BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Illuminating the Shadow

Do you often see negative qualities in other people? More often than not, these qualities are actually in us but we just don't or we just choose to ignore it.

We also have positive shadows, that kernel of lively energy we have in us potentially but do not see.

In psychology, the shadow represents our hidden qualities. According to Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung, the shadow contains all the parts of ourselves that we have tried to hide or deny.

These are qualities hidden from ourselves and from others; everything about ourselves that we do not know our refuse to know.

“It is the sum total of the positive and negative traits, feelings, beliefs and potentials, we refuse to identify as our own,” says the Carl Jung Center of the Philippines.

What causes these qualities to hide?

All shadow issues are a form of denial. We choose to avoid what is unpleasant.

However, to become a truly mature person, one has to embrace one’s shadow.

People who do not accept criticism get stuck but Jung says that if you want to move forward, you have to listen and accept the shadows.

Having the courage to uncover the shadow is to come to terms with one’s self.

Individuals who face their shadows achieve a more genuine self-acceptance, defuse negative emotions, feel more free of shame and guilt, recognize the projections that color their opinions of others, heal their relationships and use the creative imagination to own their rejected selves.

In Zen practice, eating the shadow is the practice of reclaiming these hidden qualities, realizing they are part of us.

“Zen practice is the practice of doing this – eating the shadow, sitting and knowing that we ourselves contain the entire world,” according to Brenda Shoshanna, author of Zen Miracles.

Thus, be one with your shadow. Embrace one's self. And just let go.