Carl Jung Shadow Self and spiritual development

Carl Jung's shadow self concept is one of the most important aspects of my own spiritual development. Without surfacing shadow material from the psyche, true spiritual development is almost impossible.

What happens with a lot of spiritual seekers is that they pretend that the shadow material is not there. This is just repression. It makes us feel good to think were all light and love. But this is a mistake.

Every human being has the same capacity. We are able to have the entire range of human experience. You and  I, barrios some sort of pathology, have the same exact human capacity as both Hitler and the Dalai Lama.

It's a sobering thought. I'm sure if you're reading this, you'd much rather identify with the Dalai Lama. But again it's simply a capacity. You can feel love, you can feel hate, and you can feel everything in between.

What is the shadow self

When Carl Jung  took up the study of alchemy, he realized that the alchemists of old were writing allegorically about human spiritual development. And well certainly alchemists were trying to turn lead into gold, the real gold was in methodology for developing the human spirit.

The first step in alchemy, when you want to turn a base metal into something precious, was a blackening. This was a burning away of impurities.

In the same respect, in a spiritual development, the blackening refers to surfacing shadow material from the psyche. It's reaching down inside oneself and making the unconscious conscious.

The shadow  is all of those things that we are repressing about ourselves. It's the stuff we don't want to look at. But it's there.

The force that keeps those things hidden from us is shame. Shame is a powerful and destructive controlling emotion. But we use it often with the people we love the most.

Imagine the child, a boy who was crying. How often growing up were boys, like me, told, "boys don't cry?" I grew up in a generation where it was seen as not masculine to display emotion. So boys were taught to bottle it up. And I think we can see just how destructive that is in society today.

So we have these feelings, urges, desires that society or our parents taught us made us bad people. That's shame. But the problem is that everybody has these feelings. Were all different and feel them to different degrees, but there there.

And as Jung said, "that which we resist, persists."

the shame is often so overpowering that we can't even look at these parts of ourselves. We hide them away from our conscious mind and bury them in our subconscious.

In the psychoanalytic model, this is often the source of neuroses and psychological disease. These things bubble up. They don't stay hidden, and they don't go away.

Dealing with the shadow

so you know you have this thing we call the shadow, how do you deal with it?

You've been fighting with it your entire life. we know this doesn't work.

So the key is to surface and work with the shadow components. Identify them, make friends with them, understand them.

But there's a big misconception here. Many people think that if they surface their shadow all of a sudden they will become a serial killer. This is not the case. Recognizing you have angry or even hateful parts does not change who you are or change your ethics or make you act on them. On the contrary, these parts can be transmuted and by not fighting with them they're less likely to pop up in uncontrolled ways.

There is shadow work in shamanism. So we know that there are methods of dealing with the shadow self going back thousands of years. Our ancestors recognized this part. Sometimes they called these parts demons.

There is a method in Tibetan Buddhism, for example, in which one feeds one's demons. This ritual act transmutes the demons into allies and makes them less harmful. Again, fighting one's demons is the wrong approach.

So there are a variety of methods for surfacing and working with Jung's  shadow self. In this type of work is essential to becoming spiritually unified and operating from your core self.

So it may bear a little research, and practice on your part. You may want to find a shamanic practitioner, or a Jungian psychotherapist, or somebody well-versed in Carl Jung shadow self work. But if you're interested in spiritual development, this is the work you need to do.


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