Friday, July 31, 2009, 09:33 PM - Psychology
The shadow represents repressed instinctual energies that are locked away in the realm of the unconscious. They do not die or cease to function, but they are no longer part of conscious awareness, no longer directly expressed through our conscious activity. Consequently, they are enacted unconsciously, sometimes with great force. We may think we never get angry but enact a passive stubbornness that infuriates others. We may deny our own neediness, but subtly manipulate ourselves into the center of attention.
Keeping the shadow in chains requires a great deal of energy and robs the whole of its grace and power. Furthermore, it doesn't work. The shadow chases us in our dreams. It sabotages our work and relationships. It energizes compulsive activities. When the shadow is repressed we are cut off from our wholeness and from our ground. As the instinctual energies are a large part of the child psyche, we are also removed from the innocence and spontaneity of the inner child.
When the shadow remains unacknowledged, it is projected onto others. Like a hidden shape over which we shine our inflated light, the shadow is seen parading shamelessly in the behavior of those around us, while we remain righteously virtuous. Maria, who repressed her sexuality, saw every man as trying to get sexual favors from her. Sandy's foster mother, a benevolent leader in her church community, was punishing and controlling at home, constantly accusing Sandy of immoral activity.
When we become polarized, we are like a magnet, drawing toward us the opposite pole. We invariable attract those who embody our rejected shadow--as mates, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, or children, who insinuate themselves into our lives through relationships we cannot easily escape. If we have rejected our personal power, our boss will be a tyrant. If we are an ever-giving codependent, we will marry someone cold and withholding. If we are quiet and considerate, our neighbor or roommate will be noisy and inconsiderate.
Shadow qualities are met with intense criticism and judgment as they are projected onto others. The presence of this judgment is our clue to the shadow as a rejected self
. If sexuality is a rejected self, then overt sexuality in others will produce a highly charged negative reaction (much like what we see in some religious sects fixated on the sexual behavior of others). If anger is a rejected self, we will fear and criticize it in others. If we suppress our emotions, we will have little tolerance for those who are needy, crying, or strongly expressive. It makes us very uncomfortable to be around someone expressing our shadow energies. Our judgment is an attempt to negate the source of our discomfort.
Psychologist Hal Stone suggests that this judgement arises out of the resonance between the rejected self and the behavior of the other. It is hard for the unemotional, rational type to be around someone who is emotional because it awakens his rejected emotions. Since this aspect of his personality is not allowed expression, the stimulus must be removed at all costs. If it's not removed, his rejected self will awaken to the point where he can no longer keep it in check--a point that seems dangerous to the ego's concept of the self. Through judgment, we attempt to remove stimuli that might awaken our shadow.
Reclaiming the shadow dissolves judgment, and brings greater acceptance of self and others and restores an essential wholeness.
Reclaiming the shadow does not mean that we become thieves, killers, rapists, or rageaholics. Such aspects are more likely to emerge when the shadow is repressed and its energy builds to the point of taking over the conscious self. The greater the repression, the louder our shadow has to yell to be heard and the greater its chance to become demonic.
Without expression, elements of our personality do not get to evolve. Our childish tempers don't get to become sophisticated communication. Our neediness doesn't get met with love and intimacy; our sexual urges become compulsive fantasies. Our shadow elements, like rejected children, resort to more and more extreme behavior to get attention.
Reclaiming the shadow means that we reclaim the instinctual energies of our needs and desires so that they can be channeled in appropriate ways. It does not mean we surrender consciousness to the shadow, but that we instead bring the shadow into consciousness.
--Anodea Judith, Eastern Body, Western Mind