When you face the demons
in the deep dark forest
Many of us find our shadow self, the darker side of our psyche confronting. Many of us try to squash it and hide it from the world. I know I have been tormented by the rise of my shadow and felt so tainted by it that I stayed at home away from friends, loved ones, and from society for fear of spreading my toxicity. Those times when my shadow was strong and all-consuming were debilitating. I felt like an oddity, a freak. I felt obscene, unloveable, unworthy and broken.
Now, after much inner work, my shadow plays a cameo role in my life, making guest appearances to remind me I have two sides, to remind me of the need for balance. You see, we cannot have the light without the dark (oh dear, how clichéd is that?). We cannot enjoy our true potential without contrasts.
Too many people think they must put on a brave face, wear the mask of happiness and show only their ‘good’ side. Too often people feel shame that their shadow self manifests and is prominent. Too often people fail to see the benefit of the shadow self.
As individuals and as a society we must begin to understand that light and dark are but two parts of a whole. Just as “a coin comes with two sides, so does life in the temporal world.” (Erbe). Just as we accept the two sides of a coin, so too must we accept the two sides of our personality.
Our shadow self is not an oddity of which to be ashamed. Tremendous knowledge and creativity are held in our shadow and can only be released by accepting it as part of who we are. Holding it back, choking it will be our undoing. Jesus, in the Gospel of Thomas, teaches:
“If you bring forth what is within you,
What you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
What you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Jung, too endorses the acknowledgement of the shadow; simply stating that “one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the dark conscious.”
We cannot stand in front of a Rembrandt and admire his use of light without also acknowledging the role the darkness plays in his work. Nor can our true potential shine without the negative elements of ourselves.
Do not despair of your shadow self, do not lock it up, discard it , ignore it; it serves you in ways you may not yet have discovered. Instead celebrate the expansiveness of your being. Celebrate the depths of your essence. Celebrate the whole of you.
No matter how fast you run, your shadow
keeps up. Sometimes it’s in front!
Only full overhead sun diminishes your shadow.
But that shadow has been serving you.
What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is
your candle. Your boundaries are your quest.