Embracing the Shadow – Igniting the Light

The Shadow Archetype in Jungian Psychology

"To confront a person with their shadow is to show them their own light" ~ C.G. Jung “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959)



The Jungian shadow can include everything outside the light of consciousness and may be positive or negative.

“Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” In short, the shadow is the “dark side”. Because we tend to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of our personality, the shadow is largely perceived as negative. We may find ourselves acting out the shadow parts in (self-)destructive behaviour patterns because we lack conscious awareness of those rejected aspects.

I personally find the projection of our own fears and those parts of ourselves that we have a hard time accepting onto others, the most difficult shadow part. When we project, we blame other people or shut them out of our lives; we disconnect, so we don’t have to confront our own painful deficits and feel so vulnerable. 

However, this is exactly where we have the opportunity to grow and free ourselves. It takes a lot of strength and courage, as well as patience and compassion; because this is a powerful journey towards wholeness.

mixed media collage by Heather Hoeps

Integrating one’s shadow

Jung calls the process of confrontation with the shadow the process of individuation: “…but for this to be fruitful, the result must be that the conscious integrate the shadow into itself, rather than the shadow takes control of the conscious.”

Coming to terms with the shadow and constructively accepting and assimilating it into the conscious personality is what we call “Shadow work”. The shadow must never be dismissed as merely evil or ugly, for it contains underdeveloped positive potentialities, too. At times we feel powerless and unworthy, which means we are negating our light and personal power, thus it turns into a shadow aspect.

mixed media collage by Heather Hoeps

Shadow work with creative methods

“In spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.” ~ C. Kaufman

The process of integration can be ignited with the help of creative methods. My most practiced ones are: reflecting on my dreams/nightmares through journaling, studying myths and archetypes which carry both the light and the shadow aspect – and of course, making art.

When we create an intuitive collage or painting for example, we are accessing and “communicating” from a deeper part of our subconscious mind. The imagery, the colors and textures have the potential to bring an important message, an internal conflict, and potentially a profound healing to the surface (visible on our canvas) to be looked at and reflected on. The creative process can produce a shift in terms of how we feel about the light and the dark that are both part of us. It can lead to a transformation on a soul level and assist us on our path towards wholeness and growth.

Intuitive Collage Directive for Shadow Integration*

Creating a therapeutic collage can be a meaningful and creative way to explore and integrate the shadow parts of the self, drawing inspiration from Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow. Here’s a step-by-step guide for a therapeutic collage activity:

Materials Needed:

  1. Magazines or printed images
  2. Scissors
  3. Glue or tape
  4. Poster board or large paper
  5. Markers, colored pencils, or crayons
  6. Quiet and comfortable space


  1. Reflect on the Shadow: Start by reflecting on aspects of yourself that you might consider as “shadow” elements—those parts of your personality, emotions, or experiences that you tend to ignore, deny, or find challenging. Consider aspects that you may have pushed into your subconscious. Working with tarot cards or guided meditations can give insights into those subconscious aspects. Start with one aspect that you feel comfortable handling. If it gets too overwhelming, take a deep breath and look for an image that feels less ‘loaded’. If you feel very triggered, it is better to do this exercise with a licensed art therapist. 

  2. Collect Images: Go through magazines or printed materials and look for images that resonate with the aspect of yourself you’ve identified. This can be images of people, places, objects, or symbols that evoke emotions related to your shadow self.

  3. Create Collage: Cut out the selected images and begin arranging them on the poster board. Allow your intuition to guide you as you place the images, focusing on the emotions and connections they evoke. Don’t worry about making it look perfect; the process is more important than the outcome.

  4. Add Personal Elements: Integrate personal elements into the collage. You might include photos of yourself, handwritten notes, or drawings that represent your feelings about the shadow aspect. This personal touch adds depth and authenticity to the collage.

  5. Reflect with Words: Use markers, colored pencils, or crayons to write words, phrases, or quotes that express your thoughts and feelings about the images representing the shadow aspect. These can be affirmations, questions, or insights that arise during the process.

  6. Express Emotions: Allow yourself to feel and express any emotions that come up during the creation of the collage. This can be a cathartic and healing experience as you confront and acknowledge the shadow parts of yourself. Remember, if this process feels too hard to do by yourself, that is totally fine. Ask a friend to do it with you or seek a professional to work through the process with you. It’s important to act with self-compassion and honour your boundaries.

  7. Title and Reflect: Give your collage a title that captures the essence of your exploration. Take some time to sit with the finished collage, reflecting on the images, words, and emotions it contains in your journal. Consider what insights or revelations have emerged. Talk to a trusted friend if you feel comfortable doing so. 

  8. Integration Ritual: Develop a ritual to symbolize the integration of your shadow. This could involve placing the collage in a prominent place, meditating on it, or even performing a small ceremony to acknowledge the union of your conscious and unconscious self.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to create your collage. This activity is a process and can only be a starting point for gaining awareness. The integration needs time and continuous personal work. The collage is a tool for self-discovery and can be revisited over time as you continue to explore and integrate different aspects of your shadow self.

*DISCLAIMER: The is collage activity is not meant to replace psychotherapy or art therapy.

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