The Shadow

by Diana Delvadavala

“WHAT WE CAN’T BE WITH, WONT LET US BE”

The shadow is indeed a reflection, but not in the way we understand it to be. In psychology, the shadow is a culmination of our dark side, things which we in fact, barely acknowledge about ourselves, even to ourselves. 

It is that intrinsic side we all try to hide because we are told since childhood, that these parts are not ok and make us unacceptable, should we dare show it. 

How does the shadow show up in our lives? Addictions, reckless behaviors, self-harm -  to name a few.

The shadow is made up of all those thoughts emotions & impulses we find too embarrassing or distasteful to accept. So instead of accepting them, we suppress them.

Its birth occurs when we are very young, long before the logical mind can filter the messages we receive from our parents. Even with the best parents, we got messages that something about us was not ok; that something was wrong with us. These messages get ingrained in our subconscious much like a virus, wounding our healthy sense of ego. When we suppress any of these qualities, we are living in denial of all of who we are.

So we try hard to pretend we are not that which we hate, infact proving this is an all important task for the wounded ego, one it believes is vital to its existence. The ego must hide all we believe is unacceptable about ourselves and so it creates a mask to prove that we are not as inferior, defected, or worthless as we may fear we are.

Thus, we create a persona at a very young age, begin to wrap ourselves up in a pretty package, one we believe will bring us the attention, love and acceptance we so long for. We wear masks that we believe will take us where we want to go; and boy do these masks take many forms - overachieving, addictions, bullying, aggression, the good girl/boy, the jokester.

 

Which mask do you wear?

Beneath these lie parts of us, screaming to be seen, to be acknowledged and when we deny ourselves a healthy way of expressing our dark side, it builds up and becomes a powerful force capable of destruction and sabotage.

A fine example of it popping up is road rage! The more we try to lock up these societally determined undesirable parts, the more mischievous ways it will find to show face.

We are all made up of ambiguity, of contradiction – good and bad - all experiences result from contrast.

Hence, having a shadow is normal and each one of us has one, made up of different parts of ourselves that were once shamed by others that we now KEEP buried in shame.

We possess within ourselves, every quality we see in another. Every characteristic we can conceive of; we possess – conscious or subconscious. We are all that we consider good and bad.

Rather than accept our own dark side, we project its qualities onto others and those we project on, own pieces of our unclaimed darkness and our unclaimed light. Until we take back all that we have projected outwards, what we can’t be with, wont let US be!

But how do you know if you are projecting? If what we are seeing, triggers us or has us judging and pointing fingers, chances are we are victims of our own projections. The people we don’t like more often than not, reflect aspects of ourselves we are unwilling to accept. What we condemn in another is only a rejected part of ourselves.

The shadow does have benefits though – it taught us early on, how to survive, to be acceptable, to decipher ways to co-exist in our worlds. Even as adults it has great serving potential but only if it is acknowledged and seen. Integration of our shadow is a vital part of healing and becoming whole. Because to be authentic, we cannot be consistently wearing masks else we will miss being seen for who we truly are.

 

Diana is a hypnotherapist and life coach where she focuses on overall emotional well-being and not just mental health. She has done her Masters in Psychology and has a PhD in Metaphysics.