This is Sexual Kimchi here and when I read RedpoleQ’s 1st article on the shadow, I wanted to get in on the action since this is an area I really found useful to explore in my own life.
Lets start with an exercise in Shadow work. (Don’t read the whole article, until you’ve done the exercise.)
First, take a piece of paper and fold it in half. Now, I want you to think of someone you genuinely admire. Write their name in the top of one of the columns. Take a couple of minutes and really picture them in your head. It can be someone famous, someone from you life, or a fictional character. Use as many details as possible. Visualize the person, the details, the context, and add in all of the sensory input that you associate with this person. Now I want you to write down all of their attributes that you admire in one column. Give the whole thing about 10 minutes.
Now, take a break. Get up, walk around, put Beastie Boys’ “Check Your Head” on. Pogo.
Then, when you are done with that nonsense, sit down and think of someone you despise. Same as before, although this time it works better if it is someone you have personal experience with. Write their name down at the top of the other side of the paper. Imagine all of the details of that person. How they look, how they talk, their body language. Write down all of the characteristics of that person that makes you hate them. Write for 10 minutes.
Take a look at both sides of the paper, then scroll down.
Guess what? Both of them are you. Those attributes you have listed are parts of yourself that you have projected onto others. “If you spot it, you got it”. We become unduly annoyed or enraptured by certain things in others because those are the parts of ourself that we are suppressing. That is your shadow getting out. No matter how hard we try to contain it, the thing keeps slipping out.
(If you are anything like me, you would look at that list and see that there are obvious contradictions on it. How can I be both brave and a coward, for example? To put it simply, we are all different people in different contexts. It is quite possible for one person to be brave in one context and a coward in another.)
The shadow is the parts of ourselves we don’t own up to. That can be the “best” and “worst” parts of ourselves.
As we grew up, we all learned that certain parts of ourselves are socially unacceptable.
I see the shadow as being the metaphorical outcome of the socialization process. Think about being a kid again. Think of all the instruction your parents gave you on how to be a good boy or girl, and how they discouraged antisocial behaviour. Think about the pressure you felt to fit in with your friends, and how they discouraged anyone from being different. Its just part of being a social animal. We’ve all been conditioned by others and have modeled others, to the point where a vast amount of Us isn’t really us. And the Us that doesn’t get exercised gets thrown into the shadow.
Jung said we have psychological “gold” in our shadows. That they are a massive source of creative energy and fulfillment. The hard part is tapping into that energy.