Embracing The Shadow
By Altazar Rossiter
Light and dark are frequently used to represent the basic polarity of good and evil. The shadow is the indeterminate space between light and dark where one shades into the other, the deeper the shadow the darker the nature of what lives there. The shadow is also a term that originates in Jungian psychology and which refers to a nebulous unconscious repository of what we fear and dislike in ourselves.
Wherever there is a shadow it is cast by something standing in the way of the light. The brighter the sun shines, the harder the shadows. And when the light is really bright it can be difficult, if not impossible, to see anything beyond the intensity of the glare. When we want to see clearly in bright sunshine we seek the shade to look out from, and if we can't find any we create some with a hand to the eyes. So our physical experience of the phenomena of light and dark is that we can see things more clearly by standing in the shadow.
This is an allegory that is very useful for the inner process. The more the light of the soul shines through, the clearer will be the issues that inhabit the shadow, but we have to stand in the shade in order to see these clearly and have any chance of transforming them. We have to stop looking the other way.
The trouble is when we look into our shadow most of us see things we not only wish weren't there, but often things we are thoroughly ashamed of. Because of the intensity of the shame our automatic impulse is to bury its cause so deep within that this can never again see the light of day. This enables us to continue living with ourselves, but the truth lurks somewhere within and we know it.
What lives in the shadow is everything that we reject about ourselves, everything we refuse to love. This is every aspect of our existence that fails to comply with the ideal social specification of our self-identity. We are terrified it will be discovered and cause our downfall. We pretend it doesn't exist, but we know it's there, full of resentment for its denial, that's why there's such a widespread fear of the dark. But deep transformation occurs when we embrace what we fear.
A spiritually intelligent perspective understands that the shadow is the facilitator of our growth. Its very existence is a sign that there is a purpose to our being here, that we have a job to do. When issues begin to surface out of the shadow it's not a sign that something is wrong, but quite the reverse. It's a sign that we are holding more of our light. The light is simply showing us where it is still blocked. We are being guided to the next step in the process of self-empowerment. Convention says we must find an answer so the problem goes away, wisdom says the problem is my friend trying to tell me something I'm reluctant to hear.
Whenever the possibility arises that something we've consigned to the shadow in this way might be revealed to us - or worse, to others - we are likely to experience the emotional responses of fear and anger. Owing to the supreme efficiency of our denial processes, we are normally in a condition of blissful ignorance of what's been hidden in the shadow. Our emotional responses can therefore be intensely reactive. This is the surest sign that we've uncovered an aspect of ourselves that requires understanding and compassion - something that really is me but which is incongruent with the self-image I hold.
The key to transforming all of the issues lurking in the shadow is the principle of presence. By staying present with anything that arises, remaining aware of our breathing and letting any feelings express we eventually feel the sadness locked into the part of ourselves we consigned to the shadow. We feel its mistrust, its fear and its abject loneliness. Simply allowing this to be is a process of acceptance, recognizing that it is all ok brings us a step closer to a realization of self-mastery. This is not necessarily easy, it takes courage and persistence.
From this perspective the shadow can be seen as the friend it truly is. It is only waiting for us to love it. The issues it will then show us are the keys to self-empowerment. This is its gift.
To be truly conscious we must embrace the potential of the shadow individually and collectively. For as long as we continue to deny it, it will keep manifesting destructively in an increasingly less convenient manner. The shadow provides us with the raw material and the opportunity to transmute fear into love. One of the greatest services we can offer is to engage with this process. Just opening up to the possibility that this is a valid assessment of the dynamic of the shadow is a huge shift out of the consensus rut. Giving intent to clear our shadow is the next step. Continuing this journey is to follow our own light, which will ultimately shine unimpeded.
Dr. Altazar Rossiter is a personal development consultant, coach and mentor - working with the inherent Spiritual Intelligence of life, developing well-being through personal life coaching, executive coaching, spiritual mentoring, emotional freedom and creativity. He engages with the mystery of the essence of who we are to bring about fundamental and sustainable transformation in just about every aspect of personal expression. Altazar's first book Developing Spiritual Intelligence - The Power of You, was published by O-Books in 2006.