The late great psychologist Carl Jung defined the shadow as the aspects of self (identity/personality) that we are unconscious of, whereas the ego was defined as our conscious self / individuality. He thought it was the responsibility of therapy, and inner psychological work in general, to make the contents of our unconscious self known to our conscious self, therefore integrating the shadow side into our ego. A well integrated shadow side frees the ego from egocentrism (me vs you thinking) and sociocentrism (us vs them thinking), as we fully understand that the best ideals are found within us, and that the worst evils and horrors are also found within us. One who has become adept at shadow integration is more able to individuate (differentiate from the group mind to achieve true individuality) from out of the collective unconscious and therefore achieve Selfhood.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. ~”The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335
Shadow Work is really about being reflective and developing your “observer self”, which is basically the ability to be in the experience and observing yourself go through the experience at the same time. Then your observer self reflects on the experience, and doesn’t go into blame of others, but ownership of your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to figure out the “why”, and does so to deconstruct any irrational aspects of your identity/personality programmed in through childhood experiences, traumatic or otherwise, and rebuilds your identity/personality in a healthier, more rational manner.
The observer self is where it all begins though, that’s the key to shadow work and all self work that comes after mastering it. Depending on the degree in which you reflect, it can be considered intellectual, emotional, and/or psychological hygiene to do such on a regular basis. Many people lack this skill and therefore are mostly just experiencing life without reflectivity, and take a lot of things personally as a result, because their identity is too wrapped up in what they feel and what they are emotionally attached to. Shadow work is the key to reshaping your identity, especially moving it from outside of yourself where you lack the power to change external circumstances, to inside of yourself where you have the power to change how you create and respond to life.
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge. ~Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14
With shadow work, we have a powerful tool to reach the Greek ideal written in stone at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, “know thyself”.
Interested in more? Here’s thirteen quotes on the shadow by Carl Jung, and Carl Jung and the Shadow: Integrating the Hidden Power of Your Dark Side by the Academy of Ideas.
THE UNITY PROCESS: I’ve created an integrative methodology called the Unity Process, which combines the philosophy of Natural Law, the Trivium Method, Socratic Questioning, Jungian shadow work, and Meridian Tapping—into an easy to use system that allows people to process their emotional upsets, work through trauma, correct poor thinking, discover meaning, set healthy boundaries, refine their viewpoints, and to achieve a positive focus. You can give it a try by contacting me for a private session.
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