Understanding The Unseen Self
Much of what we perceive as reality, particularly what we learn through the educational system, bears little truth. Usually just enough truth for it to make sense based on the theories and narratives given to us pertaining to modern science and world history. If you’ve kept up with posts, it shouldn’t be anything new that the educational system isn’t meant for us to become freethinking individuals, but rather to condition us to obey and respect authority and get used to routine.
Information about our reality has been hidden from the masses until recent decades. Some basic truths have been misused and subverted by greed for power in an egocentric exploitation. History, art, science, energy, and particularly psychology, have suffered this dark process. But like water, the truth is always flowing somewhere and is available to any intelligent person who has the courage to seek out the water alive in its current form. Water has often been used as a symbol for the deepest spiritual nourishment of humanity. We don’t want to seek where the main flow of water is, but the leaks within the cracks, usually found within the darkness that many fear to tread. Because of this fear, it will turn up again and be ignored as before if one isn’t prepared for it.
One such place, and arguably the most important, is our own self, our shadow self — the dumping ground for all the characteristics of our personality that we disown and keep hidden from public view. It is the part of us we fail to see or know. Yet, these parts of us are extremely valuable and cannot be disregarded. The only way to become whole is to recognize the shadow, accept and honor it.
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The shadow self
We are all born whole, but somewhere along the way, while running around naked through the Garden of Eden, we partake in eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, where things become clear and separated into the dual nature of the world. This begins the shadow making process; when we divide our lives—our selves. We sort out our born characteristics into those that are deemed acceptable from our parents and society, and those that need to be kept hidden. This keeps one civilized, as a functioning member of society, but as the refused and unacceptable characteristics sit within the dark corners of the mind for too long, they take on a life of their own, known as the Shadow.
The Shadow is that which has not adequately entered into our consciousness. If it accumulates more energy than our conscious ego, it manifests in an overpowering rage, or slips out in erratic, unusual behaviors, and can even lead one into severe depression. Once society or culture demands that we live out only part of our nature and refuse other parts, we are no longer whole. Society gives us more convoluted and sophisticated power, in exchange for the simple human in us—the innocent child within.
In the allegorical story of Creation, the Garden of Eden alludes to the naive innocence of childhood, where we felt free to run around naked without care. Kids should not be subjected to this division of self so soon, for it robs them of this wonderful time known as childhood. They should be allowed to remain in the garden until they are strong enough to stand the cultural process without being completely broken by it. This strength comes at different ages for all individuals. This is a major problem in the world today. With parents working, or separated, leaving kids in the hands of government-owned institutions or left to their own devices, they enter this process at too young of an age, leaving scars within the subconscious that reveal themselves later as psychological and emotional disorders, such as the prevalent gender-identity disorder plaguing our world today.
Other than this, another truly sad thing is when some very good characteristics turn up in the shadow. Some of our greatest talents, the pure gold of our personality, get relegated to the shadow because it can’t find a place within our society or western culture. Drawing the skeletons out of the closet can be fairly easy, but to own the gold in the shadow can be downright terrifying. Ignoring the gold can be as damaging as ignoring the dark side of the psyche, and some may suffer a severe shock or illness before they even learn how to let the gold out–which is linked to our higher purpose in life.
Everyone must engage in this cultural process to redeem themselves from the childlike, animal state–breaking away from the Garden–but must also put our fractured, alienated world back together again to spiritually restore balance and harmony–a return to Paradise.
“There is no generally effective technique for assimilating the shadow… it is always an individual matter. First, one has to accept and take seriously the existence of the shadow. Second, one has to become aware of its qualities and intentions. This happens through conscientious attention to moods, fantasies and impulses. Third, a long process of negotiation is unavoidable.” —Carl Jung
In other words, our Shadow is unique to each of us; thus, we must adopt our own unique approach when it comes to properly integrating it with our conscious self. It may seem counterproductive, but it is necessary to behave in ways that run in contrast to the customs of society and even our own moral compass. It makes sense when you think about it, since most of our shadow qualities were repressed into our subconscious because we believed or were taught that they were unacceptable, either socially or according to our family and peers.
Outlet for the shadow self
Despite it being an individual matter, there are common techniques that tend to work, such as finding a healthy, productive, or controlled outlet for either repressed aggression or sexual urges. Another is to ignore customs one had previously thought to be superficial or pointless yet had still conformed to in order to fit in. One I highly recommend, which can tie into the first example, is pursuing a passion despite others around you pressuring you otherwise.
These tactics will help to separate oneself from the expectations and watchful eyes of others, allowing us to truly look within, without judgement or condemnation, to discover who and what we really are as living beings. In doing this, we are negotiating with the shadow, by allowing it to live in our conscious personality without shame or fear, instead of repressing it. After this, one will not only attain a more secure sense of selfhood, but also more knowledge about oneself and what it is one really wants in life. The thoughts and opinions of others will have far less of an impact, if any, on what we do with our lives. Ignoring what others think we should be doing better prepares us to commence on a path to fulfill our own personal destiny.
In all honesty, the integration process is much easier said than done. By no means does it happen overnight. It’s a daily practice one must constantly be aware of, until it becomes natural, where you suddenly realize how content you are with yourself and life. The opinions of others will always come up, but their words enter your head and immediately leave without bringing up any sort of emotion, because it truly doesn’t matter what they think, as long as you are in harmony with your sense of self.
Even if anxiety has gotten the best of you as a result of a fear of being judged, keeping you stuck in a shell of isolation in social situations, terrified of speaking your mind, the truth of the matter is… nobody is sitting there, thinking, judging you. We are so much alike as humans and all share the same internal issues. Others are too busy thinking under the same fears to be thinking about you. And if they are judging you in a negative way, realize that they have not begun to integrate their own repressed shadow, and are suffering inside. Have empathy and show sympathy when appropriate.
I’d like to conclude this with a quote from Connie Zwerg, found in her book “Meeting the Shadow”:
“When there is an impasse, and sterile time in our lives—despite an adequate ego development—we must look to the dark, hitherto unacceptable side which has been at our conscious disposal… Only when we realize that part of ourselves which we have not hitherto seen or preferred not to see can we proceed to question and find the sources from which it feeds and the basis in which it rests. Hence, no progress or growth is possible until the shadow is adequately confronted and confronting means more than merely knowing about it. It is not until we have truly been shocked into seeing ourselves as we really are, instead of as we wish or hopefully assume we are, that we take the first step toward individual reality.”
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