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Weekly Self-inflictions #6: The Shadow (Transcript)

“Man has to realize that he possesses a shadow which is the dark side of his personality if only for the reason that he is so often overwhelmed by it.” ~Eric Neumann

Before enlightenment, shadow-work. After enlightenment, shadow-work.

Everyone has a dark side. Everyone has a shadow. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

The shadow is primal. It’s wild and intuitive. It’s umbilical. It’s a sacred spark hidden in the dark. It’s our animating principle. In our youth it was necessary to repress it in order to achieve discipline; in our maturity, it is vital that we integrate it in order to achieve wholeness.

The shadow can be our worst enemy or our greatest ally. The shadow is turbulent and fierce. It’s a furnace where all our repressed anger, grief, shame, guilt and wildness has culminated into unbridled chaos. When this wisdom is repressed by our psyche, it takes root deep in our unconscious, where it festers and darkens and gnaws at our core. Through the passage of time, it can become a menace.

If we continue to repress the shadow, it will just become stronger, darker, angrier. It will become demonic and domineering, to the extent that it will eventually possess us like mere puppets under a dark unforgiving cloud of animosity and bitterness.

But if we can learn to honor it, then we can engage in a healthy reconciliation which has the potential to transform demons into diamonds, wounds into wisdom, tragedy into teacher, pain into professor, and loss into laboratory. We gain a fierceness that we can use to engage the world with confidence and resilience.

One of the most powerful actions we can take to intervene in a stormy world is to face our own storm. This is the power of utilizing the shadow archetype as a tool toward achieving wholeness.

Where the hero archetype teaches us courage, and the old wise man/wise woman archetype teaches us wisdom, and the trickster archetype teaches us humor, the shadow archetype teaches us how to be fierce. And fierceness is vital for wholeness.

Becoming aware of our shadow side is shining a light into the darkness, which gives our dark side permission to shine its blacklight right back into the blinding light of cultural conditioning.

Without this balance, we risk fragile one-dimensionality and a brittle ego terrified of taking responsibility.

We cannot fully know ourselves without knowing our dark side and embracing our shadow. Such wholeness breeds wisdom and the ability to experience the full range of what it means to be human.

Through the integration of our shadow, we gain the powerful ability to transform fear into fuel for the fire of fearlessness.

Shadowmaste: The integrated shadow in me honors the integrated shadow in you.


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