Happy Groundhog Day my friends! It's also my birthday, my 32nd one in fact. The other week I was thinking about my upcoming birthday, and I had one of those "ah-ha!" or "whoa" moments. I was thinking about previous posts I've written about my birthday (like here and here), and how I usually relate it to Groundhog Day and report about whether or not I saw my shadow... And then it hit me! My Shadow! This (the Shadow in Jungian terms), is what I've been reading and researching more about since just after Christmas! I had resolved to get to know myself better this year, which meant getting to know my Shadow. Never before had having my birthday on Groundhog Day felt so significant.
The Shadow, according to Jung, is the part of ourselves that we've hidden or denied. It's our darker side, residing in our unconscious. Robert A. Johnson, in his book Owning Your Own Shadow, says "it often has an energy potential nearly as great as that of our ego. If it accumulates more energy than our ego, it erupts as an overpowering rage or some indiscretion that slips past us; or we have a depression or an accident that seems to have its own purpose."
Depak Chopra, in The Book of Secrets, says that our Shadow energies become known at times when we can't talk about our feelings, we feel a flash of panic or dread, we want to feel strongly but our mind goes blank, we break down in tears for no reason, or we attack someone without provocation.
Projection is another way our Shadow expresses itself. This is when we put the aspects of ourselves that we don't want to admit onto someone or something else. Carl Jung says "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."
According to Johnson, it's not just the darker aspects of our personality that lurk in the shadows, but also the noble aspects or "gold" of our personality that we don't want to accept. He says, "curiously, people resist the noble aspects of their shadow more strenuously than they hide the dark sides."
I'm in the middle of reading Debbie Unterman's great book Talking to My Selves, and she refers to this positive projecting as well. "Sometimes it's easier to be in awe, or even go so far as to fall in love with people because of particular traits we see in them, when those people are really in our lives to help us nurture and develop those same traits within us."
So, how do we deal with the Shadow? We need to bring the unconscious to the conscious, bring light to what is in the dark. We need to be aware of when we are experiencing those Shadow energies. That awareness will help us release the energy after allowing ourselves to experience the feeling as just that, a feeling. We can explore the strong feelings we have towards people and things (negative and positive) and begin to them in ourselves. We can also discover things our unconscious wants to share with us through our dreams, "active imagination," or some sort of Jungian therapy or analysis.
I of course have only scratched the surface, and I have much to learn and continue to put into practice. So the big question, did I see my shadow? Well, I hope to be much more aware of my Shadow, and not only see it, but "own" it!
What about you? Maybe today, in the spirit of Groundhog Day, you can see if you can "see" your shadow!