Embracing Our Shadow
Halloween is celebrated around the world this weekend. It is a festive holiday that has its roots in various folk legends and religious rituals, including the “Day of the Dead,” which is a popular Latin holiday. In secular society, Halloween is synonymous with horror movies, ghosts, and the “shadow side” of being human.
The term “shadow” was first used by the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to describe the part of us that we want to keep buried. Each of us has a shadow side that we don’t like and deem unattractive and negative, so we don’t want to see it. If we are aware of it, we still find ways to keep our shadow underground.
Everyone has it and we often do battle against what we don’t like. It’s like we are in a boxing match with ourselves, trying to keep things hidden and out of sight. Webster’s Dictionary of shadowboxing perfectly describes this struggle that goes on inside of us:
Small private fighting, in the near-dark, punching at nothing particular.
When it comes to parts of yourself that you don’t like—whether it is jealousy, a temper, pride, anger, feelings of inadequacy, or addictive/dysfunctional behaviors—and you try to get rid of them, you will make that part of you stronger by pushing it down into your unconscious. It then becomes your unconscious shadow and operates beyond your conscious control.
If you label a part of yourself as “bad,” you are at risk of feeling worse about it, which can result in judging yourself, which then feeds your inner-Persecutor. Stronger and more negative emotions grow as a result of the energy it takes to keep the disowned part of you hidden.
You can become a helpless Victim to your own disowned parts and fearful that if you let that part of yourself out in the open, anarchy will prevail. Being unaware of your shadowboxing struggle, you can become even more blind to the trait you are suppressing.
Here are a couple of examples of how your shadow can go underground. If I, Donna, focus on how much I don’t like being judged by others, I may fail to acknowledge how I judge other people. If I, David, get frustrated when someone interrupts me, I may deny that behavior in myself.
Uncovering the character that is hiding in the shadow requires respect and appreciation for it. The more self-compassion and acceptance you have for all parts of yourself, the more compassion you will have for others who also struggle with their darker edges.
Sometimes the shadow can erupt spontaneously and surprise you. “Is this really me?” you might ask when something arises totally out of the blue. Respect it and have self-compassion for the part of yourself that wants to be seen.
This is where the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) is so helpful. If you accept all of yourself, even when your shadow emerges, the Creator in you will support you to be your best self. Rather than pushing a part of you away, your Creator will courageously embrace all of you.
One thing is certain, “having it out” with your shadow side will only make it stronger. What you resist, persists.
We’ve learned the hard way that forcing ourselves to only cultivate the TED* roles, without doing our shadow work, may delay the real work of acknowledging and owning our Creator essence, which is in all of us.
This Halloween don’t be spooked by your shadow. It is a part of who you are—as a Creator.