We never see our shadow, consciously anyway. It’s always behind us, accompanying us anywhere we go, but we rarely pay attention to it. It’s not part of me! or so we think.
In Jungian psychology, the shadow represents the qualities that are unconscious in ourselves or underdeveloped. Unless we do some kind of inner work, we don’t get to know our shadow. It’s like walking in the sun, where our qualities are in the open air, and the shadow is visible, as opposed to being in the shade and not being able to see it.
Looking at our shadow takes courage. Why? Because we have to go beyond the fear of not liking what we see and have the courage to embrace us as we are. One practice that moves us closer to our shadow is the backbends in yoga (specifically the more advanced ones). We are not familiar with our backs (like our shadow!) so going backwards is scary. We have to go beyond the fear of not knowing. Once we have crossed that barrier of the unknown, going backwards becomes more tolerable.
I like to think that part of the shadow is our hidden feminine or masculine energies (Jung calls these the Anima and Animus). This has nothing to do with genders, more like yin and yang. The feminine energy represents the qualities of nurturing, intuition, and creativity. It embodies the ability to connect with our or someone else’s emotions, feeling receptive and compassionate. The masculine energy is analytical, action/goal oriented, and assertive. It is governed by our reasoning skills and allows us to move forward in life. Both of these energies are needed, and both extremes are unhealthy.
I believe all of us has a tendency towards one of these energies, while the opposite is more hidden or we are less aware of it. The key to live a more balanced life is to embrace “the other”, develop it so that we become more balanced, more whole. As we bring to light and accept our hidden qualities, we tap into them as they are needed. We are assertive and take action or flexible and emotional when required. Flowing through the seasons of our life with an open mind and a free spirit…
As Carl Jung said, “I would rather be whole than good”.