The concept of the Shadow refers to the aspects of ourselves we don’t want to look at, address, confront, accept, or admit. What we do instead is try to ignore it, deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist, perform mental, and emotional gymnastics to rationalize or avoid it. We do this because its too uncomfortable to confront, too painful, too threatening to the ego (self-perception) of who we want to believe we are. We have a Shadow on a personal level and group levels including families, organizations, national and global.
The Shadow never goes away through being ignored. Instead, it worsens. It intensifies. It grows more and more powerful to get acknowledged because it is a part of us and as such, it yearns to rejoin our psyches in wholeness once again. Spiritually bypassing the Shadow by choosing instead to focus only on the positive things only hinders our wholeness. This is as true for the self, as it is for the collective.
“Jung proposed that one becomes enlightened about one’s nature by not only focusing on the positive aspects of ourselves and our spirituality but by also confronting our own Shadow Self. Like a child who is ignored, the more one refuses to confront their Shadow Self, the more it throws tantrums to get us to acknowledge it.”
The Shadow must be confronted, but this confrontation isn’t one of battling it (which also worsens it). It’s about confronting it through observation, mindful awareness, listening to it, bearing witness, holding space, letting it show you its pain to be healed. While global events may be uncomfortable and we may be tempted to look away, to ignore it, to spiritually bypass it with mental gymnastics to make ourselves feel better – I urge you to bear witness to it, listen to the pain, hold space for its voice, confront it with empathy.
If people interpret Black Lives Matters as “other lives don’t matter” or as an attack on white people it just emphasizes their point that the message and please of the black community are not being heard. In a similar vein, the idea that being against white supremacy somehow meaning you’re for the supremacy of another group is absolutely and utterly absurd. No one wants riots. No one wants violence. No one wants protests. But sometimes it’s inevitable.
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Peaceful attempts at equality and justice have been attempted for decades by the black community without any progress or change and with equal condemnation of it. A recent example is athletes and celebrities being attacked and criticized for peacefully taking a knee to raise awareness about police continually killing unarmed black men, women, and children without any real consequence. The justice system is failing them and they’re still not being heard. Unfortunately, but obviously, those who oppress others don’t tend to listen to the requests of the oppress. As such, all major progress towards equality within our country has occurred when people engage in civil disobedience and rioting, and we have an extensive history of it. That is how women got rights in this country, how homosexuality was decriminalized, how segregation ended and even how we as a country became independent from British rule. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that “rioting is the language of the unheard.”
Systematic racism within this country and others isn’t new. It’s always been here. The more we ignore it, choose to look the other way, and avoid it the worse it will keep getting. Bear witness to the pain caused by it, let it express its anger and rage caused by injustice, hold space for it, listen. We will never have healing if we don’t listen to those parts of us calling out in agony and desperation. We will never have real change if we don’t allow it to tell us what the real problem is and address and confront it head-on. Don’t look away. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Allow it to show you the parts of yourself that are perpetuating the Shadow, even in ways you are unconscious of, even if that perpetuation is your passivity, your non-concern, your willingness to look away and not listen. Then change it. Shadow Work isn’t fun. It’s not trendy or glamorous or edgy. It’s painful. It’s messy. It’s uncomfortable. However, it’s absolutely necessary.
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