The shadow can be defined in many different ways with one being, “an imperfect and faint representation.”

Exploring our shadow side is about coming face to face with the aspects of ourselves that we were taught to hide, reject and deny – and we do this with both positive and negative traits. It’s about looking at the side of your personality you would rather pretend doesn’t exist, the part of you that you hate, the qualities in you that you believe (and sometimes pretend) are “not you”.
For many of us, we unconsciously practice the unhealthy habit of hiding in the shadow; the lights go out and we are confined to our own thoughts.  When we think about ourselves we may be consumed with shameful feelings that wecertainlywouldn’t ever want anyone else to know about. So, what do we do? We do our best to repress and deny these thoughts, feelings and beliefs in an attempt to completely cast them out. The problem is that these negative feelings don’t ever go away. We can’t eliminate our shadow, or “dark side”. The darkness is always present within us.  The more we try to disown certain parts of ourselves, the larger and more powerful our shadows become – consuming the light that gives us life.  In extreme cases the shadow has the capacity to completely engulf us, and we eventually become our shadow. We see this in characters like The Joker and Darth Vader, and we also see this at play in everyday society.
Think of all of the news stories that we hear beginning with, “he/she was a great person, I didn’t think they were capable of this…”  For many of the people that are described in this manner their lives were overcome by negative emotions, but they continued to repress and project an outward appearance that peopleexpectedto see – burying the negative until it can no longer be contained, and the shadow overtakes them. They eventually fully give into their dark side and became the person they never wanted to be.
Our psychological strategy of denying the shadow is universal and we see this in everyday society – in political leaders, religious sects and in the people we know personally. In fact, we act out varying degrees of our shadow qualities every day without even realizing we’re doing it.  However, when we’re able to recognize our shadow side and acknowledge it’s presence, we can learn to integrate it in healthy ways that prevent us from extreme personality and behavioral swings that could lead to the destruction of our relationships, career path, family dynamic – and our own peace of mind.

But, what exactly is the shadow? The shadow is who (you think) you’re NOT.

We are all comprised of darkness and light – it is the natural cycle that frames the world around us. We carry within us both the potential for destruction, and also the seeds of life. We see it sprinkled all throughout human history and we know it to be true at the depth of our own core.
The shadow is the side of our personality that contains all the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to admit having. Jung’s basic concept of shadow: “the shadow is the person who I would rather not be”. The aspects of ourselves that we reject out of fear, ignorance and shame.
Our shadow is what we perceive as being bad, dark or weak about ourself, which we’re taught to reject and hide. It’s the early messages we received that “there is something wrong with me”, “I’m not lovable”, “I’m not a good girl”, “I’m too loud”, “I’m a burden”. It’s all the things we hate, resist or disown about ourselves. We learn at a young age to shift our behavior in order to fit into parental and then societal standards, and to meet our needs of acceptance in the external world.
At first, it’s unconscious. It is only through our efforts to become self-aware that we recognize our shadow. Each of us possess every existing human quality. There is nothing we can see or conceive that we are not, and the purpose of our journey is to restore ourselves to this wholeness. The saintly and the cynical, the divine and the diabolical, the courageous and the cowardly: all these aspects lie dormant in us and will act out if they are not recognized and integrated into our psyche.
The shadow itself is not necessarily negative. It’s simply the opposite aspects of who we want to present ourselves as and, as such, it exists as a means to help us embrace the totality of our being, rather than rejecting ourselves. It acts as a barometer to help us see where we need to do our work and how we can access our greatness. The only time the shadow becomes a problem is when we ignore it, repress it and utterly reject it as being an aspect of ourselves that simply needs healing. When we allow ourselves to visit the places within that frighten us the most, we no longer have to live in fear. Instead, we are given the keys to the kingdom and with it, permission to step fully into who we are meant to be – the good and bad, the dark and light. We recognize that all the parts of us are necessary and beautiful pieces that fit together to make up the whole.

How do I embrace my shadow?

To the new seeker, shadow work is alluring. It’s dark, it’s dangerous and sometimes feels a little sexy. Until you find yourself standing face to face with it. Then it becomes real. –  and, for some, terrifying. In working with the shadow, you will inevitably end up staring down the aspects of yourself you’ve spent a lifetime rejecting and desperately hiding.
For many of us, we need guidance and a structured spiritual path allowing us to address the darkness; walking into it and through it – so that we may bring forth and stand in our light. Working with the shadow requires that you learn to dance with the aspects of yourself that you have previously sidestepped and would most certainly prefer to ignore.
In a nutshell, this journey is about self-reflection, total transparency, and brutal honesty.  You must unmask the aspect of your life which has destroyed relationships, deadened your spirit and prevented you from going after a life of purpose and passion. Many of us are deathly afraid of going toe-to-toe with our dark side because we fear what we might find. We fear every thought, every feeling and every experience that we have ever repressed. In fact, our fear is so ingrained in us that the only way we can deal with it is to turn away from it. And this is what activates our shadow.

With Embrace Comes Balance and Openness

For those who use spiritual guidance to wake up from projection finally come to know their true Selves.  The good and the bad.  The pain and the pleasure. The beautiful and the ugly.  The divine and the diabolical. The right and the wrong.  The light and the dark.
Taking an honest look in the mirror will enable you to use your projections to rediscover, heal and reclaim aspects of yourself you’ve long since rejected.  You will have learned to better manage your energy (good and bad) so that you are no longer adversely affected by the behaviors of others.  Instead, you will have the tools to anchor into your center in the midst of adversity.  You will become more mindful and have the ability to set and enforce healthy boundaries which were once missing from your life, while also feeling more compassionate toward others who are struggling.  Your relationships will improve as you live more authentically – allowing yourself to navigate life with more truth, integrity and grace.
Everything in life has its own polar opposite.  Lightness and darkness are part of life and are the natural cycle of being.  When we begin to live completely in the darkness and in the shadows, we become consumed by the negative feeling we try to repress and deny.  The shadows, however, do not solely define us.  They are a part of us just as the light that many of us outwardly represent. Embracing our shadow means to embrace the totality of our being and, ultimately, allows us to return to wholeness.  We will regain the mental and emotional harmony that was once missing, proving the path to a more harmonious, purpose-based and fulfilling life.
Learn more about Tris’s 12-week course on Integrating the Shadow