The ego is terrified of facing its own shadow. The shadow is a psychological archetype that consists of aspects of oneself that exist, but one does not acknowledge or wish to identify with. We project these disowned characteristics on to others and react strongly to them.
Shadow Projection is the involuntary transfer of our own shadow on to others, so it appears to us that these qualities actually exist only in the other people. This defense mechanism arises when we have resistance to our deeper emotional response , having deemed it somehow “unacceptable”. When we have little tolerance for our own emotional authenticity, we have little tolerance for others and we are likely to unconsciously attribute the sense of our own inferiority or disgust to them.
This shadow is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos, and the unknown, but the shadow actually consists of 2 different aspects: the Negative Shadow and the Positive Shadow.
The Positive Shadow is comprised of the respectable qualities hidden within us which we strongly admire and envy in others. In these aspects, we find the disavowed greatness and possibility within ourselves. To integrate the Positive Shadow is to acknowledge and release the admirable qualities from within ourselves. At first, this means we must “act as if” we have these attributes actualized. The more we become comfortable stepping in to this role, the more we will begin to integrate these attributes with ease as more of our latent powers self-actualize. As we expand our efforts, grace takes over.
The Negative Shadow is comprised of the unacceptable and unconsciously repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings. What hides in our shadow, we see exacerbated in others. To integrate the Negative Shadow, we must first drop all justifications and acknowledge the upsetting characteristics we project on to others. Once we drop the blame, we’re able to uncover a previously unseen valuable kernel. Hidden in negative aspects is something beautiful and alive waiting to be transmuted in to a positive aspect through conscious integration.
Here is a list of counter-attributes to aspects of the Negative Shadow. For things you strongly dislike in others, try to challenge yourself to adopt its equivalent positive quality for yourself.
PROJECTED: If you are strongly upset by others’…
UNOWNED: Then you may have but not be using your own…
Openness to appreciation
Refusal to overlook injustice
Leadership/ Coordinating Ability
Dependency on others
Trusting of others
Ability to “act as if”
Willingness to experiment
Openness to possibilities
Jumping to conclusions
Trusting your gut
Lack of order
Ask for respect of appropriate needs
Commitment to integrity
Honoring one’s own timing
Taking things for granted
Using this list, here’s a way of integrating the Negative Shadow:
As an example, let’s use:
Leadership/ Coordinating Ability
I get strongly upset when others are CONTROLLING.
I admit that I am also CONTROLLING at times, though I may not see it or be it right now.
I have EFFICIENCY and LEADERSHIP SKILLS that I have not fully self-actualized.
I will act as if I have a great deal of LEADERSHIP ABILITY without being CONTROLLING.
When we see the positive attributes of the Negative Shadow, a shift will occur in two phases:
1.) The controlling behavior of others will become less triggering. You will be informed by it, but not affected by it. You will be a witness to others, as you have been to yourself, instead of the antagonist.
2.) Your own negative controlling ways will give way as your positive coordination and leadership skills emerge with conscious awareness.
We all carry these aspects within us in some capacity. It is only when we integrate these shadow elements that we can reclaim our wholeness and embrace the wholeness of others. By engaging in shadow work, we can begin to see ourselves, others, and life more clearly as it is (instead of how we imagine or want it to be) with understanding, compassion, patience, and love.
(article thumbnail credit: “Cage” by ParableVisions)