The shadow is a term from Jungian Psychology that represents a part of the ego that is repressed, unknown, or undesired. It can include both positive and negative aspects, like greed, rage, desire for power, or the desire to create. Any desire that is repressed because of social or personal dislike for that thing, gets added to the shadow. Jung said that everyone has some shadow and the less you see it in the persona they present to the world, the larger that shadow is.
For example, you might live in a society that values practical hard work and doesn’t see any good in creativity and play. You might repress this creative side of yourself and it would add itself to your shadow. Additionally you might also repress the side of you that wants to dominate and control things because society teaches you those desires are bad. Instead you focus on being nice to everyone and being cooperative. Thus the desires get added to your shadow.
Think of the shadow as the needs and desires you have that are hidden away and not fulfilled.
What Is Shadow Integration?
Everyone builds this shadow side, fueled by of all the things we don’t like about ourselves. The trouble is, we are wired to have those needs and desires. If we don’t voluntarily choose to fulfill those desires in a rational and controlled way, they leak out and cause us issues. This could be a random yelling fit or uncontrollable weeping. It could be harsh words or manipulative behavior. If you’ve ever acted on a strong emotional drive and later regretted it, this was probably your shadow trying to get its needs met.
The solution to this problem is to integrate your shadow. Shadow integration is when a person recognizes that they have values, desires, and needs built into them. They choose to accept those needs and ‘feed’ them in a controlled and targeted way. By allowing those needs to be met, the person gains control of their shadow side and builds up immense power.
This immense power is a result of a person being fully balanced. They are in control of themselves and know what they do and don’t want.
How Do You Integrate Your Shadow?
First you must recognize the things you are repressing. Then you must integrate those things naturally into your life.
First Do This…
You can recognize what makes up your shadow, or what needs you have that you are repressing, by looking for projection. Projection in psychology is when you see a quality in others that you repress in yourself. Think of the person who irritates you and why. Maybe they are a jerk to other people. You might be repressing the assertive and dominating part of yourself. Maybe you find a person who displays emotions to be weak and attention seeking. Perhaps you are repressing your need to express your emotions to others.
You see these characteristics in others because your mind has a problem with cognitive dissonance. Part of your brain knows you aren’t living up to those desires. Another part is denying that it has those desires. The remaining part is wanting to develop those desires. So instead of holding all of those contradictory ideas in your head at once, you expel them out onto the world and onto other people.
Another tool for recognizing what you repress is when you hero worship. Hero worship is when you idolize a person’s words, actions, and image. Ask yourself what you idolize about the person. That is probably something you are repressing in yourself. For example if you idolize a celebrity who always plays action roles, maybe you are repressing something about your physical side. Maybe you want to be more socially dominant.
Try challenging the good part of your image to find your shadow. This means if you think of yourself as an organized and disciplined individual, you are repressing the side of yourself that wants to relax and play. Accept your need for both sides of your personality.
Another trick for discovering parts of yourself that you have repressed is to remove all the coping mechanisms in your life. This can be drugs, media, and more. Remove those things that you use to distract yourself from your feelings. Do this for a few days. Coping mechansims often cover up the information our body is trying to give us about our shadow.
Finally pay close attention to negative emotions that recur under any situation. Recurrent emotions are trying to point out something to you. Don’t repress these. Pay close attention to what you fear, are frightened of, or what disgusts you.
Try journaling about the negative emotions you have when you interact with others. What makes them come out? What have you tried to do to stop them? Are they logically justified? Describe this person that dregs up certain emotions and how they act. Why do you feel that emotion and not another one?
Next Step Is…
The second step is to go about integrating those things into your life. The first thing you need to do is fix your mindset. Particularly you need to believe that you can develop, change, and improve. If you don’t believe this you won’t get anywhere.
Once you begin to believe you can improve, start using exposure therapy. Start with a small and simple way of improving in an area, and do that a few times. Then increase it the next time. Continue until you reach a point you are proud of.
For example, pretend you jealous of someone who is impressive socially. So you decide to stop repressing this side of yourself and you decide to work on the skill. Start by saying high to random people. Then increase the difficulty by asking random people directions or other questions. Then try to make a slightly longer conversation. They key is to slowly increase the challenge each time. If you fail, make the task easier. If you succeed, make it larger.
Many people seem to have their physical aggressive side repressed. This makes sense given our modern world is spent on the phone, tv, and computer. Consider taking up martial arts if you are repressing aggression.