Most of us like to think of ourselves in the best possible light, yet becoming aware of all aspects of ourselves, and accepting them, is the key to our personal and spiritual growth.
Carl Jung called it our “shadow” and said: “Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.
If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected and is liable to burst forth suddenly in a moment of unawareness.
At all events, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”
The key is to become conscious of that which is kept hidden from our own awareness. So what is the fastest way to identify our shadow?
Psychologists call this “projecting.” We project our own issues onto others—we focus on the most unappealing aspects of another’s personality that mirror our own challenges.
Take a look at what bothers you in your relationships with others.
Are you annoyed with people who are impatient? Guess what? Look at how your own impatience shows up in your life. It may be more often than you’d like to admit and your reaction to “impatience” may just dissolve.
Are you annoyed when people are inauthentic? Are greedy? Are self-obsessed? Are controlling? Are cheap?
Same thing. Look within. And watch your own reactions shift and dissolve.
This is a powerful exercise: The next time you’re upset with someone, pause for a moment. Notice the emotional reaction. Take a a few deep breaths. Identify what it is you’re finding frustrating in the other person. Ask yourself, “How am I that?” And see how this is really just an issue YOU can address in your life!!
Some more thoughts on shadow from Carl Jung: “To confront a person with their own shadow is to show them their own light.”
And: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”