Throughout our journey towards awakening and better understanding our true selves, we come across tons of information. And it ultimately comes down to what out of all this information really resonates with us at each particular phase of our lives.
In this context, I have recently been pondering on the way some articles on awakening elaborate on how we should stop discarding our ‘shadow’.
This is indeed true – as Carl Jung also put it, what we ignore and avoid, persists. And it persists bad.
So what is this ‘shadow’ made of anyway? Plato in his famous tripartite division of the soul spoke of the ‘ἐπιθυμητικόν’ (epithymeticon) – the lower part of the soul, linked with earthly desires -, the ‘θυμοειδές’ (thymoeides) – the middle part, ruled by the heart or spirit – and the ‘λογιστικόν’ (logisticon) – the upper part, the mind. The ‘logisticon’ was also the virtue that the Philosopher-king, Plato’s ideal Republic’s ruler, had to be driven by.
No mention of a ‘dark side’ there; because classical ethics’ philosophers were primarily preoccupied with studying and defining human virtue; not vice. And when Plato spoke about shadows in his Allegory of the Cave, it was about how they represented the world we perceive with our senses, whereas the objects casting the shadows stood for the real world, the world of ‘ideas’.
Back to our ‘shadow’ now. I shall not go into psychology territory on this, e.g. like how Jungian theory on archetypes and the psychology of the unconscious defines the ‘shadow’ etc. In a more empirical definition, though, our ‘shadow’ contains not only our dark side, our repressed negative emotions and thoughts, but also our stifled talents, dreams and positive parts that from an early age on we were led to believe were unwanted.
So, now you know the tag of that would-be painter hiding behind the accountant’s face.
When we ignore our feelings and responses to a situation, either because we become our own worst critic or because we might feel too overwhelmed and believe we’re unable to handle the crisis outside and within – so going numb and discarding the ‘flight or fight’ mode and ultimately opting for ‘freeze’ mode – our unconscious just keeps getting loaded; not healed. The steps we might have taken towards bridging it with our conscious and carrying forward with our individuation journey are practically undone. That’s why it is a given that our shadow exists and is a part of us not to be ignored.
Working properly with and through our shadow is a very tricky procedure – in fact, we’re treading on quicksand. So, in order to do it in a way that is to our soul journey’s benefit, we first need to build a strong, positive core, free from the tentacles of the ego.
When we are not aware yet of the beliefs we have about ourselves (aka ego) nor which of them are true and which false, so as to tackle what needs to be tackled and help ourselves find our way through a labyrinth not even an Ariadne could get us out of, we have still a long way to go before we tap deep into our shadow side.
One might say, entering into the ‘shadow’s’ realm is precisely quite “advanced” awakening and invovles very fragile balances.
The most important thing of all is that realizing the need to explore our ‘shadow’ – or rather, to approach it, listen to it with an open heart and try to heal it, doesn’t mean that this way we become entitled to justify our dark sides; that is, not just in a “that’s how I am and I see this now” way, but more in a “that’s how I am and take it or leave it ” kind of way. This point might even be the reason why antiheroes are the ones usually preferred over heroes, both in literature and media, as I’ve already discussed in a previous post.
It’s kind of similar with the distinction between ‘self-centered’ and ‘self-centric’. Self-centered means Copernicus was wrong after all and the Sun revolves around us. On the other hand, whenever we focus on working on ourselves, we should be self-centric so that we can actually become our own best possible versions and thus be able to benefit everyone else around us too.
A still complex, confused ego cannot deal with what the ‘shadow’ might reveal to it. E.g. a narcissist, who in the best case scenario has just began working out his ego and identity issues, will have a very hard time not dubbing as virtues whatever flaws his shadow exploration might bring to the light. If you’re in that spot where you’ve almost finished working on your ego and its problems and feel ready to change gears towards the realm of your ‘shadow’ as well, keep in mind that the clue is always good old constant mindfulness. The next time you feel you lose control over your emotions and go on auto-pilot mode, instead of indulging in your old ways step back, and question yourself. Literally, question yourself: What am I doing now? Why? Ever since when? And finally, how can I accept it and change it?
Ego wounds left undealt with are pushed back to your shadow; in a nutshell, none of it is your true self. And don’t you want to know your true self?
He/she can’t wait to meet you. ~