In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. Identifying, getting to know and integrating the shadow is an important part on the path of spiritual growth and enlightenment. Do you know your shadow?
I have another confession to make. I am not the person I appear to be. Aha….but then again, neither are you! Each and every one of us has a face, an appearance, an image that we are comfortable sharing with the outside world. In reality, this face is simply one aspect of a greater whole. For some, this face is intentionally created and defined based on what they think is considered favorable to the outside world and in no way shape or form reflects their true nature. For others, this face very closely reflects their true nature and arises naturally, effortlessly and authentically. The vast majority of us fall somewhere between these two ends of the personality spectrum. I sense that the person the outside world sees in me is a pretty close reflection of my true nature, but I am also acutely aware of the “other Lauri” that still lies hidden beneath the Lauri that is known to the outside world.
Me and My Shadow
Regardless of how closely our outside appearance reflects our true nature, there is still the shadow aspect of our true self that lies hidden in the deeper recesses of our consciousness, waiting to be discovered, explored and somehow integrated into our outward self. The shadow consists of the parts of ourselves that we have suppressed, repressed and kept separate from our conscious and lived self. Jung speaks about the shadow exclusively in terms of weaknesses and shortcomings and as part of our instinctive nature. I would expand on this by suggesting that the shadow also consists of all those parts of ourselves that we didn’t feel free to explore – the inner creative drive and passions that were not supported (or we didn’t think were supported) by our foundational environment – the repressed, suppressed, ignored parts of our inner nature…and we don’t really know if they are part of our truest nature until we try them on. (This is part of the process of integration – seeking, exploring, trying it on, taking what is life-giving and getting rid of the rest.)
Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself
In exploring the shadow, at first, I thought there was only one. Instead, I find there are several alternative Lauris camping out in here. First there is the Lauri that makes up who I am today – mother, lay minister, meditator, peacekeeper, healer, student of theology and all things spiritual, GOOD GIRL, NICE GIRL, POLITE, ACCOMODATING, KIND, THOUGHTFUL – you know, all those things we are supposed to be. I think this Lauri pretty closely reflects who I am and who I want to be, AND I am acutely aware that there is a whole lot more to me than the world generally sees. Let’s meet the other Lauris:
Linda – Linda was identified by my friends in college. She was my evil twin. She parties like a rockstar, throws drinks at people (sorry John!) and then remembers NOTHING the next morning. Fortunately, Linda has NOT made an appearance in a VERY LONG while! She is scary!
Stevie – This is my Stevie Nicks wanna be rockstar, singer. She wears long flowing lacy things, looks like a gypsy and wants to be the star. We have 8mm film of Stevie dancing on the fireplace hearth at the ripe young age of 2 1/2…singing, dancing and bowing to the audience. She made and early appearance and spent her youth and teen years organizing LP sing-alongs. Of course, she ALWAYS had to sing lead.
Marian – Madame Librarian – This is my tied up tight good girl, National Honor Society, scholar, geek. She wears coke-bottle glasses, has buck teeth and braces and spends all day at the library. Marian is pretty well integrated within me and I’m not afraid to admit it. In truth, I’m just a grown up geek who somehow blossomed late, but doesn’t yet know it. I’m especially grateful for Marian when watching Scot Pilgrim, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and any Kevin Smith movie.
Maudlin – I wanted to call her Mordred, but that is a boy’s name. Maudlin in my inner MARTYR! BLECH!!!! She is a simpering, whiny brat, the whole world is out to get her and she likes to cry, “O woe is me.” She is co-dependent, a cling-on, obsessive and easily rejected…in fact….that is all she is….rejected. I don’t really care for Maudlin all that much. But she is great to be around when I want to throw a pity party.
Maleficent – Ok, she might just be my FAVORITE! This is the person the good-girl, Catholic school girl, responsible Lauri never got to be. I love Maleficent! Unlike the me seen by the outside world who tends to be kind of conservative…Maleficent is everything but! Maleficent dresses in all black, preferably leather. She has her whole body tattooed and sports several piercings. She carries a riding crop or bullwhip and wear black platform boots…even in the summer. She rides a Harley in the summer and a ’63 split window Corvette in the winter (I know, not at all practical in Wisconsin – on snowy days she drives a black Jeep Wrangler). She is part Kat Von-D and part Angelina Jolie. She listens exclusively to heavy metal music, smokes clove cigarettes (because is ticks other people off and because they are cool), drinks Absolut vodka straight up and she goes out to heavy metal clubs and dances all night. I’m not sure if she has a job…but if she does, it is really unconventional…..heck, she might be a writer ;). And she is very comfortable with her sexuality. Maleficent is cool and I want to be her when I grow up.
That’s all for now…now it’s your turn!
Who are your shadows?
How can you begin to get to know them?
How can you make them part of who you are inside AND outside?
Authentic Freedom Ministries