Written by: Lana Popovic, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
In the mainstream portrayal of Jungian Shadow, there is much emphasis on the negative aspect of our “dark passenger” – that hidden facet of our psyche accompanying each and every one of us on our life’s journey. The less common knowledge is that in this very same domain of the Shadow sleeps our inner Genius, with its untapped potential. We all possess the capacity for greatness, but unless claimed, it remains buried and undiscovered like a hidden treasure. And while it takes monumental effort to extract it, the reward of getting there is so great, that it is worth all the time and struggles it demands.
So how do we begin the journey of reclaiming our veiled Genius?
First of all, let us introduce the two competing dignitaries of our being: Ego and Shadow. Ego is our idealized Self we show to the world, what we wish others to see when they look at us. Ego wears a nicely ironed suit that conforms to conventional norms. Ego is washed, groomed, polished and ready for presentation. Anything that crosses its lips has previously been subjected to internal inspection, it has been adjusted, cleared and approved for mainstream consumption.
If we were a big floating iceberg in the North Pole, Ego would be the visible bit. Shadow would be the heavy, massive foundation hidden below the ocean’s surface, in the depths of the waters of the unconscious. It is concealed from view, yet it makes up the vast majority of the iceberg. At the first sight, someone sitting on the shore can only behold our shiny top floating with pride, standing tall and gloriously reflecting the sunlight.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
However, what we see isn’t what we get when it comes to human beings. Each one of us, no matter how seemingly appropriate, or noble, has a flourishing inner life that’s filled with “colorful” thoughts and tendencies that contradict that outward personality. We in fact are a walking paradox, at once embodying wholesome qualities and dark and inappropriate sentiments. For the most part, the latter is unconscious, and a little bit of Sherlock-Holmes-type deductive work will quickly reveal that there is more than meets even our own eye. We weave one kind of reality with our speech, but our actions and reactions often contradict the mouth, divulging entirely another kind of current, non-rational in nature, that propels us forward. Some part of our psyche is well aware of all this, therefore it placed the Ego in charge of covering up that which Shadow is thinking and desiring. As Ego is doing such a great job, we are completely oblivious to this complex machinery and its operations in the factory of our minds. And while there is an epic battle between “good and evil” taking place in the depths of our being, we go on with our daily lives, going to work, doing laundry, chopping vegetables and the like. It would all be swell if only we, and others around us, did not end up as unsuspecting casualties of our inner conflict, which manifests in the outer world as explosive arguments, rivalry, self-sabotage, angst, depression, disconnect from reality and sometimes outright destruction.
Shadow: the cornered animal or traumatized child
The Shadow work begins with cultivating radical honesty and total acceptance of all facets of our personality; and equally extending the same courtesy to others through a little bit of understanding and tolerance. This does not mean we ought to become someone’s doormat, nor go on a rampage of destruction to give in to our darker self. But what it means is to acknowledge the existence of our Shadow, and be willing to see parts of ourselves that we dislike, such as our own greed, jealousy, self-righteousness, etc. It is quite possible to see such things with a sense of curiosity and wonder, rather than self-loathing. Witnessing these, we can derive some wisdom about our innermost needs that have not been met, perhaps ever, even since our childhood. If we approach our dark passengers in this way, then healing can begin.
Shadow has a quality of an immature and hurt, even traumatized, child. If we ignore it, pretend it’s not there, or belittle ourselves ashamed and disgusted by the ugliness we perceive, Ego will kick in, driven by its self-protective program, sweeping all of it away from our conscious awareness into the unconscious. From there, however, the Shadow will continue to exert its influence on our life, though in a more intensified and hidden manner. As a result, a person will end up projecting all of their own darkness onto the external world, remaining trapped in ignorance and confusion regarding their inner split, unaware that this is the very origin of all of their seemingly external problems.
How do we do it?
To begin managing our Shadow side, all we need is to create a safe space for ourselves, and provide an access to a healthy outlet. Finding some balance can take place by channeling our unmet needs, frustrations and the like in symbolic ways, such as through active imagination, symbolic ceremonies and rituals, role-playing, even some cathartic screaming, as has been done in Dr. Janov’s Primal Scream group therapy sessions. Such opportunities wherein Shadow can express itself in a safe and controlled manner can help us avoid implosions, resulting in things like binge behaviors and vile outbursts directed at others – which inevitably result in a sense of shame and regret after the fact.
That supreme manual of Eastern wisdom, Tao Te Ching, says: “Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.” This is highly applicable to our psyche – for as long as we are suppressing the shadowy part of our being, it will spill out when we least expect it. By only ever acknowledging and cultivating our Light aspect, we automatically neglect its counterpart. Our shadow child is hungry for love, acceptance and attention, and if we don’t offer them willingly, it will draw them out on its own terms.
What happens once we finally embrace our darkness? The benefits are manyfold. First and foremost, the inner conflict will be significantly reduced and with this its accompanying angst and depression will cease. As a result, a great deal of energy will become liberated and available for us to redirect toward a greater aim. Letting go of judgment toward ourselves will automatically reflect on our attitude toward others, healing our relationships. External conflict always begins with that strife in our mind, between our conscious aspirations and our innermost secret desires, hence healing our inner world will by default harmoniously adjust our perception of the outer world.
There is a quote by Joseph Campbell: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”. This is a perfect metaphor for the fact that our Shadow contains profound levels of our untapped greatness, which becomes released and available to us only upon doing this inner work. Thus Shadow integration will lead us toward our unclaimed potential, creativity, skills, new passions and talents.
Learning that there is a dark passenger inside of us, whose drives and ambitions may contradict that of our Ego self, whose influence is slowing us down or preventing us from moving forward, can be an intimidating discovery. However, we need not be burdened by our Shadow. “The darker the night, the brighter the stars” says Dostoyevsky, consistently so with Jung’s sentiment: “The brighter the Light, the darker the Shadow.” Our Shadow should instead be seen as an opportunity to penetrate greater depths of our being and attain larger heights of our personality; and to finally befriend all aspects of our inner nature, leading them to work in unison. This kind of effort is what will make us whole and sufficient unto ourselves, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We have our work cut out for us. All we need is a little bit of courage and some guidance to embark on this purposeful journey.
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Lana Popovic, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Lana is a passionate advocate for human evolution, and an avid lover of the ancient alchemical teachings. She promotes psycho-spiritual methods integrating scientific and spiritual technologies with both Eastern and Western wisdom traditions, for the purpose of helping people reach their potential.
In 2006 Lana undertook the long process of formal initiation into both the Tibetan Buddhist and Western Hermetic traditions, transforming her lifelong interest into a serious, full-time study and practice.
Formerly an interior and industrial designer, she left that path in 2014 to dedicate herself fully to a career in coaching.
Along the way she earned certifications in several therapeutic modalities and programs, some of which combine research in neuro-science with Eastern mindfulness-based methods.
Lana creates content, courses and coaching programs implementing her psycho-spiritual training, along with proven transformational techniques in the realm of shadow working and holistic self-improvement.