to offer, leading to some modification in the relationship. But here we are seeking to understand and love our shadow into freedom and Light.
The trauma and splintering process seems to invert the part that’s split off. The inverting takes the form of negative self-talk since this part is separated from the whole, the Light. This shadow language requires translating. The negative message is actually a call to evolve our self.
We try our best to suppress this supposedly dangerous part of self. We may deny possessing this quality at all. Sometimes we can only allow our self to notice our shadow traits in others and dislike them for what we can’t allow in our self. For example, we can’t allow our self to gain recognition from others so we feel jealous toward those who can permit this recognition.
In order to survive a trauma, we usually take one of two strategies. We either turn up or turn down some personal quality. For example, assertive becomes aggressive or passive or maybe confidence becomes arrogance or paralyzing self-doubt. This trauma response is designed for survival and, if possible, to somehow re-gain “lost” self-worth.
One of the dangers of the life after splintering is that the person just focusses on the aspects of self that are free, only making it easier to avoid the shadow. PB feels satisfied with this approach until shadow breaks through in some “trouble making” way. PB views shadow as a threat since PB is restricted in its ability to do fourth dimensional or symbolic, abstract thinking.
Our shadow will remain in its shadow form and serve us from the negative side until we demonstrate the ability to rise above our conscious restrictions to access and share love within. Once demonstrating to the shadow that we are able to receive and share this Love with its very core, shadow either transforms to its original form or simply vanishes from us, its mission complete.
We transcend third dimensional thinking, converting it into fourth dimensional thinking when we receive Divine Love from Source and then share this with our shadow. It’s as if by showing the capacity to share Love from larger self with our undesirable shadow we gain our release. Sometimes it seems easier to make the effort to love and accept others. But how do we do with this love and tolerance policy toward our self?
Resolving our emotional issues is an inside job. PB lacks self-examining skills and so maintains a focus outside of self. But our behavior and “symptoms” exist as points of re-entry through the outermost layer of the trauma back into the One Source. “Symptoms”, be they anger, sadness or anxiety simply exist as the consequence of our best effort to cope with trauma.
By tracing inward from emotions and behavior, we gain access to the essence of our shadow part, the loving heart of our shadow. It remains an aspect of your original Spirit. Bringing the focus of the resolution back inside self, we can then bypass the temptation to judge self for these “misbehaviors”. Understanding what led to and motivated any transgressions evokes compassion, excluding judgment.
Love is the key that accesses the trapped healthy energy residing within the shadow. This highest Love, pure Light from Divine Source pierces the rough outer crust of the shadow, reaching the Divine Core and freeing the original part of self. Healing comes when we show that we can love, truly unconditionally love and share this with the very core of our shadow, understanding that this shadow is a teacher, a protector, and encourager in service to us. This act is transforming.