Understanding Our Shadow Self

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

The shadow is a psychological term for everything we can’t see in ourselves. The idea of the shadow self was first conceived by Carl Jung, a 20th-century psychologist from Switzerland. In his field of psychology, the word ‘shadow’ refers to hidden parts of our being. This may be parts of ourselves we try to repress because they make us feel sad or wounded. This is the side that we don’t show society. It can also indicate how we internally perceive ourselves as being weak or in pain – that we feel the need to hide these parts of ourselves. Carl Jung believed in the integration of the shadow side so that our full self is acknowledged, and we can live in a balanced way.

In Jungian psychology, the "shadow", "Id", or "shadow aspect-archetype" refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself, or the entirety of the unconscious.

Most of us go to great lengths to protect our self-image from anything unflattering. Therefore, it’s easier to observe another person’s shadow before acknowledging one’s own shadow. That being said, working with your shadow whilst challenging can be a rewarding process. Remaining unconscious of the shadow hurts our relationships and it will impact our leadership abilities. Exploring your shadow can lead to greater authenticity, creativity, energy and personal growth. This introspective process is essential for reaching mature spiritual mind.

The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists chiefly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire and the striving for power. Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others. Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself, to defend how it perceives itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow.

Why Do Shadow Work?