shadow in psychology

January 12, 2023

Shadow in Psychology: The Shadow Self & Work


In Carl Jung’s Jungian Psychology, the shadow in psychology is defined as whatever the conscious personality perceives as negative among the archetypes. The shadow emerges in dreams and fantasies with the traits of a personality of the same sex as the ego, but in a very different configuration. 

It is portrayed as the eternal opponent of an individual or organization, or as the dark brother within, who always follows one, much like Mephistopheles did in Goethe’s Faust. The role of the shadow in psychology is sometimes veiled and sometimes repressed or rejected by the psyche meaning. In the latter situation, it is pushed into the unconscious, where it acts as a complex due to its energy. 

People can be completely aware that they are avaricious, selfish, or aggressive and nevertheless manage to conceal these truths from others behind the mask of the persona. They can, however, suppress those features. They are entirely unaware of them, and their moral ego is restored. 

Everyone’s shadow in psychology differs significantly according to the guidelines within the family, community, and culture in which they grow up. Furthermore, the shadow comprises personality characteristics that are disagreeable or bad, but it can also be positive. Are you ready to dive deep into the realm of the Shadow in Psychology?

We’ve got you covered! In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • Defining the Shadow in Psychology and its Identity
  • How the Shadow in Psychology Influences Others
  • Learning about Carl Jung’s Personal Shadow in Psychology
  • Discovering the Shadow in Psychology’s Aspects and Potential

What is the Identity of the Shadow in Psychology to you?

In Jung’s psyche model, numerous personified entities interact with one another in our innermost world. The persona and the anima and animus are relational; the persona relates to the exterior world, while the anima/animus relates to the inner world. The ego, which is essentially body-based and can be thought of as the executive element of the personality, coexists with the shadow, and both are concerned with our identity.

Jung had a profound interest in the shadow – its content and form – and in integrating “the thing a person has no wish to be”. He saw that inability to acknowledge, recognize, and deal with shadow aspects is frequently at the root of problems between individuals, groups, and organizations. 

It also helps fuel prejudice between minority groups or nations and can spark anything from an interpersonal squabble to a significant war. This could explain why the General Index of his collected works has nearly two pages of references to the shadow. Becoming acquainted with the shadow is vital to therapeutic interaction, individuation, and becoming more rounded, entire, and colorful.

In addition to Jung’s concept of the persona as “what oneself and others think one is,” the “shadow is that concealed, repressed, for the most part, the flawed and guilt-laden character whose ultimate repercussions go back into the domain of our animal ancestors. 

If it was previously thought that the human shadow was the source of evil, closer examination has revealed that the unconscious man, that is, his shadow, consists not only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also of several good characteristics, such as normal impulses, appropriate responses, realistic perspectives, creative urges, and so on.”

What is the Shadow in Psychology’s Potential and Aspects?

What needs to be emphasized here is that the shadow contains all traits, capacities, and potential that, if not recognized and acknowledged, keep the personality impoverished and deprive the person of energy sources and bridges of connection with others. For example, a person may assume that being forceful is selfish, so he goes through life being shoved around by others and deep down resentful, which makes him feel guilty. 

In this situation, his assertiveness potential and resentment are both parts of his shadow. The analysis could question his value system, trace it back to its beginnings, help him become more embodied and thus more in touch with his wants, and offer up areas of choice, reducing his resentment.

Consider the shadow from a vertical perspective. The personal shadow is at the top; it may appear black, formless, underdeveloped, unloved, and discarded. However, as we have shown, while it may appear to be a cesspool, it may also be a treasure trove. The collective shadow is underneath this, but not separated from it in any manner. 

Like the personal shadow, this is relative in that it is influenced by culture. It comprises anything that contradicts our conscious, shared, and collective values. Female circumcision, for example, is acceptable in some societies but repugnant to members of other ethnic groups.

Why and How does the Shadow in Psychology affect us?

What may have caused this to occur? We learn from our parents and other primary caregivers, beginning in infancy and continuing through childhood and adolescence, both consciously and unconsciously, what is appropriate in terms of our bodies, our moods, and our behaviors. This learning continues even after we become adults. 


Everything that we deem to be unacceptable is forced underground, where it eventually becomes a part of our shadow. Not only do we take in and repress what is wrong, but we also internalize the attitudes of our caretakers toward these undesirable features and behaviors that are innate to us. 

The more antagonistic we are toward these aspects of our shadow, which may have been shown by a withdrawal of love, rejection, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, the harsher the attitude. In the worst-case scenario, the shadow becomes intricately interwoven with abandonment anxiety to the point where its emergence can genuinely feel like it is a matter of life or death. 

However, it is important to stress once more that positive, loving feelings, impulses and fantasies can become just as much a part of one’s shadow as negative, hostile feelings, fantasies, and impulses.

How did Carl Jung experience his Shadow in Psychology?

Jung describes a dream in ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ in which he and a “brown-skinned savage” killed Siegfried. Jung outlines some emotions connected with encountering and digesting the shadow in his dream: dread, disgust, regret and remorse, compassion, grief, and humility. It’s an incredible list demonstrating the power of the darkness, its ability to possess us (“He is not himself today”) and even overpower us. But it leaves out shame; we all have a paralyzing fear of our shadow.

Jung frequently mentions his mother’s use of shame as a kind of discipline in the early chapters of his autobiography. But, despite suffering immensely from the effects of shame, neither Freud nor Jung paid attention to it. Perhaps this gap in their publications was partly caused by neither being examined. We each require a particular relational and psychological context for the shadow to emerge without conquering the ego with the destructive effects of shame; analysis, psychotherapy, and counselling all provide such an environment in different ways.

The therapist consistently expresses positive respect, manifested in part by a dedication to dependability, consistency, and a desire to share his/her understanding of the patient’s inner and outside world with the patient. This is part of obtaining insight and meaning, taking action (for example, reality testing), and tolerating the outcome for the time being. 

The patient trusts the therapist, and this trust grows when the patient’s shadow elements enter the therapeutic interaction and are accepted with compassion and attempts at understanding. If everything goes well, they are not subjected to condemnation, humiliation, or rejection again, and the energy trapped within them is released. For example, a melancholy individual who contacts and becomes acquainted with suppressed wrath feels energized and energetic.

How about Carl Jung’s own Shadow in Psychology?

It is commonly believed that Jung left those who were interested in his ideas and the development of them some of his shadow elements to deal with. These elements include his anti-Semitism, negative connotation of the animus, obscure writing, and idealizing the East, amongst other things. 

It is noteworthy to notice that so many Jungian organizations have been prone to splitting, ossification of formidable defenses, and colossal projection; nonetheless, he never wanted there to be any “Jungians.” However, it has been hypothesized that the “shadowlands” of organizations are exactly where most creative ideas find their “breathing space.”

How can you define the assimilation of the evil aspect of the Shadow in Psychology?

This process, known as the integration of the shadow, ultimately results in a person accepting and forgiving themselves. Grievances and placing blame are eventually replaced by accepting responsibility and trying to determine who is responsible for what. It is possible to calm a ferocious conscience, which tends to be self- and other-punitive, and it is also possible to establish personal ideals in contrast to collective morality.

This leads us to the darkest parts of the shadow, where we find manifestations of evil as an interplay in the world to which we need to relate with collective responsibility, guilt, and reparation. Examples of such manifestations include privatized water, the arms trade, famine, torture, and so on; we will have our list of such examples. 

Jung investigated the issue of evil in his writings and through his communication with a Dominican priest Fr. Victor White. His essay “Answer to Job” is particularly notable in this regard. It is a vast subject, well beyond the ambit of discussion that will be allowed in this introduction.

Final Word:

The Shadow in Psychology can be chalked up to being the dark side of one’s personality and identity. We all have different aspects of our being.

What aspect of the Shadow in Psychology intrigues you the most?

Let us know in the comments down below!


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