Knowing Your Shadow Self (& Learning to Embrace Your Darker Side)
We all know that no one is perfect. No matter how kind, polite, or friendly perceived by other people, we all have parts of ourselves that we don’t like or don’t want to show to others. These undesirable aspects of ourselves are known as “shadow self” in psychology.
However, once you learn to embrace your shadow self, you can emotionally grow and live a happier life.
Meet Your Shadow Self, Don’t Be Afraid
The term shadow self is used to describe those parts of ourselves that we struggle to accept. So, shadow self can include your undesirable personality traits, painful and unwelcome emotions, forbidden impulses, and negative thoughts.
In other words, the shadow self involves parts of yourself you don’t want to acknowledge or accept because they don’t fit into your self-conception.
The shadow self is formed early in life. During our upbringing, we internalize beliefs of what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are acceptable and what are not. Those parts of ourselves that we recognize as unacceptable are then shoved into the shadow of our subconscious minds.
The process of bringing your shadow beliefs into the light and making peace with your shadow self is the key to living a fulfilled, happy life. So, don’t be afraid to get in touch with your dark side. Become fully aware of unacceptable emotions and thoughts instead of suppressing or masking them. Accepting your imperfections takes away their power, making them less detrimental.
Carl Jung & the Idea of the Shadow Self
It was the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung who introduced the concept of shadow self in psychology.
Jung believed that each person has two parts:
- The Persona – a part of ourselves that we present to the world
- The shadow self – an archetype that constitutes part of our subconscious; the primitive side of our nature, composed of suppressed ideas, impulses, desires, and fears.
Jung believed that this dark latent energy forms in early childhood during socialization when we learn to separate good from the bad. The new knowledge of good and evil causes us to differentiate our acceptable traits (the Persona) from those that our society considers unacceptable (the Shadow self), burying the latter deep into our subconscious.
Our suppressed unacceptable thoughts and feelings can become a powerful unconscious drive, at the same time causing us to judge and reject ourselves.
Jung believed that our acceptance of the shadow and understanding that we are capable of being evil and sinful gives us a sense of humanity, helping us fully accept ourselves.
Moreover, Jung believed that the shadow was linked to creativity. Therefore, accepting your shadow self leads to emotional liberation, allowing you to think and accomplish things more freely.
Why It’s Important to Know Your “Other” Side
Recognizing and integrating our shadow self into our experience allows us to become more balanced and fully experience happiness. Also, accepting your shadow will enable you to set boundaries and become more self-compassionate.
For example, if you meet and accept your anger as equal to other emotions, you will become able to set boundaries, find healthy ways to manage anger, treat yourself with compassion, and self-forgive.
Similarly, if you become aware of your self-critical thoughts and accept them for what they are – just thoughts – you will become more self-compassionate and self-forgiving.
Why You Shouldn’t Suppress Your Shadow Self
Suppressed and ignored thoughts and emotions don’t disappear. Instead, they influence our conscious mind and behavior, causing mental health disorders, relationship problems, and other issues.
Accepting your shadow can help reduce anxious ruminations and negative beliefs about yourself.
Besides, getting to know your shadow provides a deeper understanding of yourself – of your motives, dreams, forbidden desires, and fears, providing an opportunity for personal growth and happiness.
So, instead of suppressing your emotions, desires, and beliefs, you can learn to recognize your limiting beliefs and unwelcome emotions and start replacing them with more positive ones.
For example, instead of feeling shame and guilt, you will learn to treat yourself with kindness, acceptance, and compassion.
So, accepting the shadow as a part of yourself can help you understand common humanity. It can enable you to recognize imperfections and flaws as part of the collective human experience (which Jung called the collective shadow).
How to Embrace Your Shadow Self
Learning to embrace your shadow self can free you from feelings of fear, shame, sadness, and anger. Instead, it can help you embrace the new belief that it is okay to treat yourself with acceptance and kindness.
So, to embrace your shadow self, you need to learn to recognize what triggers the unwanted parts of yourself to emerge and be able to reflect on these parts without self-judgment.
Learn to Recognize Your Triggers
Mindfulness practice can help you bring rejected parts of yourself to the light without self-judgment and self-beating. It can allow you to attentively observe patterns that keep repeating in your life, triggering your shadow.
The more you learn to observe your thoughts and emotions mindfully, the more you will understand what sets off your dark side and how your shadow self affects your life.
Talk It Out
Embracing your shadow involves deep inner work that can be overwhelming and intense. So, it can be of great importance to seek professional help. Working with a mental health professional can help bring your dark side into the light and start unpacking the deepest layers of yourself in the protective atmosphere of acceptance, support, and understanding.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Yourself Hard Questions
Journaling is another excellent strategy to access your shadow, track down unwanted thoughts and emotions, and understand your triggers.
Journaling can also be a great way to talk your fears, forbidden desires, and impulses out. Writing down your thoughts as they appear in your mind helps free yourself from conscious censure. Namely, research shows that journaling accesses the analytical and rational left hemisphere of the brain.
While your left brain is occupied, the intuitive and creative right brain hemisphere is free to explore your shadow self, ask hard questions, and search for answers without judging yourself.
Coaching can be a huge support in revealing the shadow self and moving forward. To learn more book a time to speak with me at www.chatwithkamini.com