The Shadow. Carl Jung coined this term to talk about those unconscious elements of ourselves that, for the most part, remain undealt with. He said “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” Basically, the more we chose to NOT deal with the demons in our closet, the bigger, nastier, uglier and louder those demons get. Not only that, they tend to slip out into every day life – causing all kinds of drama and woe.
So, I was thinking on the Shadow, my Shadow, other people’s Shadow. I was pondering this when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and once again, came across yet another quote about “Finding our Bliss” and positive thinking. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I think all this galloping towards the light is very grand, and positive thinking and gratitude is awesome – but if that’s the only thing you’re going for in life, then you are missing out on a whole lot of treasure.
The Shadow is not just the home of our demons. It’s also the home to our creativity, innovation, new directions, inspiration and new ways to grow. To really embrace this whole personal growth thing, you first have to traverse through some really mucky, horrible bits. It’s scary, I mean, really scary, and it’s not a notion we are at all used to. Sometimes you really DO have to dance with the devil; not only dance, but make friends with, dine with and maybe even make out once in a while. We are used to this paradigm of black and white, good and bad – but the Shadow, it isn’t really about all that. It’s kinda grey, and murky. It’s why we avoid it so damn much. Murkiness, and the entering into it, is not our strong suit. We light up the dark as much as possible. We want the corners never to house shadows. We want to de-contaminate. We want to mask any uncomfortable feeling that may dare to disturb our sleep, our quiet moments, or even stressful ones. Coffee, sugar, alcohol, work ,sex, drugs – all better options than to actually enter the gateway to our Shadow.
Some of us bounce from person to person, project to project – ever excited by the new – convincing ourselves and the world around us that it’s to our own betterment, just to avoid dealing with the uncomfortable, the hard, the parts that take real work, real commitment.
And yet, to really get beyond the need for masking anything, to get beyond addiction, or to grow in the ways we want; to invent, create, lead, inspire or just move to the next rung on our personal evolutionary path, we absolutely, have to walk through that door. We have to feel the mud, taste it, face it, and understand it, before it’s ever cleansed. We need to dig deep into graves we tried to hide, and there we may find the treasures we have long buried. The Shadow is that ultimate test – that says if we are courageous enough to face our own demons, we WILL be rewarded, not by anything grander than ourselves, but by our own minds, emotions, and souls.
But it really does take work.
I write this as I enter into my own Shadow work – and face some serious fears. I write this because I enter into a new phase of my own life, one that is both exciting and challenging, and requires me to move beyond some of my own demons. It’s tempting, to avoid them, to pretend I have grown beyond them – but that would be a lie. I want lots of chocolate to numb the fear. Or a cheeseburger, that may work also. I want to be comforted and for someone to hold my hand.
It’s not about finding the light IN the Shadow, it’s about honouring the Shadow for the gift it IS, all on it’s own. It doesn’t need the light. It just needs you to enter. Most of the time, the things we are scared of in the dark, turn out to be nothing more than shadow puppets on the wall. Sometimes it’s as scary as we expected. And always, if we embrace these fears, there is a treasure, a release, a knowing – in it for us. We don’t have to strive for the light to grow, sometimes, we have to strive for the dark.
It’s what I believe, through experience, through observation, and through studying one of my favourite teachers. And it is with him I end this post.