The Shadow Side concept is something that I use with both counselling and healing clients. Here’s a short excerpt from my book explaining the shadow side:
As we grow from children into adults we observe the behaviours of the people around us and decide on the person that we want to be. In doing so we also decide on what we do NOT want to be. For example, I may choose that I want to be accepting of others and that I most certainly DON’T want to be aggressive or angry. As a result, the part of me that is capable of being aggressive and angry is denied, disowned and locked away.
An easy way to determine aspects of your personality that you have disowned is to observe your judgements of others and your emotional reactions. If you find yourself becoming frustrated by the impatience of others then it’s likely you have denied your own impatience. If you feel outraged by stories of injustice then perhaps you have denied the part of you that is capable of injustice. If you commonly find yourself thinking or talking about your dissatisfaction with others, then you can guarantee that your shadow side aspects have been long denied and you can expect this to be reflected in your dreams as well as your waking experience.
Shadow side aspects of yourself will crop up again and again in your life in an effort to find acceptance and compassion however our normal response is to push them further away. This will only perpetuate the issue and give more power to things in your life that you cannot control.
There are two kinds of disowned selves. The kind that is an active part of your personality that you’re ashamed of and the kind that is completely hidden away that you believe is not a part of you at all. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Here’s an example where the disowned behaviour is active:
A woman who has a tendency to get frustrated and angry feels ashamed and embarrassed whenever she snaps at her partner yet when she observes her partner getting frustrated she becomes instantly intolerant and tells him that his behaviour is unacceptable.
Problem: She cannot tolerate her partner’s aggressive behaviour.
Question to ask herself: How do I also display this (aggressive) behaviour? The answer should be obvious to her.
Solution: Foster a more nurturing relationship with the angry and frustrated part of herself. (more ideas on how to do this in Pt 2 of this post)
And an example of a hidden disowned self:
A woman harshly judges people who eats unhealthy food. She is very strict about her own diet and feels uncomfortable when others consume junk food near her.
Problem: She cannot tolerate the dietary choices of other people.
Question to ask herself: How do I also display this (unhealthy) behaviour? She may not have an unhealthy diet but may be able to identify another area of her life where she is capable of being unhealthy, for example, over working.
Solution: Foster a more nurturing relationship with the unhealthy part of herself. (more ideas on how to do this in Pt 2 of this post)
Continued in Part 2