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How to Integrate the Hero When the Shadow Has Won


“The universe is made up of experiences that are designed to burn out your attachment, your clinging, to pleasure, to pain, to fear, to all of it. And as long as there is a place where you're vulnerable, the universe will find a way to confront you with it.” ~Ram Dass


What happens when the shadow is not integrated soon enough? The longer the shadow is ignored, the more powerful it becomes. The festering darkness compounds and intensifies to the point that one is swallowed from the inside out. The shadow wins.


On a long enough timeline, a repressed shadow will turn into a demonic persona. At this point there is nothing but anger, animosity, resentment, bitterness, and rage. It’s so compressed that it acts like a web. It becomes a second skin, a faux exterior, a mask that is more a prison than an expression.


The dragon of your repression swallows you whole, and the only way out is to admit that your most essential self is trapped in the belly of the beast. This essential self is your authentic courage, your root-like mettle, your lodestone spirit. It’s your inner hero longing to be unleashed.


Just as you must integrate the shadow to become fierce lest you remain a coward, you must integrate the hero to overcome a shadow that has consumed you. The black dot of the shadow must balance out the white side of the yin yang, just as the white dot of the hero must balance out the black side. Harmony is always humbling. Poise is always an antidote to toxicity. As Heraclitus said, “Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony,”


Too little shadow, you become a timid rabbit with no teeth. Too much shadow, you become a rabid demon with too many teeth. Sacred alignment is achieved when these extremes are counterbalanced through the power of integration.


This article is about how to integrate the hero when your shadow has consumed you. How your inner hero must unsheathe his Sword of Truth and cut his way out of the dragon that has swallowed him.



Shoot yourself in the foot:

“A man’s maturity is to have regained the innocence of a child at play.” ~Nietzsche


When darkness is your master, playful curiosity becomes your liberator. The dark persona has a heavy heart. It’s so heavy that it crushes the scales with bitterness and rage. The only salvation is to lighten the load. Lightheartedness becomes lionheartedness only when heavyheartedness is counterbalanced by playful curiosity.


You must find a way to playfully distract the dark Persona. Make it curious about the darkness. This is a job for the trickster archetype. The trickster is vital for curiosity and humility. Only the trickster can trick itself out of delusion. Only the trickster has the power to break the spell, to loosen the grip, to unfix fixed thinking. Only the trickster can slip beyond the shadow’s conviction and enter the inner tomb where the hero is pretending to be asleep.


Plant the seed:

“Give me the fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.” ~Vilfredo Pareto


Once inside the tomb, the trickster gets to work, teasing the heroic impulse, heralding courageous impetus, and planting question mark seeds. These seeds are vital for heroic growth. They become landmines in the mind field, blowing up the false truths that the shadow persona has been clinging to.


With each explosion the consuming shadow is knocked a little more off kilter, the dragon winces, and the inner hero is shaken out of his slumber. The tomb begins to crumble. The hero catches his breath and opens his eyes. Anger is the initial all-consuming emotion, but it is not the answer to this riddle.


Find the humor hidden in the anger:

“Research indicates that when we’re angry at others, we aim for retaliation or revenge. But when we’re angry for others, we seek out justice and a better system. We don’t just want to punish; we want to help.” ~Adam Grant


Being angry at the shadow won’t work. Being angry for the shadow is the secret. The former feeds the shadow and creates vindictiveness and misguided vengefulness which just makes the shadow more powerful. The latter creates compassionate rebellion and empathetic insurrection which liberates the hero and gives the shadow a purpose.


The hero rises up and allies with the shadow, saying, “I am angry for you. For all the pain you’ve had to endure, for all the weight you’ve had to bear, for all the fear you’ve had to repress.” The shadow’s energy then becomes a sword of chaos that accommodates the hero’s order. The shadow is inverted through the power of a good sense of humor. This is the power of emotional alchemy.



Navigate the crossroads of madness:

“I smell in disorder the outhouse of order.” ~Stanley Moss


Sometimes you must sow a little madness to gain a little sanity.


When the hero awakens within the shadow, the worst thing the hero can do is fight the shadow. The best thing the hero can do is use the shadow. The hero must utilize the madness of the shadow in order to get ahead of the curve of darkness.


The hero must wield the “sword of madness” and then cut from the void, never into it. This is how magic is made. This is how boundaries are transformed into horizons. This is how worlds end and begin. This is how shadows are inverted. Choosing magic over predictability is using madness as a tool for genius. The inner hero who allies with the outer shadow does this with pluck and aplomb.


The tug-o-war rope between life and death, finitude and infinity, darkness and light, pain and passion, mortality and immortality are held taut between madness and genius.



Weaponize the empath:

“I’d rather be whole than good.” ~Jung


In order to succeed, the hero must empathize with the shadow’s psychopathology. This is a subtle art. The hero must become a kind of psychonaut lost inside the utter darkness of the lost psyche. But this is the secret power of the white dot on the black side of the yin-yang. It is so utterly contrasted that it’s poignant, so vulnerable that it is unconquerable, so inconceivably differentiated that when it becomes differentiated it changes everything.


As the Vedanta states, “Undifferentiated consciousness, when differentiated, becomes the world.”


A beacon of light outshines the darkest darkness. So it goes, the empathy of the hero becomes a consummate thorn in the side of the shadow. Weaponized empathy is empathy that has become so absolutely vulnerable that the proverbial comfort zone stretches across the universe and becomes self-actualized wholeness. Thus subsumed, the shadow is inverted and has no choice but to become the strength of the hero.


Image source:

By Julian Majin


About the Author:

Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.


This article (How to Integrate the Hero When the Shadow Has Won) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.