Identifying & Integrating our Personal Shadow


Our personal shadow is everything we don't want to be but could be under certain circumstances. It is formed from our cast-off traits as we adapt to our family's values. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have a long list of unacceptable feelings, thoughts, and fantasies we would never admit to.

"Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." - Carl Jung.

As we mature, our banished aspects try to return from the inner wilderness they were sent. As they activate in our unconscious, we project them onto others. During this period, we become righteous and critical, accusing others of our own impulses. Many become trapped in this stage by finding communities that reinforce their projections by placing all bad qualities in others as they reinforce their self-image of purity.

Reclaiming our shadow requires courage and humility. We come to see it is immoral to accuse others of our own sins. Turning away from scapegoating, we find the true battle is not with others but in our own hearts. Through self-acceptance, we discover our darkest impulses can be harnessed to higher and creative ends.

We can turn our inner lead into gold and discover the transformation is a kind of medicine. The energy we used to repress our shadow flows back into our bodies and minds, creating a vitalizing authority.


"I’m in my dad’s wood shop, in the basement of the home where I grew up. I need to unscrew a panel on a metal box, and I’m finding the right screwdriver. The first one I pick up is too small; Mom hands me a better-sized one, a Phillips head with four fins. Somehow it is a very large size, and I notice the fins on the head are rusty. I sand away some of the rust on one of the fins, but when I come to the second, it is covered in masking tape. Instead of peeling off the tape, I try to sand away the masking tape, but the sandpaper continues to sand into the screwdriver fin itself, which is somehow made of corrugated cardboard. I am puzzled. I feel a pit in my stomach like I’ve made a mistake. I find that only the first of the four fins is made of metal; the rest are cardboard. I “undo” (like you would on a computer) to get back to where I was after sanding the metal fin. The cardboard fins are intact again, and I’m relieved. I then unscrew and open the panel of the box."


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