According to Carl Jung, your shadow is that part of you that you hide and deny to yourself and others. I learn first about shadow at the New Warrior weekend training in 1996 and have been trying to identify my shadows ever since. I was particular struck by Jung’s observation that those who claimed to have no shadow were superficial. They lived well, meant well, brought no overt harm to others, but they failed to see the nuances of their behaviors, the unintended consequences of their choices, or the pallid lives they conducted. Oops. Is that me? I hope not. So let me explore my shadows.

When you identify and “own” your shadow, you become a full person, acknowledging the dark side as well as the bright side, the positive attributes. In my blog on Sin and Evil, I touched on this. Each of us have in us all the attributes of being human. So when you are rooting for the hero to take revenge on the bad guy by killing him, you are expressing the part of yourself that is the killer. And when you admire a charismatic leader you are projecting qualities on them that you are denying in yourself.

I recall being upset with a retailer overcharging  and thought they were stingy. When I asked myself, “in what way am I stingy?”, I realized that there is a very clear stingy part of me, making sure that I get full value and being mad if I don’t. So I can see how I project my shadows onto others.

Shadows can come from early life. In my case the message from my parents to be strong and independent caused me to not show vulnerability and be so focused on self sufficiency that it became a detriment. Owning that shadow allowed me to show more of my heart and to seek help when I needed it. In other words, to express more of myself as a human being.  

Some of us live our life by reacting to having felt abandoned, in which case we overcompensate by seeking attention by performing and being visible. That’s me. This blog is an example of “look at me”.

Others may feel overwhelmed and seek to become invisible and to hide out in life.  They play small rather than large. They are protected.

Another example of a shadow  for me is my unconscious and sometime intentional desire to manipulate things to get my way, devaluing other’s needs.

So, with some reflection I have identified some  my shadows; with more to surface.

How about you? What are your shadows?

Can you identify and own all parts of you; both the good and the bad?

2 thoughts on “SHADOW”

  1. Hey Bruce,

    Thanks a lot for sharing this. I’ve been hearing about Carl Jung and his thoughts about the need of embracing one’s shadow, but never had a chance to dig deeper in this topic. Do you happen to know any specific sources or books I could get more familiar with it?

    Living an Examined Life by James Hollis


  2. Good article, thanks Bruce. Like you, I dug into the Shadow after my weekend in 2001. Read a few books, did a lot of personal work and journaling. In the Mankind Project work, we create and strive to live by a mission. I have refreshed mine over the years, including just recently with the inspiration from my I-group. My mission became all the more powerful and meaningful when I wrote the *shadow* mission.

    One more thing on this – last weekend at LOMG, Bill Kerley offered the reminded “don’t work to get rid of the shadow, work to bring it into the light”.


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