December 24, 2018

Shadow Archetype: Understanding One’s Personal Unconscious


At a certain point in our lives, we did or will find ourselves standing in the middle of a street as rain pours and with us getting wet before we know it. Why am I standing here? What am I doing?

There are times in our lives wherein we don’t quite understand why we are here and what we are doing in the first place. This may occur even in the most unsuspicious moments as we purchase that random shower glove holder or rotating mop dryer. Why did we do it?

While absurd, this experience is totally common. We let these minor experiences pass, and never truly answer the question. We move on, proceed with our daily routine of going to work, meeting our friends, or watching our favorite Netflix series.

All of these experiences lead to us diving into the endless circle of doing that everyday routine and yet momentarily experience these random moments of being lost.  The more these moments of blankness happens, a voice within us asks us why these things are happening. This prompts us to have glimpses of self-awareness, breaking from that routine, and paying attention to the details right in front of us.

To a certain extent, we feel a different energy and vibe in this brief yet constantly recurring experience of self-awareness – the ideal state that we should be in; a state wherein we are in-control and fully aware of our actions and even our own existence.

But while it is easy to say that such should be, it is often the case that we feel this lack of control of ourselves. This experience is not because of one’s lack of understanding the conscious self, for these choices are made sub-consciously or even unconsciously.

We feel detached from the conscious, and so we experience the phenomena of “I didn’t really know what I was doing”, just as we let rain pour on us for no reason at all.

This leads to an experience of a gap, a distancing from oneself, a feeling of not being able to control how one reacts to the other. While we can never truly fathom the entirety of our own experiences, we can still ask questions and seek understanding.

This leads us to a state of greater control of ourselves, a state of internal self mastery. In order to achieve that, we need to exercise greater self-awareness and control. Whether we like it or not, this phenomenon exists and we have to face it in order to conquer it, and attain greater spiritual and mental mastery.

The Shadow Archetype

Understanding Your Shadow

Carl Jung, the famous psychologist who created the archetypes that we associate ourselves with, presents to us the idea that each person has a shadow – the dark side. To put it simply, the shadow archetype refers to the untapped and suppressed aspects of the human person which resides in the personal unconscious level.

Each individual is imbued with gifts, talents, and skills which they can all achieve. However, not all of us are able to utilize them in order to achieve our dreams.

As a result, we find ourselves in a situation of being stuck even when there is no one who is physically strangling us. Sometimes we have a feeling of wanting to order a different meal from our favorite restaurant, and yet we continually pick the familiar.

Someone comes into the room with radical fashion sense, and while we want to resonate with them, we dissent them instead. In taking chances in life, we want to jump, but we can’t – because we are uncertain of what’s beneath. Endlessly, we feel resonance and stability with the familiar, but ultimately become trapped by it.


In this process of integrating our conscious self with the familiar things in life, we resent or dismiss certain things which we don’t objectively reject or dislike.

Our subjective mind tells us that we shouldn’t pursue them yet objectively, having a fair and reflective stance about ourselves, we find them interesting.

While the consciousness takes the driver’s seat and directs the car where it is going, the eyes doesn’t always focus on the road but may momentarily look at the scenery and how beautiful it is. Involuntarily, the attention shifts from what the conscious is doing, and focuses on what the unconscious wants to achieve.

This is the shadow. This is the personal unconscious. Our untapped and suppressed potentialities form part of this realm. They remain there, trapped in the abyss of the vast information and experiences that we have.

Dream Archetypes

Understanding Your Shadow

How do we know that the personal unconscious exists? Simple – dreams. Jung tells us that our dreams are “the impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of will.

They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse”. (Carl Jung, Collected Works Volume 10, par. 317)

True enough, when we dream, we have certain experiences which we find absurd due to the fact that it surpasses us. In our dreams, we can manifest previously held back and unintended feelings, leading us to wonder why such exists.

It is also common that in our dreams, we have experiences wherein we are not “in control”, making the whole experience unpleasant and even sometimes, undesirable.

However, Jung holds that these are pure and natural manifestations of things that are suppressed in us – things that we unconsciously want to happen.

For instance, when you pass by the street and stare at that woman who enjoys deep conversations with her loved one, these things become absorbed by your mind as part of your holistic experience as an individual.

These things may not consciously register yet you see them. Eventually, these random images that you experience can manifest in your dreams in a raw and natural manner – that a part of you wanted to be that guy sitting with that woman, having deep talks and conversations. Why were you dreaming about that in the first place?

It is, therefore, of utmost importance that we listen to these dreams, for they may reflect our shadows.

Final Word

Whether it be in a scientific or a spiritual manner, shadows are perceived as not having its own existence for they are merely the absences of light. Standing in front of a light in a dark place shows you your shadow – the totality of the suppressed and unmanifested tendencies and potentialities within you.

The importance of knowing, unraveling, and accepting our shadows through shadow work cannot be emphasized enough. In order to achieve a higher state of spirituality and understanding of oneself, one must be able to tap into the power of these shadows, and unleash their great potential in this world.


Continue to Part 2: How The Shadow Is Formed

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