Embracing Our Shadow Aspects
We can all be our own worst enemies at times, as ridiculous as that may sound. There can be patterns of negative self-narrative or behaviour that plague us in our efforts to really be the bright shining stars that we truly are. Even when these habits have been fostered or developed from external forces and influences, there comes a point in our process of personal evolution where we have to admit that *we* are the ones perpetuating and nurturing them, even to our own disadvantage! This pretty much sets the stage for where I was when I woke up on the day of my annual solar return.
Birthdays are like our own personal new year, and that has always felt like an auspicious time to check in with myself and see how I’m doing. Are my current outlooks, behaviours, and attitudes assisting me in moving towards my goals, or are they hindering me? On this particular birthday, a self-defeating habit and belief that has clung to me most tenaciously in life smacked me point-blank in the face – talk about a wake-up call! It was in that moment that I decided this birthyear’s work would center around coming to terms with a deeply ingrained yet totally unfounded detrimental shadow aspect of myself.
The concept of shadow aspects started with psychologist Carl Jung’s study on personality archetypes.
In a nutshell, shadow aspects are those parts of our personality which we deny, repress, or reject. Given that behavioural responses such as jealousy, pettiness, defeatism, and neediness can be met with displeasure, it isn’t unusual to avoid or brush away those emotions as soon as they come up. Feeling angry or unworthy is uncomfortable, so it’s not a place most folks willingly choose to linger in; yet to truly accept and adapt our shadow aspects, that is exactly what we need to do – we need to sit with our more challenging emotions to truly get a sensation as to what they’re all about.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” — Carl Jung
I’m a naturally confident person. I’m sure I come off as being cocky to some folks, but the truth is that confidence is in my nature; so much so that I can become irritated when others exhibit a lack of confidence, even if they are simply characters in a fictional story. The flipside of this is that I also find bravado, conceit, and boastful attitudes extremely distasteful, for these traits come off as a falsely manufactured to impersonate true confidence in my eyes. Given this, how surprising is it that the shadow aspect I currently face is one of harbouring lack of confidence in regards to my own creative work? This same body of work has been applauded, awarded, heaped with mountains of positive feedback and affirmation, and financial return, yet I embody a self-narrative to the exact opposite! The human mind can be a complex and muddled place…
Sitting with our shadow aspects invokes the work of Emotional Alchemy, supplying us with the raw materials necessary to transform dark matter into gold.
Sitting with our shadow aspects is the knuckle-cracking rolling-up-the-sleeves part of the process – it’s the “okay, let’s get this on” phase. By sitting with our shadow aspects, we come to know them – like any interaction, it’s important to establish an understanding of what we are dealing with before we really get down to work. I like to use tarot to uncover the nuances of my own dark side, and then meditate on the introspection I have gained. Once I have a clear idea of who, what, and why this shadow aspect of self exists (and big surprise – a lot of the time, fear is at the root of it all!) my method is to pull it out from the shadows and into the light, and then embrace it fully, bringing what was once hard, spiky, and fearful around to being soft, yielding, and gentle. It really is all about befriending that vulnerable place inside of ourselves so that it becomes something that helps to propel us forwards rather than dragging us back. It is because of this process of transmutation that I like to call this evolutionary magick “Emotional Alchemy.”
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” — Carl Jung
Our darker sides can craft some powerful magick – just think of the relation between the two: we cast spells the same as we cast shadows. We have black magic the same as we have white magic. Grimoires are often known as “The Book of Shadows.” There is a balance between our dark and our light, and each needs to be recognized and embraced if we wish to be truly whole. It isn’t easy work, and it’s a never ending process, but there is a peace to getting to the point where we feel able to welcome those parts of ourselves which we tend to push away. When it comes right down to it, it’s a little silly to be afraid of our own shadows, afterall!
I have shared my process of working with shadow aspects and the tarot in a 3-part series here for those who are interested.