Embracing Shadow Material….profound inner work, or neo-psychobabble?

Carl Jung coined the term “shadow,” referring to the disclaimed, repressed parts of our personality that we find unacceptable, disturbing, and/or wrong.  Literally these parts of ourselves become split off from our sense of self and we lose awareness of them as being a part of us.  We then begin to see them as unacceptable parts of the world around us, seeing these traits in other people that we do not like. 

Ken Wilber talks of the importance of “shadow work,” where we actively engage uncovering, owning, and embracing these lost pieces of ourselves.   Through this, he says, huge amounts of psychic energy are freed up to pursue the development of the other three parts of an integral approach (body, mind, and spirit). 

Tool has an amazing song about the powerful transformation that can take place from engaging in this important work:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tja6_h4lT6A

So I’d like to test the premise, here, collectively.

1)      What is one quality or trait in a person that really annoys, upsets, or irritates you?  (If you have a list, for the purposes of this exercise, just pick one.)

2)      Can you possibly imagine that this quality or trait is actually a disowned aspect of yourself?  Is it possible that at some level this describes you?  Do you spend time, energy, and effort proving that this is NOT who you are?

3)      What positive outcomes or effects could there be if you embraced this as part of yourself.  That is, how could you use this quality or trait to your advantage in your life?

So is this profound inner work, or neo-psycho-babble?  What do you think?


merkaba33  is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.



Filed under philosophy, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Embracing Shadow Material….profound inner work, or neo-psychobabble?

  1. Some people I know feel that shadow work is very important. It is innately tied to almost every other work they do since, in their view, the shadow is always relevant and can move “in” or closer at any time. So I have heard man different thoughts regarding this work and “how it should be done.” What is common among these theories that I hear is that the shadow seeks your life. Do I believe that viewpoint? Not entirely, but it is a concept that I found often in those dong shadow work. Personally, I believe that concept is the first step in handing over more control to the shadow; it implies fear of it on some level. I, personally, do not believe it should be feared. In some sense, when approaching shadow, a certain level of objectivity and chilly scientific observation can be helpful.

    You mentioned reintegration of shadow. Some close to me largely take that approach. They claim that the power of the shadow over them dwindles or is at a manageable level. The shadow will not struggle as much for your life, rather it can shift in and out of you. Some are very uncomfortable with this since they ultimately do not want any part of what they deem is not them. These people may try to “kill” or disintegrate shadow. They may also try to imprison it. This approach doesn’t jive with me. Something you try to kill will become an enemy of yours quick and may indeed bring pain to you as well. Likewise, something being pushed to disintegration will push for stronger structure, and prisoners are usually unhappy and plotting escape.

    What I see is that shadow often shifts. It goes along with our change and development. How can I possibly define all that is “not me?” How can I define all that “is me?” I am in flux, as are most cognizant life forms. To label oneself implies a kind of stillness, a halt in a timeline or else it is a box that one is able to step into. I have inherent problems with this kind of labeling. I can tell you who I was, who I am today and who I might want (or not want) to become. But are there traits that are plainly “not me?” I can attest to the fact that I am not a murderer. Does my shadow harbor some of the characteristics of one? *shrugs*

    It seems to me that we choose how big or small our shadow is and how much it is separate or a recognized part of us.

  2. soahki

    This is interesting! I’d actually thought of writing a blog on shadow work at some point, but I wasn’t sure how well it would be received by this particular group. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to discover your post on the subject today!! I’ve read a lot on the concept of the shadow, and in fact it’s one of my favorite topics. Here are my replies to the questions posed:

    1. I especially hate when a given person enters a group situation where I also am… and immediately takes a leadership role and expects others to regard them authoritatively. I hate when a stranger dons grandiose airs and immediately declares himself an expert on whatever subject is being discussed, be it mundane or especially metaphysical. I hate when any person introduces herself by declaring her myriad accomplishments in said field and posing as a master of the art. I also loathe when people exaggerate these accomplishments to make themselves appear even more brilliant, accomplished, or skilled than they actually are.

    2. Yes. After realizing this, I’ve attempted to separate myself from all people who had turned my life into a sort of egomaniacal pissing contest. And there were a few.

    3. Being a leader is a good thing, and developing skills and competence are also good things… as long as my primary aim is not solely to impress others. Striving for excellence and proficiency in life is a positive trait, as is ambition and (to some degree) competitiveness.

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