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Wed Oct 03, 2007

Embracing The Shadow Side

One of the most interesting concepts put forth by Carl Jung is that of the shadow. Jung posits that prominent personality traits tend to exist alongside their opposites. So, if I possess a certain trait to a great extent, then I also possess the opposite trait at some level, though I may be unaware of it. For example, if I am generally a very polite person, I am also likely to have a side of myself that is very impolite or even aggressive. However, to say that I am a polite person is to say that I generally do not bring the impolite side into reality, relegating it to my inner life, which I may glimpse through fantasy and dreams. This "unrealized" aspect of myself which generally contains material that I censor or stifle is known as the "shadow" side of my personality.

Like Jung, I beileve that it is important to acknowledge the existence of the shadow and to have some way of honoring it. I am not suggesting that we move through life constantly expressing every forbidden impulse or, pointing to the example, that we devise some schedule for venting our hidden impoliteness. However, an important element of fulfilling my potential as a human being is recognizing that I am complex and multifaceted. It is fine for me to be a polite person, but it must be acceptable for me to harbor fantasies of impoliteness, to laugh heartily at comedy that is impolite, and even to sometimes be impolite in situations that call for sternness. Otherwise, I do a disservice to myself by failing to be authentic and by ignoring -- and indeed blockading -- a potentially important aspect of myself.

To embrace the shadow is to live more completely. It is an extension of "The truth shall set you free" (John 8:32). To have sides of ourselves that are ugly is unavoidable; the task is to submit them, as with all other sides, to the will of God: "We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10). And this is no small task.

posted at: 10:49 | path: /theories | link