Integrating Your Shadow Self
For nearly 20 years I had been living chasing the Light. Through reading, practicing yoga, meditating, and looking deep at my life, I thought LIGHT is what we are meant to pursue – to aspire to.
The most painful relationship I’ve ever been in brought me the greatest gift as well: Discovering my Shadow Self.
Then Tantra came into the picture. That’s when things changed.
What Is The Shadow Self?
Carl Jung, famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst stated the shadow self to be the unknown dark side of the personality. He described the ‘shadow’ as containing all the parts of yourself that you don’t want to admit to having. Think: excessive drinking, overeating, gambling, any type of addictions, turning into a control freak…you get the point.
The Shadow is at first an unconscious side. It is only through the effort to become self-aware that we recognize our shadow.
So if Yoga is the path of Self Awareness,
Tantra is the path of using everything in and around you for your upliftment and liberation.
This includes integrating and living in harmony with your Shadow Self. If we fail to understand our Shadow Self, or refuse to acknowledge it, we live in Shadow Behavior.
What Is Shadow Behavior?
Shadow Behavior is a Block to your Higher Self and it is Harmful. Shadow Behavior is a NEGATIVE, often automatic, unintentional and unconscious response to events, people, or situations.This happens through reacting to such events without running the consequences of your actions through your conscious mind. You just DO without thinking – you let your animal instincts control you. This is how cheating happens. This is how compulsive lying happens. This is how bursting in anger at someone who cuts you in line happens. Unconscious, automatic engaging of unwanted behavior.
Unconscious people live in denial of their addictive patterns and behaviors. The alcoholic will live in Denial, justifying his addiction and avoiding responsibility over his actions – even turning this as blame unto others – “oh, you don’t know what I’m going through” or “I only drink once every 6 months…I want to enjoy myself.” or “when was the last time I drank like this?” we all know the typical reply “oh….I can stop whenever I want.”
The drunkman will live in the illusion of being in control of the addiction and justifying his or her actions, downplaying them or dismissing them as “normal” or “not that big-a-deal”. People who are unwilling to do the work to integrate the Shadow Self will tell themselves stories in order to be ok with the fact that they are harming their bodies and minds with toxic patterns, behaviors, substances, thoughts or emotions, instead of the brutal truth which would sound more like: “I DON’T LOVE MYSELF ENOUGH to choose differently, to choose Creation over Destruction”. Neale Donald Walsch in his book “Conversations With God” says that this is like saying: “I’m nor worthy enough and I deserve to die.”
Wow. That would be hard to swallow.
So, what would it look like if you chose what supports your health of mind, body and spirit?
Choosing Awareness & Breaking The Pattern
Now – I’m not saying your should repress your Shadow. I’m not saying STOP DRINKING. Or never ever enjoy a slice of sinful chocolate cake. God – I loveee donuts myself. And cheese. And pizza – sometimes. I am NOT saying that.
We all have a Light and we all have a Shadow aspect to our Self.
It is in the contrast of one that the other can exist. Day cannot exist without night, and whatever goes up must go down.
What I AM saying is UNDERSTAND your toxic tendencies so you can set yourself free and break the patterns through AWARENESS, Self-Love, and CHOICE.
Becoming aware of my Shadow Self through tons of crying, questioning, writing, reflecting, observing, and deep pain opened up the possibility of integrating these aspects of myself in a compassionate way.
Whatever we repress will only grow bigger and nastier over time. Repressing never works. Understanding and living in awareness does. For the alcoholic to skip any social gathering is hardly a healthy way of “being cured” of his drinking problem. This is just avoidance. It’s an ALL-OR-NOTHING stance. It’s easy not to drink if you’re stuck at home, in quarantine without a single can of beer or bottle of Vodka in sight. True empowerment comes through freedom.
How Do You Define Freedom?
Freedom is the ability to Self-Regulate. Freedom is the power of choosing, not falling weak to your animal instincts, and being governed by a higher power other than your willpower. True empowerment and freedom come from the ability to be in the thick of the party and be able to CHOOSE health over harm, to be able to regulate yourself and say “ENOUGH” and switch to water instead of Gin, knowing there’s a beautiful retreat in nature to explore the next day and wanting to be able to breathe deeply and be conscious to appreciate the beauty of such nature, and not to sleep in until noon and wake up with an ashtray mouth, acid reflux and a massive hangover that robs you and your loved ones of creating beautiful memories together.
Saying “I want to be accepted in my Shadow as well as my Light” while continuing to give in to the dark side, says “I’m weak”. It would be the equivalent of a junkie asking you to love him unconditionally while injecting himself with a shot of Heroine. Where’s the sense of responsibility there? Ain’t none bruthah. And I ain’t gonna cut you No Slack.
“Unless we do conscious work on it, the shadow is almost always projected, it is neatly laid on someone or something else so we do not have to take responsibility for it.” – Robert Johnson
Sometimes, unconditional love looks like walking away, returning the sole responsibility back to the person, allowing them to create and live their own living HELL if that’s what they wish to experience in this lifetime, through their poor, destructive actions and choices.
I’m sorry but I have ZERO sympathy nor patience for awakened souls who continue to choose destructive behaviors, knowingly. It’s one thing to live ASLEEP. Live in victimhood all you want while you’re asleep. However, with AWAKENING comes greater responsibility in your life; for yourself, and for modeling empowerment to others who look up to you for guidance and inspiration.
Spirituality cannot be used as an umbrella to cover up for destructive behavior.
Learning To Navigate The Shadow Self
Exploring your shadow can lead to greater authenticity, creativity, energy, and personal awakening. This introspective process is essential for reaching mature adulthood.
Shadow work is the key to finding the middle ground. Shadow work is how you integrate the aspects of your unconscious psyche into your conscious experience and allow the positive aspects of the shadow self to express themselves.
Are there positive aspects to the Shadow Self?
Exploring our shadow side can give us tremendous opportunities for growth and development.
Let’s look at five benefits that result from doing Shadow Work:
1) Healthier Relationships
As you integrate your shadow side and come to terms with your darker half, you see yourself more clearly. You become more grounded, human, and whole.
By accepting that you’re not perfect and integrating your own darker parts, it is easier to accept the shadow in others as well.
As a result, you won’t take other’s behaviors personally, nor will you take on their responsibility for their own choices. You can claim back the power to clearly state WHAT you want in your relationship and what you WILL NOT tolerate. Firm boundaries are healthy and necessary in order to live in peace with yourself and in alignment with your core values.
2) Clearer Perception
In seeing others and yourself as you are, you’ll have a cleaner lens with which to view the world.
As you integrate your shadow self, you’re approaching your authentic self, which gives you a more realistic assessment of who you are.
This is a way to keep your Ego in check, not thinking of yourself as the almighty perfect being but rather a human in progress.
When you’re self-aware, you can assess your environment more accurately, knowing when to engage or retract from a situation, person, or dynamic in life. If you know what and where your triggers are, you’re better equipped to choose to engage (and how much) in a particular scenario. This keeps YOUR core values intact, growing you in self-trust and integrity. Your words and actions then are congruent and coherent.
People can TRUST you because you can TRUST yourself in taking decisions that “add up to” in your life rather than “subtract” or shrink your human potential.
3) Liberate Potential Energy
Dragging around this heavy load of shame and darkness is tiresome. It is exhausting work to continually repress and suppress all of the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to face in our adulthood.
Fatigue and lethargy can plague the unexamined life. Mental suppression often leads to physical pain and disease.
Dr. John Sarno, author of “Healing the Body, Healing the Pain” has healed thousands of patients of chronic back pain by helping them acknowledge the repressed rage in their unconscious.
In doing the Shadow Work you liberate a tremendous reservoir of energy you were unconsciously investing in protecting yourself to “mask” or keep the skeletons in the closet. By integrating these, the need to repress lessens and you liberate potential energy for more creative endeavors.
This can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.
4) Psychological Integration and Maturity
As long as we deny our shadows and repress certain parts of ourselves, a sense of wholeness and unity is elusive.
How can we feel a sense of wholeness and balance with a divided mind?
Integrating the shadow brings you one step closer to realizing a sense of wholeness. It’s a critical step to achieving mature adulthood.
In this sense, we’re not trapped in the Peter Pan Syndrome, remaining children who are afraid to grow or rebellious teenagers always seeking to defy authority. We understand that taking responsibility of our actions brings about greater maturity and stability in life – a sense of deep trust in oneself.
5) Greater Creativity
One of the greatest benefits of Jungian shadow work is that it unlocks more of your creative potential.
Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers found that spontaneous occurrence or enhanced creativity happens in mentally healthy and integrated individuals who are living more coherently between their choices and outcomes.
Embody Your Highest Expression of Self
So to sum it all up, what I’m saying here is:
Making mistakes is unavoidable. Learn from them. Take responsibility over the creation of your Heaven or Living Hell.
Love yourself unconditionally: the darkness and the light. And grow in awareness of your triggers and conditionings so you can set yourself free – one NO at a time, honoring and striving to embody your Highest Expression of Self.
The Truth will set you Free.
And what did I do?
I said “THANK YOU but NO THANK YOU” to the man who showed me my Shadow Self perfectly. I took the learnings, I fed the skeletons in the closet and made sure they had a blanket in case it got cold in the darkest of nights.
I’m aware now more than ever of the kind of loving relationship I deserve and want to create my life. I have a better understanding of where my triggers are and how to continue supporting my growth and evolution – stating my boundaries with courage, one NO at a time. And I walked away from the junkie in me who kept falling for the wounded man in search to be saved. I won’t go down that path ever again. And I saved myself instead, from my own living Hell.
The choice is yours. What life are you creating for yourself?
If you’ve enjoyed this article, please leave a message or share it with someone who might be dealing with their Shadow Self. You can also follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/oliviamercado.yoga/ or tune into my Podcast on Spotify: bit.ly/OliviaFromBolivia