You Can’t Deny Your Shadows

Every person has parts of themselves that they’d rather not admit or accept. These are personality shadows, or things you don’t like to bring to light. Repressing or disowning certain qualities in yourself creates more of that quality. Conversely, when you acknowledge the quality you free yourself from it.

It’s a general rule that all qualities, disowned or not, exist in all people. All of them, no matter how positive or negative they are judged, are normal human characteristics.

Shadows are disowned or repressed qualities or characteristics. If an area of your life isn’t working, there is surely a shadow haunting your efforts. 

By owning  your shadows, you become conscious of how they drive you. With sufficient awareness, you easily see how they darken your life. Knowing this, you can learn to make better choices in your thoughts, feelings and actions. Thus you liberate yourself.

By repressing “undesirable” qualities you would prefer to deny, you actually end up creating, attracting, or expressing more of them. When repressed, these shadow parts come out in immature and dysfunctional ways.

Shadows of Anger

As an example, let’s look at a natural and common emotion: anger. There are many instances in which you may not have been allowed to express your anger. Perhaps you’ve been punished for showing anger in the past, or perhaps the position of power you hold makes showing anger unprofessional and problematic. Maybe anger frightens you. If, for whatever reason, you are repressing or denying your anger, it’s still expressed in sideways, immature forms.

Take a look below at some of the ways repressed anger shows itself. You’ll notice that anger coming out in one way or another, usually passive-aggressively.

  • You fail to do what you say you’ll do because you really didn’t want to do it
  • You’re late for things you really didn’t want to do
  • You make cutting jokes about others
  • You become sullen or stubborn
  • You’re conveniently forgetful
  • You avoid responsibility
  • You make excuses
  • You complain a lot
  • You blame others
  • You use sarcasm

Though you’ve disowned your anger, it is still there, festering. By disowning your anger, you’re actually making it harder to deal with or resolve.  It drives your behaviour all the more because you refuse to acknowledge it.

Moreover, when you see a negative quality you’ve disowned, it triggers you in a negative way. Inevitably, you’ll subconsciously attract streams of people who exhibit the shadow aspect you’ve disowned.

Positive Shadows

A positive quality can also be a shadow. You’ll adore or admire that quality in others, but you won’t see it in yourself. You’ve disowned it. When you see a positive quality you’ve disowned, you’ll put the person who exhibits it on a pedestal. Examples of positive shadow characteristics include: charisma, kindness, leadership, talent, and intelligence.

By putting another person on a pedestal, you create an unhealthy relational dynamic. Rather than relating as equals, you will exalt the other person. The problem with looking up to someone is that it subconsciously puts you in an inferior position. This, in turn, can damage your self-image, and make expressing your positive characteristics more difficult. Then the cycle becomes a self-perpetuating loop that is difficult to break.

Maturing Beyond Shadows

Every shadow has a mature form, and re-owning a shadow allows you to express that quality in a mature and positive way. Anger can be a force for good.

When handled maturely, anger gives you strength and power.

Anger can make you less fearful and anxious. Although violence and anger are often intertwined, anger can also reduce violence. If a person has no anger to meet injustice, then violence will become the natural response. Anger can drive you to push past barriers, and achieve great things.

Justified anger can induce others to placate and soothe, so a justifiably angry person can use anger as a bargaining tactic – although be cautious with this. The anger must be justified, and not just a temper tantrum.

In relationships, denying your anger can be disastrous. Venting your anger does not help you find a solution. It is far better to express the anger in a way that works towards a solution. In this way, anger can actually benefit a relationship.

Anger is a clear signal that something is wrong, and it can motivate change and growth. When you are aware of your own anger, and what triggers it, you can see issues in yourself and your life. Only with awareness can you make the choice to change.

Awareness is the key to this transformation. Since the internal representations we make lead directly to our feelings, our behaviors, and actions, becoming aware of how we do that gives us choice.

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