Shadow Self: Uncover new treasures about yourself when you unwrap the gifts tucked inside all that you find undesirable.
When you find yourself irritated with a characteristic in your partner, or anyone for that matter, stop and examine how that characteristic applies to you. Ask yourself, “How am I like that?” The answer may not come easily and you may have to sit with it for a long while. In fact, the frustration, hurt or irritation you experience by observing this in another, may actually prevent you from opening up to the possibility that you are somehow like that.
Carl Jung created this term to describe our hidden self, the self that we suppress. These shadow parts of our personality are characteristics that we decided at some point in our life were not acceptable. We may have learned from our family to disown this part of ourself because of messages we received (such as, “wipe that smile off your face,” “don’t cry, crying is for babies,” “don’t talk so much,” “why do you have to be the center of attention,”).
Piece by piece we slowly eliminate and hide the parts of our self that we are taught are undesirable. Over the years, we mold ourselves into beings that we believe will be more lovable. acceptable, and worthy. We hide the parts of our self that we consider unworthy in the shadows, hence, our shadow self.
Here’s the deal though. When you find yourself in judgment of another, particularly your partner, it is important to challenge yourself to see what it is about that judgment that resonates with you. Sometimes it is not obvious. For example, if you grew up in a house where there was a lot of anger, you may have decided not to be an angry person yourself, or maybe you were taught that anger is dangerous and to not be angry. Then, as you go through life, holding in your anger, refusing to raise your voice or express your frustrations, you may find yourself very uncomfortable in the presence of others who express anger.
The parts of us that we repress are constantly being mirrored back to us through the behaviors of others. Have you ever heard the phrase, “You spot it, you got it?” This is a statement about our repressed self – and how we recognize in others what we refuse to see in ourselves. What we “spot,” are the parts of who we are that we try to hide or conceal. our shadow self. Usually when we find ourselves annoyed, irritated, or frustrated with someone, it is a sign that they are reflecting back to us a part of our self that we do not want to see or accept.
In the example about anger, if you ask yourself, “How am I like that?” Perhaps you express more anger than you realize. Or, perhaps your shadow self is holding all of your anger, keeping your anger in the shadows because you were taught that anger is undesirable. What you “spot” may not be exactly how you’ve “got” it. It is possible that it is that you both struggle with anger, only one struggles to express it; and the other person struggles to manage it.
The goal is to turn every frustration and irritation into an invitation to understand and reclaim some aspect of who you are. When you can own all of the parts of yourself that you used to find undesirable, you slowly become less frustrated with others in the world. Asking yourself, how am I like that, is a great way to learn about yourself, to become the highest version of your self and to feel more at peace in the company of many diverse people. Embrace your shadow self and reconnect to who you really are. We are most lovable when we are truly our selves, our whole selves.
Learn more relationship skills in my one-day workshop on May 28, 2017 from 10am-5:30pm. More information here.