"He embodies all that I loathe, and when I'm around him the hair on the back of my neck stands up."
"I can't take my eyes off her and I want to leave."
"I'm flabbergasted, confused, and aghast that anyone could spend more than two minutes with him. Can't they see how despicable/insincere/evil/duplicitous/smelly he and/or she is?!"
Thus spoke a shady character you might--if you're paying attention--be very familiar with. If you don't know it by name, you certainly have felt its presence, and have even seen its work. It is the shadow self; the part of us that is covered with buttons, all waiting to be pushed. They get pushed when the shadow recognizes its own, unacceptable characteristics manifested by others but denied by old, learned limitations. These limitations are imposed by our family of origin, our close contacts, and society at large. These influencing factors are why no two shadows are alike, and the reason we are called to dig deep to learn its secrets.
Are we really composed of different parts--some conscious, some unconscious? Are these archetypes we've heard and read about and seen represented in every story that's ever been told really real? And does the filtering of all human experience through these psychological lenses explain some of our mysterious beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors? And if any of this is true, how do we navigate and make sense of these theoretical aspects of the Self? Is this really the best way to try and understand our complex personalities? And if we never understand what it means to be us, can we still seek that holy grail of Jungian psychology: Individuation (the lifelong process of trying to integrate our conscious and unconscious parts into a genuine whole)?
The Shadow and Its Importance for Individuation in "Black Swan"
Would you like to learn a simple way to do a little light side/dark side integration right now? At the end of this piece is concise, beautifully written essay which explains in very basic terms what it means to befriend your shadow and how to start doing it. It's from a book called Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side and is presented by David Richo, a gifted therapist, lecturer, and author who makes the incomprehensible very clear. Before you check out his short article, why not enjoy a few quotes by the eminent analyst who came up with this mystifying idea of peering into the unknown recesses of who we are and calling it Shadow Work: