“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things that you do not see.”
— James Baldwin
The shadow self is a psychological concept, a social reality, and a witnessed experience in serious meditation practices around the world. That which is living will always cast a shadow. Shadow selves are the fragmented and broken parts of ourselves that we do not claim, that we project on to others, and that interrupt our ability to live harmoniously in the world. To seek to understand these parts and to re-integrate them allows us to live more fully embodied and present to our life.
In both Chinese medicine and astrology there are many references to the shadow self. The shadow self has appeared through the centuries as metaphors, myths, or symbolic references. In waking life, it exists on both the personal and intrapersonal levels just as much as the meta social-cultural and intracultural aspects of human existence. In the dreaming world it appears as symbolic references and themes or as fears and repetitious imagery that try to lead you to a deeper understanding of self.
Doing shadow work is a natural and necessary part of living a healthy life. Our shadow appears in those things that bother us about others, that trigger us in the outside world, and that we shy away from or refuse to engage with. They are our addictions and allergies. They are the parts of us that we do not want to see, but once we do, we will gain a greater sense of integrity and simultaneously be freed from some of the deepest suffering we have ever known.
Most times we are so blind to these aspects of ourselves that only others can see them. Sometimes we have intuitions about them ourselves. If we are willing to allow the mirror to be held up, if we are willing to listen with a soft heart, we can unlock these old patterns that hold us down and keep us captive. The shadow self is nothing itself to be feared, it is actually a treasure trove of greatness. Authentically letting go of what no longer serves you will inevitably lead you to a greater sense of freedom and reverence for life.