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Home / Articles / Columnists / Healthy Living /  Facing Our Shadow
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Wednesday, March 3,2021

Facing Our Shadow

By Karen Ellis-Ritter  
What personality traits do you find irritating… or even infuriating in other people? As hard as it may be to accept this, if you didn’t personally possess these traits somewhere deep down within your unconscious being, you would not be triggered by them.

We identify all the things that are “wrong” with others, society, and the world.

We operate within a personal code that makes us feel like “good” people. It is easy to point out negative traits in others. It is easy to project, deflect blame, and create those boogeymen outside of ourselves. This is how we escape the undesirable, yet inextricable shadow aspects of who we are.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung originally introduced the concept of the “Shadow,” which represents those qualities that we could never accept within ourselves. We disassociated, repressed and buried them deep within us – as a protective measure.

Unfortunately, the more repressed we become, the more our shadow acts out in fits of rebellion. The shadow creates opportunities for us to self-sabotage and self-loathe. Sometimes these measures, if unchecked, lead to violent behavior, mental or physical abuse – or substance abuse, as a means of escape. Longterm neglect is a breeding ground for distrust, pessimism and misanthropy.

Whether it manifests in the form of attacking, judging, or blaming those outside ourselves, we must take ownership over our shadow to lose that negative charge. In doing so, our shadow can come into light and symbiosis with our conscious self.

Many of these disowned aspects of ourselves have simply been thrown out of alignment. For example, acute shyness brought back into order can become humility. Selfishness dialed down can be honoring and protecting your self-interests, but not at the cost of others. Anger can be softened into passion and the strength to fight for justice. Still, all of our emotions (at whatever intensity) are natural, and they belong to us.

The more we tend to and integrate those pieces of our puzzle, the sooner they will adjust to the whole naturally and without force.

Many years ago, I read a book called “Dark Side of the Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford. This was my first introduction to Shadow work. I instantly took to it and discovered a real opportunity to explore those aspects of myself that I had shut out and repressed, out of a primal fear of judgement. I had struggled all my life with a constant desire for approval. Embracing the totality of my being was my great liberator. It also helped me to understand and navigate my feelings towards others on a much deeper level.

I became more patient and adopted more of an “overhead” perspective. I became less concerned with proving that I am “right” and more concerned with connecting to people and understanding them.

There is always another layer of understanding, investigation, and deconstruction. We must start with ourselves, if we ever want to experience a sense of peace and acceptance in the outside world.

 

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