Lexington just had its annual Thriller parade with 800 Zombies dancing down Main Street to Michael Jackson’s famous song. What I love about this is the opportunity to dress up and embrace your shadow side, the side of yourself you don’t want people to know. Since I was a fallen angel zombie, it got me thinking – what is this about?
What is your shadow side? Carl Jung, the psychiatrist who originated the term, refers to it as the dark side of your personality. It’s the repressed and often unconscious parts of self that are the opposite of the refined, public face we present to the world. It can include negative, socially unacceptable and immoral qualities like lust, greed, anger, envy, selfishness, hatred, judgement and power seeking, falling on a scale of mild to extreme. If left unchecked, these qualities can wreak havoc in your personal life, create suffering and in excess, are a force of evil.
Unfortunately, the news has been full of extreme examples with the racially motivated murders in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and pipe bombs mailed to Trump opponents. There is a human cost to our shadow side that is well documented in history (Adolf Hitler, for example) and it seems to be rearing its head more often in this politically divisive culture.
While we all have a shadow side, thankfully, most of us have a mild version, that doesn’t become criminal or evil. Nevertheless, it can hold us back and interfere with our well-being. So, what does it mean to embrace your shadow side and why is that a good idea? Let me share my thoughts.
WE PROJECT WHAT WE DON’T LIKE
Have you ever ruminated about something, felt ashamed, embarrassed or enraged? Do you have strong reaction to things? Are there certain people who rub you the wrong way and you think about them too much? Pay attention to these situations – they usually mean more than you think.
Strong reactions can be a projection of negativity because something about it hits too close to home. You may be unconsciously harboring those tendencies yourself and working hard to keep them at bay or reacting to something you’re envious of or been criticized for.
Notice your reactions – they can help you understand yourself.
HARSH JUDGEMENT HOLDS YOU BACK
Notice your themes of reactions and ask yourself what they’re about. There may be aspects of yourself that you don’t like, or you may have been judged for those qualities. Notice the thoughts you have about others and see if it’s a reflection of yourself. You may be conditioned to judge yourself or others harshly, repeating what you’ve heard or been trained to think.
Think about the impact of your judgement. How does self-criticism stop you from stepping into your greatness, stifling your responses and instincts? Since self judgement is often held in secret silence, it becomes an insidious, stealthy damper to your self-growth and joy. What is the impact of your judgement on others – how does it limit your interactions, create conflict, discomfort and unnecessary drama?
The judgement of your shadow side can be treacherous, robbing you from claiming your joy and full potential.
YOUR SHADOW SIDE WANTS TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED
We are all socialized to conform with acceptable behavior and chastised for urges, fears, instincts and weaknesses that are part of our nature. What have you done with those tendencies? Have they become your silent shame, a part of self-loathing or channeled into harshness toward others?
The more repressed you keep the shadow side of yourself, the more it will be a destructive force. It will suddenly appear when you’re tired or under the influence. If left unchecked, it can be a negative force, fostering more anger, hurt and judgement that’s transferred toward yourself and others. Acknowledge those silent, shamed and unflattering sides of yourself – have compassion for them. We all have them.
No one is all good – repressing your darkness makes you brittle and prone to problems.
Acknowledging parts of yourself you don’t like is an important and rewarding step toward achieving more balance in your life. Life consists of polarities in everything – light and dark, good and evil, sweet and bitter. We are no different. Being honest about it is a simple starting place for greater self-acceptance and developing compassion toward others.
The more we acknowledge what we don’t like, the easier it is to see our gifts and strengths and find the neutral place in the middle. This is how we become more balanced, less reactive and more accepting of ourselves and others.
Facing your weaknesses, your shadow, brings you more peace, self-acceptance and compassion.
Back to the Thriller parade. I was stunned at the reaction to my fallen angel zombie costume. Children were worried – “angels don’t really die, they don’t really bleed, do they?” We so want to embrace a concept of total goodness, especially in the midst of so much darkness in our world. The truth is we are all like fallen angels. We are good and we have a shadow side. When we acknowledge our issues, we stop projecting them on others. When we own up to our harsh judgement, we can see ourselves and others more clearly. When we bring our repressed shadow into the light, we can obtain a healthy balance in life.
How open are you to seeing and working with your shadow side? If you’re interested, it’s an exciting and rewarding process of self-discovery. My Transformational Life Coaching and Counseling can help you in the process. It doesn’t need to be years of psychoanalysis. See my website www.spectrumtransformation.com for more information and reach out using my Free consultation tab. I’d love to hear from you.