“To confront a person with his shadow
is to show him his own light” ~ C.G. Jung “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959)
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.
Integrating one’s shadow (Individuation)
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.
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.
“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
Engaging in creative activities can be a powerful tool when we are working on integrating our shadow parts. 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.
Becoming aware of my shadow parts is the first step – and the most painful part. I need to acknowledge how I project my insecurities onto others and how it makes me feel to reject those parts inside myself.
In this mixed media collage, I tried to express this feeling creatively on canvas. The woman appears to be in the process of shape shifting, as if “breaking apart” just before the transformation occurs. Her arms are about to turn into wings once she faces her troubling emotions which keep her trapped in the darkness (feeling unhappy and incomplete). The red flowers in the background symbolize the promise of new growth that results from facing her shadow – the bird (the spirit realm) assists her on her sometimes difficult journey towards integration.
The journey starts with awareness, but it means nothing, if we stop there. Acceptance and ownership – taking responsibility for our thoughts and behaviour, while remaining deeply compassionate towards ourselves, is the key to doing this personal work.
My “Medusa” on the left is “awake” – she remains a complex individual who keeps integrating the darker aspects of her psyche into the light of her consciousness, so that they are no longer at war with each other. The process asks for continuous mindfulness and self-awareness.
I like to think that this process of individuation/integration lasts as long as we walk on this earth. It is an ongoing process. The shadow parts can shift around and take on different shapes and occupy different locations in our psyche as we continue to grow and evolve. I guess, it’s all about how we dance with the shadow as we learn to no longer perceive it as an enemy.
“Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.” ~ C.G. Jung
I am learning how to dance with my shadow parts, one at a time and this is what it feels like:
If you are interested in learning how to dance with your shadow through the power of intuitive art & creative writing, I invite you to check out my upcoming workshop “Embracing the Shadow – Igniting the Light”.