In order to lead a rich, full life, you want to bring the fullness of all that you are into the light and out into the world. Our shadow selves are not just those traits that we define as “bad”, they are also aspects of our personality that have simply receded into the darkness for a lack of awareness and understanding.
Shadows are the parts of us that we keep hidden because we had been given the message early on that they are dangerous, shameful, or unrealistic. The roots of our shadow begins early in childhood; traits and feelings such as anger, boldness, flamboyance, and sexuality were seen as “bad” or dangerous and therefore repressed.
Our hidden sides are not readily seen by others or even ourselves, but they have a subconscious power over us nonetheless. They sabotage our relationships, or we miss out on success because we are not bringing our full selves to the table. We may also suspect that there is much more to who we are, but we don’t yet know how to be fully ourselves.
When we shine the light of conscious awareness on these aspects of ourselves, the darkness not only loses its power over us, we free up vital energy and wonderful gifts that we may not even know we have. Move through this exercise with an attitude of curious compassion rather than shame or judgment. Take pen to paper and ask yourself these questions:
- What specific qualities do you find reprehensible in others? Could you be projecting some of your own hidden traits onto them? Ex: “I can’t stand people who talk a lot. But when I dig deeper into my experience, I realize that my own voice was squashed as a child and I desperately want to get my ideas, thoughts, and feelings out.”
- What secret places, objects, or experiences are you inexplicably drawn to? What hidden gifts could you be harboring in the recesses of your scared and scarred psyche that desperately want to be given the oxygen to breathe in the light of day?
- What messages did you get from well-meaning caregivers, teachers, and peers about what was and wasn’t “appropriate” in polite society? What talents and personality traits did you repress as a result?
- What darker archetypes lie hidden within you? Could it be “the bitch” who has to fight for her power, “the golden prince” who feels entitled, or “the saboteur” who claims to be helping you, but undermines you instead?
These dark sides once protected us, but now can sabotage our lives by way of poor choices and passive aggressive actions. By understanding and acknowledging them we free up the energy and tools needed to make conscious positive choices. The choice to not let them run our lives anymore; the choice for healthier, more life affirming actions and ways of being.
This shadow work creates understanding and acceptance of our full selves rather than judgment and shame. Hidden gifts and ways of being are given the loving attention they have always deserved: a sense of playfulness, a voice, the ability to love freely, compassion, and creativity, the list is endless. You are only limited by your fear; and we fear what remains in the dark. What hidden treasures can you bring to light?