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Learning to Embrace the Shadow Self

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

Do you feel like you have to work too hard trying to be good all the time? Do you feel like your actions have to be above reproach for fear of being judged? Do you constantly question if you are doing the 'right' things?

If you constantly feel like you are struggling towards an unattainable goodness, you may be experiencing a projection of cutting off your shadow self.

According to Harley Therapy,

The term ‘the shadow’ was made popular by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. He saw it as the uncivilised, even primitive side of our nature. We all have a shadow self. It is generally made up of the parts of ourselves we deem unacceptable. For many people this means things like our sadness, rage, laziness, and cruelty. But you might also see as uncivilised and unacceptable things like your personal power, your independence, or your emotional sensitivity.

We all have both goodness and bad within ourselves. When we judge a part of ourselves as bad, we are cutting ourselves off from any possible positives that could be experienced from these qualities.

Often things such as anger or laziness are things we would call bad, however they aren't bad all the time. Anger can make us stand up for ourselves. Laziness can help us learn the value of rest. So, even qualities that we deem as 'bad' do have their place.

When we cut ourselves off from our shadow self, we are cutting off important parts of ourselves, and important lessons that we should be learning in life.

I was reminded of this in myself this morning when I had a chance comment made on a poem that I had written, about how it can be hard learning to write from your shadow self again after you haven't in a while.

I used to write some dark shit back in the day. I used to be edgier than I have been these last few years, I used to be different.

This morning I realized I have been holding myself back from shadow qualities out of fear of being judged. This came from a time when I was newly divorced and my ex was threatening to take my daughter away.

At the time, I felt like my actions had to be above reproach so that he wouldn't have any ammunition to use in court against me. So I closed myself off. I became as good and as boring as possible, so no one could possibly say anything bad about me.

They probably couldn't say anything really interesting about me either. I really did become a boring person. And, even though the situation that was the cause of my fears had gone away, the fear still remained.

Fear of my shadow self.

The thing is, my shadow self is part of what made me 'fun' too. It was the girl who would jump up on the bar to dance. The girl who would twirl around without a care, or steal a kiss from a stranger.

The things that were carefree and natural to me once became a part of my shadow. A part of me that I had to run away from.

Have you ever felt like this?

Are there qualities in yourself that you try to suppress?

If so, try asking yourself why you want to suppress them. Is it out of anger, out of fear of being judged, or the way you see yourself because of these qualities?

Whatever the case, perhaps it is time to try embracing the good that these qualities gives you instead of trying to suppress them as being bad. Our anger, our fear, our chaos nature aren't things that we should try to fight against.

They are the things that allow us to be edgier. They let us experience life more deeply. Sometimes there is pain in the shadow, sure. But there can be pain in the light too. We need to find ways to integrate both of the two into our being.

According to Better Up,

Shadow work is, at heart, about developing self-awareness and ultimately, self-acceptance and compassion. Shadow work is often both therapy and more spiritual, helping you see the different parts of yourself. For people who have been especially good at avoiding their shadow — for instance, because it is too far different from your own self-perception or desired impression — shadow work is about acknowledging the existence of shadows and getting curious about exploring them.

When you learn to embrace your shadow and integrate it into yourself, you can become a more whole and balanced person. You can learn to accept, and even love, the things that you see as being your character flaws.

As you work with your shadow-self more, you may wish to consult a therapist in this process, especially if you have been through trauma. Some of the things that you have been repressing can come out in the form of triggers, and these can be difficult to work through.

If you want to do shadow work on your own, you can use meditation or journaling to work through these issues. The things that bother you in other people can be things that you need to work with in yourself. For example if jealousy bothers you, then you may be repressing your own jealousy.

You can start off with these, or make your own. Just remember, your shadow lies hidden in the things about yourself that you try to hide or cut off. They can be things that you dislike about yourself, or habits that you have stopped over the years.

Personally, I tapped into awareness of my shadow again through writing poetry. A creative outlet like this can be a good way to explore your shadow self as well.

Let me know what you think in the comments! Do you think shadow work is something that you want to try?

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