There are two selves we often read about in literature describing the nature of self. First there is the psychological or egoic self, signified by a small s, as in “self.” The other is the Authentic Self or Higher Self, represented by a big S, as in “Self.” It is the light of awareness that arises from the Authentic Self. And it is the darkness of the shadow that is cast by the ego.
M.L. von Franz describes the “Self” as the “inner-most nucleus of the psyche.” The “shadow” is a term used in psychology to describe deep, hidden beliefs that we are unaware of. But much like the shadows created by the light of the sun point us to something greater, the shadows of the psyche point us to our Higher Self, our Authentic Self.
Our Shadows are Buried Deep
Psychology uses the term “deep unconscious” in order to explain the hidden belief system that produces these shadows. According to Aniela Jaffé, “The unconscious is pure nature, and like nature, pours out its gifts in profusion. But left to itself and without the human response from consciousness, it can (again like nature) destroy its own gifts and sooner or later sweep them into annihilation.” This is why the human shadow is often referred to as the “dark side.” It is also why it is important to bring the shadow to the light of awareness; so that we are aware of it and therefore, able to act independent of it.
I typically prefer to use the term “non-conscious” rather than “unconscious” because the latter connotes the body is not in the waking state. In contrast, non-conscious implies awake but unaware. However, when used in psychology, it is meant to describe something buried deep in one’s mind, so without conscious awareness the individual is completely “unconscious” to it, as if he were in a coma, unconscious to the world around him.
Powerful Life Events can Expose the Shadow
Once something happens in life that is profound enough to disturb us enough to see this shadow of Self, we ache to experience a lighter reality. And so we may place ourselves in the most absurd situation, simply to expose the darkness upon us. And it seems pertinent to remember that everything in our conscious reality is of, at least in part, the makings of our unconscious patterns of belief.
Jaffé suggests the unconscious psyche has a dual manifestation, one as a positive expression referred to as the “spirit of nature,” and the other referred to as a “spirit of evil,” or a drive to destroy. The parallel to this in the quantum world is the technological advances discovered in the inner workings of the atom, along with its shadow of the destructive nature of a nuclear explosion. The author writes, “But, however improbable it may seem, the devil has a dual aspect. In the positive sense, he appears as Lucifer – literally, the light-bringer.” This idea goes in line with the Hindu philosophical idea of the “Destroyer,” which stands for “Dissolution-/Restoration.” In other words, the so called “shadow” of our psyche is available to point us toward the light, for without the shadow the light would fail to make an impression on us. The dropping of the atom bomb was a terrible thing, but it also exposed the insane nature of nuclear war.
The Shadow and Relationships
It is through unconscious ties that bring people together who are meant to be together, as the shadow in us is attracted to a corresponding shadow in another. For example, when we first meet a person of the opposite gender and are attracted to him or her, we might begin dating. At first everything goes very smoothly, as we are careful not to expose our shadows. However, as we get closer, and we share deeper feelings and more meaningful personal experiences, we expose certain shadows, which may “trigger” the shadow in our partner. This often leads to an argument and we wonder what happened to our “perfect” relationship. What we fail to recognize is the shadow was there all along, waiting to be triggered by another. The energetic attraction to the other was in relation to the shadows all along.
The shadow can appear in the most unexpected ways. When we are in a relationship with another, for example, we typically want to do things to demonstrate our love. But if another individual suggests you are “manipulating” him, it implies you are trying to get something from him. However, you might be giving what you can without looking for anything in return. For example, If one is giving a gift “out of obligation,” then it would imply she was looking to receive something in return. Indeed, most people have given , at times, from the place of obligation. Giving to another out of obligation is from a shadow, the unconscious belief that we are required to return a favor. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing. However, it feels much better to give from a place of love than from fear of reprisal.
Coming From the Place of Love
A simple alternative explanation would be that one is performing a simple act of reciprocity, which is the psychological term used to describe the energetic pull we feel to return a favor. Certainly this would be the case if one is not looking to the future when giving the gift. In other words, one would not be acting today in hopes of securing a particular future. Coming from this place would require one to wait to return the favor until feeling inspired to do so.
Following this type of path can leave one feeling as though he is “spinning his wheels,” so to speak. But by dropping the story and following the inspiration, he can give from the place of love, coming from the natural desire to reciprocate. In other words, he would be giving because he wanted to, not because he felt obligated to do so. If after dropping the story he finds no inspiration, he can simply wait. Although it may feel like treading water at first, if he is steadfast, eventually the inspiration will arise. It is much like a surfer waiting for a wave. Just wait for the next wave. It will come. The important thing is not to give out of hopes of changing another individual, for that is a powerful form of manipulation.
“If you want to change another without being changed, look for someone else, otherwise, you are creating your own nightmare. If you accept a job and refuse to train for it, then you have a problem. Fear is all around due to these things.” – Don Miguel Ruiz
Fortunately, there is a way to rid ourselves of the effects of the shadow. I will provide a brief example here as to how. Once, while I was playing guitar, I was signing a song that reminded me of a former girlfriend, and remembered seeing her smiling face the previous day, either in a daydream or night dream (the shadow being unrealized relationship expectations). I began feeling energy rise in what seemed to be coming from the solar plexus chakra (or gut area), and I felt it move into the lower back. I felt love for it and accepted it, instructing it to keep coming and go where it wanted. I felt it move up my body and into my head. I simply kept allowing it and sending it love. When it was over, I simply went back to playing guitar. However, I felt lighter and more at ease. Moreover, the next time I thought of my former girlfriend, there was no emotional reaction that followed, indicating I had fully processed it. The shadow was brought to the light. And it was gone forever.
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