Overview: This in-depth guide dissects the complete Shadow Work process, guiding you through an exhaustive list of shadow work-related insights and exercises.
Table of Contents
In the previous shadow archetype series, we have discovered a part of ourselves – our shadow. We have seen why the shadow plays a significant role in our everyday lives, influencing our decision-making process by manifesting tendencies that we repress or even resent.
Shadows influence us and when we are unaware of them, they only become blacker and denser. The thicker they become, the more uncontrollable they may be.
Even worse, the problem is that the shadow can take over, it can use the driver’s seat and control our lives. It does so in a manner that we don’t even know about.
Even so, we have also witnessed that these shadows are not necessarily negative. Rather, they are often misinterpreted and misused due to either our lack of knowledge about it or biased perspectives against it.
Contrary to misguided notions, these shadows can even become resources of renewed power and vitality. They can be aspects of ourselves that we never really knew about and might actually help us. It’s all possible through the process of shadow work.
In order to do so, it is important to recognize them so that we can integrate them as parts of our personality.
In this Shadow Work Series, we will continue the quest of understanding our shadows by discussing practical ways of using shadow work, and the remarkable effects it has on our consciousness.
It is important for us to look into these methods in order to fully utilize the shadow to our advantage. By discussing them, we shed light to the various ways of shadow work.
This series will discuss 3 main aspects in our lives in which the shadow can be dealt with through shadow work. It will give a brief description of each method, but not extensively discuss them in order to maintain the brevity of the article.
The main topics will be the individual, social, and spiritual aspects of our lives, and how to deal with our shadows. By doing a holistic approach, we become more fulfilled in our journey of self-understanding.
Join us in this quest for fulfilment and mastery of one’s self.
We have seen that the shadow is merely an idea of the self. By perceiving it as a perception of ourselves, we get to understand that it doesn’t necessarily control us.
However, people nowadays, being distracted by the social media and the nature of the technological life itself, it is difficult to keep track of one’s individuality.
People are easily swayed by their phones just as much as they are used to getting what they want in an instant.
While useful and seemingly harmless, these technological developments have undeniably shaped the way we live our lives. Instant gratification makes people busy and bored at the same time.
As a result, patience is not anymore, a virtue. It has been replaced by productivity and efficiency. And so, waiting in line becomes less and less relevant while ordering online becomes more necessary.
Making use of these technologies aren’t necessarily wrong. But whether we like it or not, they shape the way we perceive life, and see little to no value on patience.
Patience brings solitude. It is in the most routinely common idle moments in life that we get to have time for ourselves. Waiting in line, queuing in traffic, and sitting at the departure area gives us time to think and reflect.
Thus, in order to deepen our understanding of ourselves, it is necessary to see the value of these instances and how we can make use of them.
In this section of the article, we will do a quick discussion of some ways that the individual can constantly reflect about himself.
One of the first ways that we will explore in this quest for integrating the shadow is William Luijpen’s Subjectivity and Freedom.
Luijpen is a renowned philosopher, particularly on the subject of phenomenology which basically talks the study of the world from man’s viewpoint or experience. He was a catholic priest who contributed greatly to the study and propagation of Existentialism or the philosophical study of understanding man’s meaning and existence.
In this article, we won’t be discussing the entirety of phenomenology and existentialism. We also won’t be discussing even the whole article of Luijpen. Rather, what we will be doing is to discuss a specific idea from his writings that can be applied to shadow work.
Luijpen wrote an essay called Subjectivity and Freedom. In this essay, he discussed the very notion of man’s existence, consciousness, being, and autonomy. Now these four terms will be crucial because they will form part of the basis why this method can become a practical way.
Man is free. This is one of the central ideas that the article discusses. By being free, it doesn’t mean that we are in a state of absolute freedom. Our work binds us just as our physical existence constricts us.
Meaning, when we talk about man’s freedom and autonomy, we are not necessarily talking about external freedom. Rather, this kind of freedom is internal and is in the mind.
The first condition in this method of distancing is autonomy.
By understanding that man is autonomous (at least in so far as he is able to come up with conscious and rational decisions) we realize that it is part of our nature to make decisions and choices in life.
For instance, when you decide whether or not you will lend money to your friend who needs it but you know can’t pay you back, you realize that you are engaging in a rational decision-making process which involves morality.
When you think about it, this concept of autonomy extends to the point that inaction is action. If you see trash in front of you and decided to disregard it, of course that reflects your decision as an individual.
This autonomy of man enables him to be accountable for his actions, given that he has the freedom to decide what to do and how to react.
The second condition in this method of distancing is reason.
Since man is equipped with the capability of reason (given that he is mentally sane, of course) it automatically follows that he has the capacity to identify what is right from what is wrong.
As in my previous example, reason defines the gap between man and animals. When dogs are taken for a walk and goes out of the house, it is strange that they have this urge to defecate the moment they are out.
If we leave them be (yes, some dog owners deliberately do this), they will simply discharge on the first lawn they see or even in the street itself. However, as the dog owner, it is our responsibility to pickup that trash and dispose it accordingly.
In this example we can see that because man is imbued with reason, he has the responsibility to make choices which are correct and rational. If man cannot make those choices, he is no different from animals.
The popular comic/movie Spiderman tells us a lot about man’s autonomy and freedom. The scene wherein Peter Parker decided to let the criminal go in order to get even with the organizers speaks volumes of our daily experiences wherein we let bad people get away.
As we all know, the very criminal that Peter Parker decided to let go was the man who killed his uncle. Thus, we have the famous phrase that “with great power comes great responsibility”.
The same holds true for man’s autonomy and rationality – because we are free and with reason, we must be able to make moral and conscious decisions and be held accountable for it.
While this is the usual ideal scenario, we realize that this is not automatically the case. The existence of the shadow, for instance, can possibly hinder us to make the best or right choices in life.
Despite the fact that we are equipped with both reason and freedom, we still end up making wrong choices due to the imbalanced and unattended perceptions that we have of ourselves and of others.
In this case, we ask, what then does distancing contribute to the whole problem? In order to answer the question, I will be referring to a direct quote from Luijpen’s article.
“On the affective level existence also has both positive and negative aspects. Existence on the affective level—which Heidegger calls “mood” or “tonality”—is both a “finding oneself to be well” and a “finding oneself not to be well”: the world is both a “home” and “alien to home.”
“The subject’s consent to reality is never unreserved; he can never fully say yes to any reality. Neither money nor sex, science nor power, health nor the Revolution—in a word, nothing fully satisfies man.”
“The subject’s affective yes to the world includes also an affective no. All fullness of being-man is equiprimordially emptiness, all satisfaction is infected with dissatisfaction, all peace, rest and happiness contain conflict, unrest, and unhappiness. The “yes” within existence excludes absolute “nausea” (Sartre); the “no” makes absolute consent impossible. The world is my home in which I long for a better fatherland.” (William Luijpen, Subjectivity and Freedom)
These directly quoted paragraphs speak volumes about the finitude of human existence. But more importantly, it talks about the idea that the shadow is an inescapable part of man’s existence in this world.
So, to truly answer the question, we ask – is man really bounded by this experience mentioned above? Or can man break-free from these bonds in order to decide for himself?
In our previous article, we already presumed that this can be possible. By noticing our shadow traits and recognizing them, we get to consciously decide whether or not to integrate them.
However, the groundwork for the very possibility of this point is yet to be laid. How can we say that man’s consciousness is enough for him to deal with the shadows or perform shadow work?
Isn’t it the case that consciousness alone is not enough that’s why we constantly have unrecognized shadows in the first place?
This is the part where Luijpen’s idea plays a crucial role in understanding man’s consciousness. I quote:
“The negativity involved in the subject’s affirmation of and consent to himself and to reality is sometimes called “distance”: the subject distances himself from unreserved affirmation and consent.” (William Luijpen, Subjectivity and Freedom)
While some philosophers understood that to be and to live necessarily means that we are in the world and is constantly engaged on it, it doesn’t mean that we’re inevitably tied to it.
Meaning to say, when an individual encounters a situation that creates a shadow, it doesn’t automatically mean that the shadow will have an imprint on him.
This is precisely because individuals are free and rational – they are conscious. But the aspect that allows them to detach from the world is their capability for distancing.
This notion of distancing is the very foundation of what allows man to re-examine and evaluate what is happening to him.
Without distancing, a lot of things may happen to us to a point that we simply let life see its way.
When there is distancing, people have this capability to further evaluate themselves by placing their consciousness at a distance. If we were to simply illustrate it, it would look like this:
As we can see in this simple conceptual illustration, the arrows represent the in-between distances.
By this method, we see that the self can be different from the world. The problem, however, is that the self is tied to the shadow and to consciousness.
That is why when we let the shadow take over, it takes over the self, the consciousness, and how the individual appears and reacts to the world.
This can be solved by what we refer to as “stepping-back”. By doing a simple back step, we get to see things at a distance, and allow us to have a chance to re-evaluate things in ourselves and lives as well.
To put into context, the value of stepping back is appreciated when we are about to make big decisions in our lives.
Your boyfriend for 5 years suddenly proposed. And so, you are taken aback, and re-evaluate at that spur of the moment. This evaluation will decide which action or course you take.
If you didn’t realize your shadow, you would have decided right away without all factors accounted for – like giving your shallow yes because you have a tendency of being submissive.
But if you did the step back method, you would pause, think, and critically assess the situation.
“Am I ready for this?”
You ask the perennial question of humanity as if anyone is ever fully ready for everything.
In this simple example, we can see that the value of stepping back is not only to temporarily detach from the world (or how we perceive it), rather it also talks about how we can detach from ourselves.
In which case, stepping back actually allows us to manifest the idea of the previous section wherein we have to treat shadows as merely ideas of the self and let consciousness become the driver.
By doing this method, we detach from our image of ourselves and enter the higher level of consciousness.
And so, we ask, from this higher level, the same questions but with greater clarity and understanding.
When things happen in our lives so fast (just like that salesperson in the supermarket who sells seemingly essential stuff like a 16-in-1 blender), people with clear judgments aren’t easily persuaded.
They know that they have tendencies and the compelling script of the salesperson can easily lead to that unnecessary card swipe.
They know that their emotions can take over and justify their actions with logic.
That is why they step back, evaluate, see their shadows from a distance.
As one of the many ways to perform shadow work and understand our shadows, it is important to take note of this existential method for allows us to question the meaning not only of the world but also of our own existence.
In this second way, we will explore more about our shadows using the Freudian phases of development.
As a quick introduction, Sigmund Freud is the father of Psychology. His main theory revolves around the ideas of psychoanalysis, psychosexual development, and more famously – the id, ego, and superego.
Despite criticisms, his ideas played a central role in the development of the majority of theories in psychology.
Freud spearheaded this idea of the conscious and unconscious states – both of which has opened the path for digging deeper into human psychology.
As Psychology progressed, these ideas of Freud became cornerstones from which other famous psychologists built their theory with.
In this section, we will selectively discuss Freud’s theory. We will explore how shadows develop and are treated using the Freudian stages of development.
By examining his famous psychosexual development theory, we can see how our past experiences might have subconsciously affected our growth
Freud, perhaps, is the, if not most, famous psychologist largely due to his sexually inclined theory. Previously seen as radical, growing intrigue, belief, and acceptance in these controversial topics continues to catapult his legacy beyond his death.
One particular theory that sparks this intrigue is the psychosexual development theory which mainly focuses on the phases of childhood.
These phases are explained involving a sexually inclined approach even to the point that it presents the Oedipus Complex.
Such an idea usually highlights the intrigue in Freud’s psychology, making him less
But before we delve into that intrigue, it would be fairer to him if we begin with his core principles – pleasure and reality.
Freud tells us that we have a natural tendency towards the pleasure principle. As humans, we aspire for happiness and pleasure. This is part of our being human.
On a bit of a side note, this idea is one of the primordial questions in man’s existence. What makes man truly happy?
If we were to go back to the pre-historic times, we would see that humans tried to aspire for survival because a certain level of happiness was to be achieved for surviving.
As man became more literate and was able to begin civilizations and recording of history, this question remained but with different answers.
The Greeks aspired for virtue and self-actualization while the Catholics longed to be one with God.
Modern thought brought by Descartes relinquished all other ideas of happiness and led to the ultimate idea that we know of – the ability to pursue life as we see it fit.
This idea served as an umbrella which takes in our concept of happiness.
But for Freudian psychology, happiness meant pleasure. As children, we grow up to seek pleasure usually from our parents, particularly with our mother who fed us with breastmilk.
But Freud also notes that while the chief good that man seeks is happiness, he cannot over-pursue it for it will cause displeasure.
While we’d always love to have a bite of that Krispy Kreme donut, we know that eating a donut a day, keeps diabetes (not away lol).
In the same way, the same example applies. Spending too much time with a person can eat up both your time and make you stagnant. Resting and relaxing can be perceived as happiness but too much of such can lead to laziness.
And so, Freud theorized that it is not only the pleasure principle but also the reality principle that we have to take note of.
Having the reality principle, people will balance off their inner desires for sex and aggression (biases of Freud in his theory). People will not just randomly take advantage of someone even if that is their definition of happiness.
In other words, the reality principle points at social rules and norms which are set to limit our idea and pursuit of happiness.
Going back to our shadow, these two main ideas are strongly relevant in dealing with them because if we were to have a better understanding of shadow work, we have to see how it affects us and how society perceives it.
As a shadow is growing, it is possible that these are repressed notions of happiness which manifests itself in unusual manners.
With the help of being able to see them, we are better able to manage them. But how should we see them using the Freudian lens?
In the Freudian theory, we develop what we call as neurosis/neuroses. In an attempt to balance the pleasure and reality principle, the human mind may sometimes make faulty negotiations which will lead to repressions.
By having to regulate ourselves in an unbalanced manner, we develop a certain neurosis which can trigger negative responses in a person.
But how do these neuroses come about? Freud tells us that we need to examine our childhood in order to asses if there were any events which have led to us being imbalanced in one way or another.
From his lens, this is where the psychosexual theory becomes relevant. Freud suggests certain phases in the human experience which contributes to this overall trend.
First, the oral phase. As we are born into this world, our expression of pleasure manifests in the act of looking for basic sustenance. And so, a baby cries as it yearns for food through oral intake.
Thus, the way we commune with the world is through our mouth. Our feelings and ideas are expressed through the mouth whether it be by eating or making sounds which can signal the parent about something that we want.
Freud argues that if parents are not careful, this phase may later on develop certain fixations such as smoking, nail-biting, over-eating, or even rejection of dependency on food.
The second phase is the Anal phase. At ages 1-3 years old, the child is being toilet-trained. As the child learns to do this on his/her own, control over the environment without being dependent on others is achieved.
Gratification is realized through self-achievement by proper toilet training. By recognizing through positive gestures, parents are encouraging children to positive outcomes as well.
But if the child is not trained properly, this may cause problems – a dichotomy between orderliness and messiness. Both are natural results of not being properly trained given that the child is unable to distinguish the apt medium and opts for the extreme.
Moving on, the phallic stage is when the child begins to realize his/her sexual orientation. By becoming more aware of his/her surroundings, children begin to have this drive towards affection of the opposite parent.
This is the controversial stage where Freud presents the idea of Oedipus/Electra Complex. As boys desire to replace the father, young girls also compete for the father’s affection.
As children begin to identify with their common sex parent, this naturally resolves the issue. However, if they fail to resonate with their parent, it can cause a whole lot of sexual dysfunction during adulthood.
The next stage is the latency stage. By 6-12 years old, children begin to play with other children. At this stage, the sexual libido is present but not on a specific part of the body.
Children during these stages manifest their energies through pursuits of things that they want to do. They become more concerned with relationships between them.
Lastly, the genital stage occurs from ages 12+. As they become more aware of their sexuality, the focus is restored on the libido. This manifests in their puberty stage.
On both last stages, Freud notes that there are no adulthood fixations caused by such.
So far, we have seen an attempt to give a compact summary of Freud’s psychosexual theory. But how is this related to one’s shadow?
In Freud’s psychological theory, we can see that he places great emphasis on how children are raised from ages 0-6 years old. As mentioned above, possible adult fixations result from these stages.
What this tells us is that problems we encounter during childhood can have a big impact to our personality. This is because during the time that we were experiencing them, we don’t quite have a grasp of the world.
Freud also shows that embedded in our personality is the idea that we are sexual beings. Having these essential sexual drives makes manifest in the actions that we do as children.
Thus, if we look back to Freudian theory, we can see that the shadows that we have are most likely a result of childhood fixations that were left unaddressed
For instance, if we are humans with the tendency to smoke, it might have very well been the case that during childhood, we weren’t fed properly. Thus, our mouths constantly look for the same sensation that was supposedly afforded to us.
In the same way, the anal stage also shows that as children we should have been taught to do the toilet alone and be praised for it.
But nowadays, some parents just use the diaper due to the convenience that it provides. When parents do such, they cannot train children properly to do potty training.
Practically, this will have an effect in the child as they lacked the sense of control and praise that was denied to them. As adults, they may become overly organized given that they were lacking such before or completely the other way around.
Lastly, we see that the phallic stage talks about the sexual orientation of children. In failing to become a proper role model to them, they can be prone to sexual dysfunction.
What this means is that they may have problems associating with their own sex or associating with the other sex. Since as children, they were denied this feeling of security, they might look for a father figure from their partner, a presence that they lacked before.
If we try to take into account Freud’s arguments in relation to our concept of shadows, we will see that shadows form not only because of our own choices.
In the previous article, we have attributed shadows as natural consequences of things we resent or reject.
But from a Freudian standpoint, we can see that a lot of those things that we resent are not truly our choices.
Rather, they are natural consequences of some fixations or neuroses that were left unaddressed during childhood.
Thus, the failure to address these basic functions of the body can manifest into psychological neuroses.
These neuroses can have an effect on the decisions we make, eventually forming our shadows.
But in the same way, we can also say that even when we parents were able to resolve these issues correctly, shadows still occur.
Consider for instance the phallic stage. Freud tells us that we need to integrate and associate with the common sex parent. As a girl, one can associate with the mother who exemplifies what being a woman is. (at least from the child’s standpoint)
As a result, it is to be expected then that children will pursue womanly things given the influence of their mother.
In the same way, a lack of a father figure for male boys can result to a female preference. As a writer, I’ve known people who have experienced such.
Given the strong maternal experience in their family, his childhood preferences were strongly altered. I used to remember seeing him playing with bras instead of cars during childhood.
I’m not claiming that this eventually led him to prefer men as life partners. But eventually, it did happen. Although we cannot fully conclude that this was a result of problems during childhood, we can at least theorize that there is a correlation.
In this case, whether little boy prefers cars or bras, he definitely considers the opposite as inapt.
From there, a shadow is built, even when the child is yet to reach the peak of his autonomy and reason.
What does this tell us about our shadows and shadow work?
First – that they are most likely heavily influenced by our psychological upbringing.
In this theory, we can see that shadows are made even without our own volition.
The psychological upbringing of an individual can strongly influence how he or she perceives the world – whether it be a dangerous or safe place to live in.
Much of these shadows are things that we can really do nothing about during these phases for it is up to our parents to choose which shadows to allow.
Which brings us to the question of – how do we actually deal with them if they are made right from the beginning?
Come to think of it, if your own shadows right now are results of choices you didn’t make, would it even be possible for us to identify them alone?
Perhaps, this is the reason why some people continue to live with their shadows and fail to identify them. Because individuals obtained these ideas of themselves during childhood, it would be difficult for them to bring it to the table.
And so, individuals grow up with fixations, as Freud tells us.
This brings us to the second point of why Freudian theory is very much relevant to the case of shadow work.
While he was famous for this psychosexual theory, another thing that made him legendary was his psychoanalysis method.
As a founder of psychoanalysis, Freud invented and utilized this method to treat patients with neurosis or fixations due to bad childhood experiences.
In psychoanalysis, repressed emotions and ideas of the self are made conscious to the subject. This aims to have a cathartic effect, healing and relieving them from their faulty ideas. Today, it is being used to treat depression and anxiety.
Freud suggests that we use psychoanalysis with the help of a trained professional.
Using their expertise, psychologists can employ a series of tests which can be interpreted following a scientific method.
These tests are aimed to help us understand more about ourselves, repressions, and tendencies as individuals.
With their help, we are better able to have a grasp of reality and our own minds.
But are we really required to go to psychologists to know more about our shadows? Do we require a presupposed “expert” to tell us how to perform shadow work? The next theory that we’re going to discuss suggests otherwise.
While the second way talked about Freudian method of psychoanalysis, this third way will explore a different approach from a neo-Freudian theorist named Karen Horney.
As a brief introduction, Karen Horney is one of the most famous psychologists in human history whose theories have form part of their fundamental methodologies.
Horney’s work was radical for she even was one of the first female students who were allowed to pursue being a physician. She was also even part of the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, and of course was closely relevant to Sigmund Freud.
In this section, we will have brief exploration on Horney’s psychoanalytic theory. By using her theory, we will dig deeper into the shadows and understand more about how we can deal with them using Horney’s method of self-analysis.
As mentioned in the previous series, one of the many ways to unravel and integrate our shadows is by way of self-analysis - one of the principles of shadow work.
Briefly defined, self-analysis is the method of doing a personal psychotherapy wherein the individual is both analyst and patient.
This idea is largely based on Horney’s Psychoanalytic Social Theory wherein she talks about how the human person develops his/her psyche. As a quick summary, we will be talking of a few concepts in her theory.
Horney’s theory begins with the perception that a human person is like an acorn whose potentiality is to grow into an oak tree. If proper conditions are met, an acorn, while fragile, can grow into an oak tree.
However, this also means that the acorn is susceptible to unfavorable conditions. For instance, the acorn itself might be damaged, or the conditions from which it thrives are too harsh for growth.
These conditions do not permit the acorn to grow into an oak tree.
Just like the acorn, human beings have the potentiality to achieve self-actualization. As each person is free and rational, with own talents and preferences developed overtime, he/she may flourish.
But certain experiences in life deny some or even most people to become the best version of themselves.
A traumatic childhood experience of simply being treated unfairly by family members can lead a person to become selfish.
A child that is unloved will find it difficult to give love for one cannot give what he/she doesn’t have.
For Horney, these unfavorable conditions develop certain problems during childhood for a child will be unable to process them.
More likely than not, it will contribute to certain neurotic trends which can hinder one’s growth. By failing to see that security from one’s parents, a child may develop certain basic anxieties that which will tarnish the way he/she perceives life.
So, in order to understand more about Horney’s theory, we will briefly talk about two things: Neurotic Trends and Neurotic Needs.
As a context, neurotic trends and needs arise as a response of the individual to basic anxieties. Such anxieties are a result of a troubled childhood, with unresolved issues as mentioned above.
Compared to Freud, these anxieties do not stem from one’s internal urges and drives. Horney’s theory, although psychoanalytic, has a social factor into it.
For Horney, similar in the example of the acorn, social factors are essential in the development of the individual. The younger the child is, the more prone he/she becomes with these social factors.
Thus, when children are not given proper attention and guidance, they may feel that the world is an unsafe place.
An example that I can give is when we see children who are playing. One common misconception about children is that when they are behaved when they are not playful.
From a psychological standpoint, the nature of children is to interact and to play with others. Yet, some children remain silent as if they were adults. The common misconception there is that some parents think that it is a good thing.
Rather, in reality, this occurrence signifies that the child is bothered and views the world as an unsafe place. Thus, possibly, the child may lack the self-confidence to engage with other children.
The same example also applies when the child asks permission from parents. Parents who have raised their children well are constantly reassuring their child that “it is okay, you may proceed.” Thus, the constant asking of permission.
The failure to know and value these instances may lead the child to conclude that the world is an unsafe place, creating that basic anxiety within him/her. With that basic anxiety, children are prone to develop certain neurotics.
Given these neurotics, Horney talks about two main aspects: the neurotic needs and neurotic trends.
Neurotic needs are common problems of individuals which they commonly deal with a multitude of strategies.
Neurotics, however, repeat the same strategy over and over again despite is ineffectiveness. Much like the shadow, the same problems recur overtime.
First, some have the neurotic need for affection and approval. Lack in this level may lead an individual to try and please everyone else.
Second, the neurotic need for a powerful partner may be a result or lead to a state of low self-confidence or giving too much value for love.
Third, restricting one’s self within narrow boarders is a neurotic need. While this can be perfectly normal just as all other needs, this may be a result to viewing one’s abilities as inferior or underestimating them.
Fourth, there is a neurotic need for power, which affects one’s self image and avoids to be perceived as weak.
Fifth, another neurotic need is to exploit others. Some people fear of being exploited so they do it to others before it is done unto them.
Sixth, over-aspiring for social recognition and needs is an example of a neurotic need. No matter how good it sounds, over-competitiveness can result to one always being wanted or perceived as important.
Seventh, some people have this neurotic need for self-admiration. This constantly requires that their self-esteem be fed.
Eight, the neurotic need for ambition and self-development may lead to over-perfectionism.
Ninth, the neurotic need for self-sufficiency and independence can make one have this strong need to distance from others.
Lastly, tenth, the neurotic need for perfection can leave a person wanting nothing less.
We won’t be discussing them in detail but these brief introductions can somehow give us an idea of how shadows are present in us using Horney’s lens.
Because of certain neuroticisms, we choose and react in a specific way. Tendencies as a result of childhood trauma can result to our own shadows.
Following the same principle used in Freud, we can see here that shadows are formed even outside our own volition. But how do individuals react using Horney’s theory?
Horney suggests that there are three main neurotic trends: Moving away from other people, moving against other people, and moving towards other people.
In a neurotic level, these natural defenses can become problematic. They become core tendencies of individuals.
First, moving towards other people may sound good, but doing it in an excess can lead to social problems of dependency, with neurotic needs of affection, a powerful partner, and narrower limits.
As an example, we can see this in a case of teenagers who grew up lacking the attention that they needed. As they become bonded with other teenagers, they may have the tendency of being too dependent on a partner even when both are merely teenagers.
In their own teenage relationship, the dependent partner will demand too much from the other which naturally causes a breakdown.
From here on, shadows can be formed as a result of how the troubled teenager sees other people. He/she may even further doubt if the world can ever be a safe place despite moving towards it.
Even when interacting is good, the demands created by these neuroticisms can be too much for the other, especially when he/she is not ready.
In the same way, moving against other people can be seen in rebellious actions. Demand for power, admiration, prestige and the like can lead to exploitation of others.
Oftentimes, people who conclude that the world is an unsafe place may have the neurotic reaction of overly protecting themselves first.
This may result to manipulating the feelings and reactions of other people – and thus the classic representation of domestic violence.
Lastly, moving away from people can be a neurotic trend, given that individuals experiencing these symptoms strive too much to become self-sufficient and perfectionists.
This naturally sets them apart from others, in more of a negative way given that they don’t really trust or cooperate well.
People who display such can become dictators in their own households, distancing themselves even from family members.
All these neurotic trends and needs has a complex interplay with each other, resulting into unrecognized shadows along the way.
Before we know it, we are already distancing from people we love or being overfamiliar with people we know. These are tendencies which form part in our decision-making process, ultimately leading us to problems that we are unaware of.
So how do we actually deal with them?
While Freud suggests psychoanalysis with a therapist, it is often cited in his anecdotes that “the chief person that I am concerned with is myself.” Freud admitted in constantly undergoing himself in the same process of psychoanalysis.
He analyzed himself, his dreams, his tendencies, and his behavior, which led some to theorize that this was perhaps the reason why he remained unhappy.
In line with this notion, Horney suggests that we engage in self-analysis.
The method of self-analysis dates back to the idea of the ancient Greeks, particularly the inscription associated to Socrates – Know Thyself.
In this classic story, the oracle of Delphi proclaimed that no one was wiser than Socrates. In search of understanding this wisdom, Socrates began his endless inquisitions of people of different statures during his time.
In the end, it can be concluded that Socrates was indeed the wisest for he was the only one who had the courage to admit that he was not.
From Horney’s perspective, self-analysis can be likened to this notion of knowing thyself. By engaging in a constant conversation and awareness with one’s consciousness, a person is able to have a better grasp on his shadows.
The more that we try to wrestle these shadows, the wiser we become, given that we obtain greater understanding of ourselves. In the same way, as we move forward, we also realize that what we understand about it is very much limited and dynamic, exposing our own ignorance even about ourselves.
It is clear from here on that both Freud and Horney agree that a person must undergo psychoanalysis. The difference between them lies in how the method is executed. Freud proposes that it should be done with the help of a trained professional.
In Horney’s perspective, doing psychoanalysis with a trained professional may not be the best option. Horney tells us that while the psychologist is trained, it takes months, years (if not, a lifetime) for another person to understand us.
But we, as individuals, are constantly connected to ourselves – that which we intimately and deeply know about.
In relation to shadow work, this can be shown in moments wherein we already know our tendencies and we continue to allow them to take control.
A self-righteous person, for instance, may quickly judge a person coming from a different culture. While presumably problematic, this self-righteous person already knows this tendency and still continues to do it.
While the shadow can be at play here, we also cannot deny that the individual himself has stronger access to the shadow.
As the shadow manifests this self-righteousness through projection on other people, it hopes to reconcile and integrate with the individual. The problem is that not all individuals recognize these signals for they don’t even know that they have shadows! And without knowing the existence of one’s shadow, how does one perform shadow work?
In other words, the shadow, as it works itself, doesn’t really need a therapist. Rather, it needs awareness and acknowledgement from the individual himself so that it can be integrated to one’s consciousness.
It is, however, not an easy path. Doing self-analysis can be quite challenging given that even the mere fact of facing one’s shadows is already a big task. Should it have been easy, people would have already controlled their shadows most of the time.
But as we know it, most of us are not even aware of these shadows.
To add further, when we become aware of them, it even makes things more challenging for we cannot handle them. Thus we repress or suppress these shadows further.
For instance, in the movie the great Gatsby, we can see that J. Gatsby, a dirt-poor individual only had his dreams with him. Following this desire for greatness, he eventually became a mystery millionaire. Despite such, the repressed traits due to his past constantly manifest in him – like his lack of Oxfordian manners.
In the movie he continued to suppress and repress them as if they never existed, for he himself was not ready to face them.
The question then is that – in doing self-analysis and shadow work, can we even handle it?
Horney believes that yes, we will be able to do so. She tells us that when we become aware of our repressed traits or shadows, while we become problematic and fearful about it, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we can’t deal with them.
Rather, the mere fact that they surface means that we can deal with them. Just as the shadows project itself on how we view others, its communication mechanism is asking us to recognize instead of repress them.
For Horney, much can be gained by doing this method of self-analysis. Just as when we learn how to ride a bike on our own instead of someone teaching us, self- analysis can bring more self-confidence and mastery.
For Horney, doing self-analysis will bear more fruits for us and will restore us back to the path of growth, from acorn to oak tree.
In the previous ways we have seen a common method that was applied – self-introspection.
When an individual examines his consciousness and how it operates, one is able to introspect, leading to self-knowledge.
As we distanciate ourselves from ourselves, we get to have a gap as presented in the first way.
Given this gap, we gain access to certain childhood problems which can be portrayed from both Freudian and Horneyian lens.
While Freud believed in the psychosexual theory as the main basis, Horney presents the perspective from a psychosocial sense.
Their difference in method also manifests as Freud believes this unresolved trauma can be resolved with the help of a trained professional while Horney shows that it can be done alone.
In all these methods, it points to understanding oneself and one’s shadows, any of which can help contribute the way we perceive our lives.
In this last section, we will explore another perspective from Carl Jung, the man who coined the term “shadows” himself.
So what are dreams?
Most of the time, we usually don’t mind them.
When we dream of something, we have the tendency to think that “oh maybe that’s just something irrelevant” or “maybe that’s because I saw that pizza ad yesterday.”
But what are they really? Can we simply dismiss dreams as wishy washy thoughts in our mind? Or do they actually say something about us?
Is it possible that we get to understand more about our shadows by looking into these dreams?
For starters, it is scientifically proven that each night, we do have dreams occurring. Even when we don’t really remember anything the moment we wake up, they were there.
The scientific proof behind this is brain image scanning. In Japan, researchers have found ways to access the images present in one’s dream as they fall asleep.
Using this method, researchers, doctors, and psychologists have gained more understanding about our dreams.
But even when we know that they exist, what do these random images really mean? If they even mean something, can they make sense?
The first point in this question is the idea of randomness. Are dreams really simply random ideas? Or can they be manifestations of our repressions?
Following Freud’s psychosocial theory, he tells us that dreams are a way to reconcile with our childhood milestones that we were unable to meet.
For instance, problems during the phallic stage can manifest itself in dream state, hoping that the conscious mind will reconcile with the unconscious issues.
By showing our consciousness these ideas, it hopes to make us aware of our inner issues.
Thus, Freud believed that the things we see in our dreams are symbolisms that are unique for us. Each person has his/her own issues in life in which should they repress it, they become stored in the unconscious.
Eventually, these stored ideas of the self, memories, or traits, will make itself manifest through dreams. Thus, through it, we might have a chance of hitting milestones in the development of our psyche, eventually dealing with our neurosis.
While Jung was practically a student of Freud, they eventually had to split ways because Jung pursued something more than this individualistic and psychosexual theory of Freud. Jung believed that dreams contain more than our repressed sexual desires for the driving force in man is not only the libido.
Freud wanted to create an integrated interpretation using his psychosexual theory, thus, making his theory unified.
Jung, on the other hand, thought that dreams gave us access to something beyond ourselves – the collective unconscious. He believed that Freud’s understanding of dreams and its symbols is too limited. He thought that symbols of one’s dreams are not limited to personal interpretation.
Simply put, the collective unconscious is the holistic compilation of all the symbols, ideas, signs, and concepts in humankind. These symbols are experienced in everyday life, even when they are not necessarily registered in the consciousness of individuals.
A deeper insight into the human mind and consciousness will lead us to this understanding that everything we empirically sense in this world becomes converted to data that is registered in our mind.
However, not all of these data are consciously stored. Rather, some of them are absorbed but not really consciously focused given the limited nature of the way humans dedicate their attention. These data can be stored in the personal unconscious. Thus, the theory that the conscious mind only accounts for the small amount of the data that we actually absorb every day.
In the movie Focus by Will Smith and Margot Robbie, we can see this classic example of psychological priming. As BD Wong (the rich gambler) was in the Superbowl game, Will Smith and his team was priming him by constantly showing him the number 55 in subconscious/unconscious ways. They even played Symphony of the devil which had “woo-woos”(chinese for 55) in its lyrics.
Eventually they made a bet with BD Wong to pick a football player from a pool of almost 100 players. Wong eventually picked number 55 and was guessed by Margot Robbie.
Now it seems impossible but such things are happening to us and are registering in our minds.
While we perceive from an observer’s perspective that there are far too many numbers for one number (55) to be picked, what we fail to see is that it was the same for Wong. The sea of players made it difficult for Wong to pick a player, especially when his rational consciousness was trying to make sense of the number to be selected.
As he picked a number, he was trying to make sense of everything. He looked for something familiar, which in this case was 55. Eventually, he resonated with the number thinking that it was fate. In reality, it was his absorbed personal unconscious that influenced this decision.
It doesn’t end there. As these symbols have universal meanings, they can be linked to universal concepts as well. Thus, it taps on the collective unconscious.
In the same way, how we receive and interpret our dreams can also appear random and irrelevant. However, if we try to dig deeper, we realize that it is not entirely composed of elements from our own reality.
For instance, it is very common that a lot of absurd things happen during dream state. We are in unusual situations which are not necessarily something that we have experienced or even watched in the movies.
Jung thought that dreams opened the doors to this collective unconscious.
Symbols from the collective unconscious are believed to be passed on not only by unconscious registrations in the mind, but also through birth.
The evidence presented by Jung is the striking significance in mythological motifs among different peoples, in a cross-cultural sense.
Meaning, Jung’s studies of different cultures has lead him to conclude that despite having different beliefs, common imagery and symbols existed.
The strongest proof presented for this belief is the mystical symbol of the Mandala.
The mandala originally referred to a spiritual and ritual symbol of Buddhism and Hinduism which represented perfection. It was often an artwork based on perfect balance between squares and circles.
The significance of the mandala is that it was also present in western civilizations such as the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Both the Mayans and Aztecs utilized it as a calendar of some sort.
Eventually, the significance of the mandala has evolved from these ancient concepts. Nowadays, the mandala symbol is used to represent perfection.
Jung believed that the mandala represented the self-archetype, an image which symbolized wholeness.
This is supported even by one of the paintings of the legendary Leonardo DaVinci. In the Virtruvian man sketch, a perfect circle is drawn from the navel of a man by equally extending it. In the same way, the wing span of man is equally proportionate with his height.
In this sketch, DaVinci outlined problems of his time about geometry, philosophy, religion etc. By drawing the Virtruvian Man, he was able to outline how human beings have the possibility for wholeness and perfection.
Even the idea of a square circle originated from the ancient times, an attempt to re-create perfection. This was impossible due to the nature of pi which was transcendental.
In any case, we can see that this imagery of the square circle is present in the mandala, and even utilizes the same concept.
This, together with all other similarities in mythic concepts and universal signs, led Jung to perceive that there indeed is something more and beyond.
Because of this theory, some have regarded Jung as going beyond psychology to parapsychology. Discussing metaphysical and spiritual links can be doubted by thinkers and researchers, especially those in the hard sciences.
Despite such, his theory is only gaining more attraction as people find meaning in this concept of collective unconscious.
People have resonated strongly with this idea of the collective unconscious, giving them a wider perspective in understanding their dreams, archetypes, and shadows.
In this quest to understand more about our dreams, Jung suggests that the personal unconscious - the median between the conscious and collective unconscious, is not only comprised of personal desires but are also influenced by the archetype.
Our archetypes, as we have found out in this website, are universal frames of existence, roles and qualities that are rooted in the collective unconscious.
This opens up a new possibility in the shadows, given that they are not only born out of own choice and childhood trauma. This presents the possibility that shadows themselves are the inevitable consequences of having certain archetypes.
For instance, having the hero archetype, our psyche is programmed to favor being a hero above all other archetypes. In this way, a person will perceive courage as the highest virtue. In the same way, he will resent cowardice even when such can be reasonable, depending on the context.(For instance, the great strategist Sun Tzu suggests that when heavily outnumbered, one must flee)
However, Jung tells us that we can never have direct experiences with these archetypes. Instead, they are inherent parts of us which emanates from the natural evolution of the psyche just as that of the human race.
Thus, the way to understand more about the shadow is to take into consideration these archetypes and how they influence our conscious responses.
Going back to Freud and Horney, the way to dig deeper is not only examining childhood sexual milestones or social neurotic trends. In Jung’s theory, we can see that understanding the shadow can be deepened by the collective unconscious.
By introspecting and evaluating the collective unconscious, we get to have a more primordial understanding of our shadow.
In the act of constantly analyzing one’s dreams, he/she might be able to locate that thin thread which connects them all. As we interpret what our psyche is telling us, we should not limit ourselves in the actual dream and the symbols we assume.
Accounting for the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious can give us an idea of our shadow by gaining a primordial and transcendental understanding of it.
Much like the concepts of the mandala and the virtruvian man, the idea of the collective unconscious is something that we cannot simply sideline due to the fact of its consistency and universality.
Perhaps, in viewing our shadows from this perspective, we can know more about the inherent tendencies of the forces that we repress within us.
In the previous sections presented, the underlying common theme, of course, is deepening the understanding of a person about himself/herself.
We have utilized four ways to do this.
First, by way of distancing.
Second, by using Freud’s psychosexual theory.
Third, by adding Horney’s psychosocial theory.
Fourth, Jung’s dream analysis opened up for the possibility of a transcendental explanation of one’s shadows.
In all these 4 ways suggested in those previous articles, we can see that it seeks to bring out the shadow from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind.
The existential method of distancing sets up the stage in order to make shadows manifest itself. After recognizing them, the individual has a chance to acknowledge and integrate them into one’s personality.
But integration presupposes understanding. In order to fully fuse with the shadow, it requires that we not only recognize but know them.
The reason behind this is the presumption that dealing with our shadows is a life-long task.
When we do shadow work, it can have a magnanimous effect. However, as we continually make choices in life, new shadows appear.
Given our knowledge from the previous section, we are better equipped in dealing with this.
However, this is not enough given that shadows are not only formed out of our own choices. Why so?
One point that can be raised here is the question of freedom.
Are we truly free?
Consider for instance when you drop by at your usual McDonald’s. You come in to the store, lining up, while thinking which meal to order.
By the time that it is your turn, you decided to pick their new offering with those large coke and fries meal.
But the question is, when you did this, were you truly free?
Some might say yes. By choosing one meal over the other, or even the mere fact that you decided to select McDonald’s as your destination is an expression of freedom.
Yet others may say no. In choosing which meal to eat, you were limited by the options presented right before you. In the same way, because you were hungry, you might have decided to stop by at McDonald’s instead of going to a proper restaurant or eating at home.
Even if you weren’t hungry, the same criticism can be implied that as you passed by, you saw the gigantic sign of McDonald’s, compelling your action towards the consumption of such.
In other words, it is not enough to see our shadows, evaluate them, and integrate them.
It being a constant task requires constant attention as well not only on ourselves but also on the society that we live in.
That is why, in this section of shadow work, we will look deeper into the social factors affecting the choices that we make, how it molds them, and how awareness of it can improve our self-understanding.
In understanding the social dimension of shadows, the first perspective that we are going to present comes from a philosophical one, still.
This is precisely because it can better explain man’s task – understanding the meaning and value of his/her own life. Integrating with our shadows, after all, is only a task afforded to the man who is aware of the value of his/her own existence.
The problem is that this value cannot be understood alone.
To propose that we can understand the value of our own life alone removes an important aspect of our existence – sociality. Given that we necessarily live with others, we cannot escape from this matrix and perceive ourselves from a vacuum.
In this case, how does the social aspect affect our life anyway?
As a quick introduction, Soren Aabye Kierkegaard is usually regarded as the father of Existentialism. This is so given that Kierkegaard is one of the modern thinkers who have sparked the redirection of understanding.
Most thinkers during his time was too eager to understand the world. This perhaps was an influence of Galileo’s shift from understanding God to understanding the natural world.
His persecution, which was definitely unjust, has shifted the understanding of people from the subjective (belief during his time) to the objective (the empirical nature of the world).
This trend has resulted to creating a bias within the world – that objective truths about how life should be lived existed.
Kierkegaard’s constant introspection has led him to have a different viewpoint about the world – one that was subjective by nature.
But how is the objective and subjective different?
Objectivity can be defined as a quality of a thing or an idea to be true and real despite of the perception of individuals.
This means that objective truths remain constant no matter how other people may choose to interpret them.
Subjectivity, on the other hand, refers to the perspective of the perceiver – the individual himself.
In this case, subjective truths are very much springing from the perceiver, instead of having a quality of its own.
Thus, when we say that the value of pi is 3.14…, this is a truth that is independent of the socio-cultural and historical factors of the perceiver.
However, when we talk about whether or not Audrey Hepburn is the epitome of human beauty, the value of the answers can be subjective as the beauty depends on the eyes of the beholder.
While no other problems may arise when we talk about geometry and mathematics, objectivity can cause problems when applied to human values.
In this case, Kierkegaard saw this paradox through the inauthentic nature of people during his time.
As members of the Christian faith, people often conformed with the norm, simply agreeing with whatever was and is.
Kierkegaard saw this as funny and problematic at the same time. Apart from religion, He rejected this act of simply conforming to social rules without giving them proper weight and evaluation.
And I quote:
"When I was young, I forgot how to laugh in the cave of Trophonius; when I was older, I opened my eyes and beheld reality, at which I began to laugh, and since then, I have not stopped laughing. I saw that the meaning of life was to secure a livelihood, and that its goal was to attain a high position; that love’s rich dream was marriage with an heiress; that friendship’s blessing was help in financial difficulties; that wisdom was what the majority assumed it to be; that enthusiasm consisted in making a speech; that it was courage to risk the loss of ten dollars; that kindness consisted in saying, “You are welcome,” at the dinner table; that piety consisted in going to communion once a year. This I saw, and I laughed.” (Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or)
In this direct quote, we can see that Kierkegaard was laughing at the bourgeois dream of conforming to the set objective notions of how to live the good life.
The same thing can be applied to us as we simply subscribe to this notion of the American dream.
For Kierkegaard, it was important to examine more about ourselves rather than simply adhering to the social notions of what is right and how should life be lived.
Kierkegaard believed that the primordial task of man is to discover the meaning of his own life in light of his innate angst.
This concept of angst arises from man’s frustration of how life should be lived. As Kierkegaard wrote: “Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards.”
This iconic quote which reflects the absurdity of human life makes us question if we can really ever derive meaning from it. In every choice we make, we are faced with a situation which forces us to eliminate another option.
An individual, for instance, may have a lot of talents in life. He may have an exceptionally high IQ while having generational talent as a musical conductor. Typically speaking, this person may decide to pursue a career on both the sciences and the arts.
However, in choosing and focusing on one, he forgoes the other. He may look back but time has already been lost.
This is the angst that every human person must live with for the rest of his life.
In the same way, this act of making choices forms our shadows. In this case however, this gifted man who can pick either may have been influenced by people around him.
It would be great if people influenced him positively. However, for most of us, Kierkegaard has noted that there exists the inauthentic crowd.
In this case, even if this man had enormous talents and possibilities, he wouldn’t necessarily be able to pursue them, especially when he keeps associating himself with the crowd.
By conforming with the crowd, the talented man loses his possibilities of pursuing his dreams alone. He becomes like a sheep, a herd-like animal, who simply follows the flock.
Kierkegaard notes that if we truly wanted to live a meaningful life, we would have to constantly face this unending battle of authenticity in making our finite choices.
Angst fills us over given that once we make one choice, we realize the finitude of our existence. Just as we have to choose between saving a family member vs. a loved one in the classic bridge dilemma, our life as human beings are filled with such absurdity.
In the even that we reject one, just as the talented man rejects his musical aptitude for a career in the scientific field, we may have formed shadows.
I see this all the time with kids who supposedly had talents for the arts but are forced into standard and mechanical courses in order to obtain a stable job.
After graduating that four-year course, yes, the child may have obtained a good job at a good company, but will always look at that guitarist in their local bar who eventually became Ed Sheeran as a once in a lifetime talent.
Whereas that child may have surpassed Ed Sheeran in talents (especially in looks as well), the social influence of the familiar forced him to create a shadow instead of a light for the path he would walk upon.
In other words, even in our own family, they can become the crowd that Kierkegaard strongly warns us against. Instead of making our own choices, we depend on the opinion of our friends, family, and even irrelevant workmates.
This creates judgments, which in-turn creates shadows for us. Before we know it, we have already lost ourselves in this stream of the crowd, making choices infinitely irreversible.
But why do people do it anyway?
Kierkegaard tells us that the appeal of simply going by the crowd’s groove is that it presents to us a certain level of security. He wrote:
“By getting engaged in all sorts of worldly affairs, by becoming wise about how things go in this world, such a man forgets himself, forgets what his name is (in the divine understanding of it), does not dare to believe in himself, finds it too venturesome a thing to be himself, far easier and safer to be like the others, to become an imitation, a number, a cipher in the crowd.”
His point in this passage highlights the very notion of inauthenticity. Whereas an individual is to pursue how he believes life should be lived, he sometimes feels that he is better off conforming in the crowd.
This primarily is caused by the notion that the crowd provides a certain level of comfort and security.
Such is usually displayed even in the way we select our music. Most people simply select the “Top 50” songs even when they don’t really like those songs.
By listening to top bands and artists, one does not need to explain his/herself. Conformity begets explanation for it is perceived as a standard.
So, whereas, a person truly prefers Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9, that person listens to Travis Scott’s Sicko Mode even if it is truly a nonsense song.
When we allow the crowd to persuade and dominate us, we unintentionally create shadows.
As such, that friend who loves Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Vivaldi will be labeled as weird. Not wanting to be associated to such persons, we forcibly recent their choice of music.
This same notion applies to all other things we do – from the way we dress, speak, and live.
By relinquishing our responsibility as individuals to find meaning and value in life, we dismiss ourselves to the crowd, and together with it our own authentic meaning.
This whole discussion of Kierkegaard about the subjective self and how it should be opens up the possibility of understanding shadows and shadow work from a social context.
When we begin to doubt the social influences around us, this can lead to greater levels of introspection about ourselves not only by way of looking at our judgments but also how our judgments are affected by others.
If people simply conformed and subscribed to the ideas of social norms, he would live a life of despair and inauthenticity, for he knows that the choices that he makes are not entirely his own.
Given that we can absorb these ideas, concept, and notions of how life should be, they definitely affect our shadows in one way or another.
In the previous section on Kierkegaard, we have stressed the discussion on the point of freedom. As free persons, we are able to rationalize and create our own decisions.
This for Kierkegaard placed man in a position wherein he is ultimately the master of his own fate – a task of meaning that he must not avoid.
However, this was no easy task. It as a constant internal battle, a quest to conquer despair and angst.
Due to the extremely difficult path that one has to walk upon should he decide to be free, individuals surrender.
They surrender their individuality and simply accept the notions of the crowd, making them vulnerable and susceptible to its corrupting nature.
As individuals give up freedom for security, the have far more less control and conscious awareness about themselves.
In turn, this creates shadows apart from the ones that they have truly decided upon.
Surrendering to the crowd makes one less of a human person, with shadows that are simply a product of socially influenced preferences.
Thus, Kierkegaard pushes this idea that we should be free from this crowd, from the security of the familiar and the tranquility of repetition as V phrased it.
But the real question here that nobody is asking is that are we truly free?
Such a question has been repeatedly asked not only in philosophy but also in psychology, particularly in behaviorism.
This question will be the subject of our next discussion for if freedom is not real, then does that also mean our shadows are conditioned responses?
If so, are we ultimately responsible for our shadows?
Before there was a B.F. Skinner and his operant conditioning, we all know of Pavlov and his classical conditioning.
Accidentally, Ivan Pavlov discovered the concept of classical conditioning as he was feeding the dogs. Conditioning their response every single time that he arrived, the dogs already salivated because of the idea that he brought meat with him.
He furthered this experiment by bringing in a neutral stimulus like the bell, in which whenever the bell rang, he would feed the dogs some meat.
Because dogs now associated this ring to food, whenever the bell rang (even when there was no food), the dogs salivated.
Thus, Pavlov discovered this concept that certain stimulus can condition a response of an animal.
But this wasn’t enough. In the quest of understanding more about behaviorism, John Watson took this study to the next level.
This time, he used an actual human baby for his experiment.
He tried to induce a conditioned response from this baby by associating fear with mice. Initially, the baby didn’t fear the mice.
In order to associate fear, he would make loud sounds whenever the mice appeared before the baby which conditioned a response – crying.
Eventually, the mice were shown to the baby, without the loud noises. Still, the baby displayed the conditioned response of crying.
This advancement has influenced B.F. Skinner to further the advancement in the field of behaviorism.
He furthered this idea of behaviorism by introducing something more than classical conditioning.
Unlike classical conditioning, operant conditioning incorporates the idea of positive and negative reinforcement. This was, most definitely, a synthesis of Pavlov and Watson’s idea.
Positive reinforcement was a rewards-based scenario while negative reinforcement was a punishment-based scenario.
Using Freud’s example, potty-training a child while giving him positive reinforcements such as praises, appreciation, and external rewards leads him to replicate the same action.
While in negative reinforcement, we utilize the bad consequences scenario in order to discourage a person in repeating the same action.
A child has become unruly and was sent for detention.
Following negative reinforcement, we assign temporal punishments for the child in order to “teach a lesson”.
But perhaps, in having this crash course about behaviorism, you are now wondering how it is related to our shadows?
The thing is, B.F. Skinner eventually became the professor of psychology in Harvard.
If you would search his name in google, a list will show that he is currently the most significant psychologist followed only by Piaget and Freud.
This is primarily because of two things.
First, Skinner swayed away from the classic approach of theories of personality.
While Freud, Horney, and Jung posited certain ideas and theories about the individual, these remained as assumptions about their psyche.
They didn’t really translate into real world actions which can be observed and recorded.
Skinner, on the other hand, focused on actual reactions, tendencies, and behaviors which induced a conditioned response.
Thus, he appropriated that behaviorism is more of a science compared to these pseudo-metaphysical ideas of the self. Behaviorism presented a concrete and observable answer, not some inquiry on the nature of human persons.
This was especially true when Skinner conducted an experiment on pigeons.
In his famous experiments on pigeons, Skinner introduced and reinforced a response to the pigeon. While pigeons randomly turn, he wanted to condition them to make a full circle turn.
This is done by giving food whenever the pigeon attempts to turn to the left. Repetition then leads to behavior as this pigeon completes a full circle turn.
This experiment has led him to conclude that actions, indeed, can be conditioned.
However, this alone did not make him the man he is renowned for today.
It was two other things that engrained him to legendary status.
First, the position that he held favoring determinism and second, the way he translated this determinism to the social level – behavioral engineering.
The first point on determinism is not an original idea from Skinner.
This is an idea from a philosopher who goes by the name Baron D’Holbach.
According to this idea, man’s actions are not truly free but instead, are determined. Whatever man’s actions may be, a certain previous stimulus or a past event influenced him to act in this way.
In D’Holbach’s words, “we’re all just cogs in a machine, doing what were always meant to do, with no actual volition.”
To evaluate this idea, let us use a thought-experiment.
You recently got a promotion in your job and you finally decided to buy that pick-up that you have been eyeing for months now.
The inevitable question arises – which color to pick?
Selecting the color of your pick-up seems to be a manifestation of autonomy and freedom. As ‘you feel it’ you will be selecting blue for your new Ford Raptor.
Now while we usually think that this choice may have been an expression of freedom, hard determinists argue that it is not.
In choosing that color, hard determinists tell us that you were influenced by previous images, advertisements, or even preferences arising from personal attachments.
You selected the color blue because of that cunning Ford Raptor commercial with that royal blue color.
Or maybe you chose it because you associated the color to something meaningful like a family crest or a loved one’s preference.
While it appears that we are free in making this decision, hard determinists think that we are not. These choices are ultimately choices that we cannot avoid, they are determined for us just as fate determines what’s next.
In choosing a color, we associate it with something significant. Thus, the illusion that we feel free is nothing more than an idea but never a reality.
Although Skinner was a behaviorist instead of a determinist, he shared the same view that our choices are ultimately influenced by something else and that they are not totally free.
One may claim that his/her choice is out of his/her own free will but such choices are almost always influenced by a prior event – thus determined.
While this is far from Skinner’s operant conditioning, the same principle applies. The responses of individuals on a certain situation can be conditioned by the way that they were brought up and the culture that they are living in.
If people happened to be kind to others, this can be a conditioned response based on the society that he grew upon – whether it be positive or negative.
Even if that person grew up from a harsh environment, we may perceive that it was free will that made him a good person. However, determinists will argue that it was the harsh environment that shaped this perspective of kindness.
This brings us to Skinner’s second point – behavioral engineering.
For Skinner, this experiments on pigeons proved more than animals following a conditioned response. He thought that behavior is behavior whether it be in animals and humans themselves.
While the subjects of his experiments are animals, this doesn’t mean that such is inapplicable on humans for they are also molded by behavior.
If we are able to apply the same principles to humans, Skinner thought that we can engineer a society that has new and better behavioral traits and values.
Religion, for instance, is a way of behavioral conditioning. By presenting dogmatic precepts, human action is limited by both reward and punishment.
As it is common for religions to present a reward and punishment case, we may socially induce good behavior by bringing up possible consequences. If you do good, you might go to heaven. If you do bad, you might go to hell.
These precepts induce a certain behavior, a way of living for people, that is socially engineered or organized.
And to note, it has been proven in human history that it has nothing to do with the positive or negative nature of the precept itself. Rather, it has more to do with the social engineering.
Consider for instance the time wherein the church sold indulgences. After conditioning the minds of individuals, they can manipulate it to a point that individuals can believe something even when it is blatantly unjust.
Such is also common in other religions, especially small-scale Christian denominations who present themselves as sons of God. They can easily condition and persuade their congregation to give up everything that they have for them to buy a jet.
This is the supposed power of social conditioning, which led Skinner to believe that we can also condition the responses of people in a society.
We have come a long way in briefly discussing Skinner’s idea of society. A quick run-through on his ideas gives us the notion that the responses of persons can be conditioned given the right mechanisms.
Should it be real, at least to a certain extent, we can raise the question of are we truly free?
This is a very crucial question simply because if we have no freedom, we cannot possibly make our own choices. This means that we are simply products of our own environment.
Skinner believed that our environment influenced actually more than what we perceived for we live in this illusion of freedom
Man, from the perspective of hard determinism, can be a result of the processes and forces before him, ultimately making him who he is right now.
Maybe, in reading this lengthy section, you are now wondering why we had to go to the process of identifying a possible loophole to man’s supposed freedom and how it affects our shadows.
The problem is that people often assume that we are free. Although we may feel free and may actually be free to a certain extent, identifying its bounds is important if we want to understand more about our shadows.
Our disposition on human freedom will decide to which extent we will be able to perform shadow work and integrate our shadows.
For instance, you are in the process of successfully identifying and integrating your shadows. But in the same way, the whole integration process is an inevitable result of causality of natural processes and forces. Did we really integrate with our shadows? Or was that response conditioned by the society before us?
This question is crucial for it challenges the validity of our shadows and the things that we do to it.
In the previous sections, we have learned that shadows are a result of concept judgment. But this section raises the bar a bit higher by challenging the assumption that it is actually us who are calling the shots.
Determinism and behaviorism would have categorized these shadows differently, not as a result of one’s choice, but an inevitable consequence of how one was molded to make those choices.
Kierkegaard sought to break us free from this conditioning, the inauthentic crowd who decides the values for us.
But in breaking away from it, have we done it out of our own volition?
Another point that I would like to stress here is that if we continue this notion that we are indeed not that free and that our responses are more conditioned and caused rather than autonomous, then can we blame ourselves for having these shadows?
Isn’t it the case that when we admit and surrender to the crowd, it is but the natural thing to do?
Do we have a responsibility to keep ourselves informed and integrated in this way? Or is it easier to surrender to the crowd for such fate cannot be stopped?
Our answers to these questions will ultimately determine our disposition regarding this issue of freedom which in turn, will tell us more about the nature and how to perform shadow work.
The question posited by Kierkegaard showed us the dread and anxiety that comes along with life. As we are born into this world, we have no choice, and as we leave, we have no choice either.
Similarly, this dread and anxiety is present in the creation of our own shadows. Without having a choice or an option, in every decision we make, we create shadows.
Such creates the ultimate and endless task of man which is to constantly grapple with his shadows just as he must constantly look for the meaning of his own life.
Giving-up in such a self-project means that we surrender ourselves to the crowd, and allowing them to govern the values that we abide with.
By surrendering, we also surrender the control of ourselves, furthering the density of our own shadows.
To add to this predicament, we have seen in B.F. Skinner’s theory that not only are these shadows a result of our own decisions but more importantly, they are heavily influenced by the environment around us.
Using operant conditioning, Skinner was able to show us that behavior, indeed, can be conditioned. By introducing certain stimuli in the environment, an individual may decide to act into a certain way.
Such leads us to question the limits of our freedom, which in turn affects the validity of our shadows.
If all my actions right now are determined by a greater force other than my own free will, then the shadows that arise from these decisions are not wholly mine.
By using this theory on behaviorism coupled with hard determinism, social engineering of actions can be highly possible.
Thus, when a child decides to prioritize technical-based work and resent those of arts and spirituality, this can be a result of how society has been conditioned.
In the creation of shadows that we are not even aware of and have control about, are we ultimately responsible for them? Or can we do otherwise?
To answer this question, we will examine Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy.
Perhaps, the World War II was one of the most infamous events in human history.
Often described as the clash between axis and allied forces, the WWII showed the gruesome side of humanity in as much as it has also shed light to the noble ones.
At the spotlight was none other than Adolf Hitler, the man deemed responsible for the beginning of this arc in human history. A lot of atrocities were committed during this time. One of the most controversial is the concentration camp by Nazi Germany.
Within these concentration camps, prisoners of war were subject to inhumane conditions (an understatement).
In 1938, Austria became German territory. This led to the creation of concentration camps which included thousands of German Jews. We found in these camps the infamous Holocaust which meant mass genocide.
In one of these camps, there was a psychiatrist who goes by the name Viktor E. Frankl. He was of Jewish descent which practically explained why he got caught up in this tragedy.
As he was processed, Frankl spent the next five months as a slave laborer in which he has seen the situation of the individuals in the concentration camp.
The peculiar thing about Frankl is that he took the time that he had inside those camps to observe the reactions of the prisoners.
In seeing how they responded to certain situations, Frankl was able to derive an understanding about humanity and freedom.
To begin with, let us know what Frankl said as follows:
“In attempting this psychological presentation and a psychopathological explanation of the typical characteristics of a concentration camp inmate, I may give the impression that the human being is completely and unavoidably influenced by his surroundings. (In this case the surroundings being the unique structure of camp life, which forced the prisoner to conform his conduct to a certain set pattern.) But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? Is that theory true which would have us believe that man is no more than a product of many conditional and environmental factors—be they of a biological, psychological or sociological nature? Is man but an accidental product of these? Most important, do the prisoners’ reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)
In this excerpt, we can see the summary of our previous discussions. By raising the question on whether or not processes and forces were the ones that controlled man, Frankl was able to posit the hard determinist and behaviorist position that Skinner presented.
True enough, perhaps no other place would have best represented this problem other than the concentration camp.
In these camps, prisoners were not only secluded physically. Psychologically, it also had a toll on them. Being here was like an epitome of bad fate, that one is most certainly doomed.
Given this, Frankl presented that there were three main reactions from prisoners who recently arrived at these camps.First, there was shock given the initial phase as they were admitted into the camp. Second, apathy ensued as they became accustomed to camp existence. Third, negative reactions of depersonalization, moral deformity, bitterness, and disillusionment happened if ever he survived. (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)
Unlike Kierkegaard’s context, man can still be free even when he decided to avoid the crowd for man was not restricted. In the same way, Skinner’s notions were also based on theory instead of practice and actual experimentation on human beings.
Frankl’s experience was astounding compared to both of them. While he shared and questioned both ideas, the context from which it was executed induced real-life reactions from individuals.
Eventually, due to this experience, Frankl began the psychology of Logotherapy – the search and restoration of man’s meaning in life. He believed that individuals in these camps somehow represented the extent of human liberty.
This was illustrated to him when he saw that other inmates, despite the harsh conditions that they were in, chose to place others first. There were instances wherein food supply was slowly depleting towards Christmas time and people were losing hope.
Some even died just bearing the thought of not being able to escape this horrible place.
Yet not all gave up, and the stronger willed persons were even able to place themselves ahead of others.
In the light of these discussions, what does it tell us about human freedom?
While it can be most certainly true that those human actions can be conditioned and subject to the processes and forces, the divergent actions of some inmates showed the possibility of freedom.
For instance, eating is a biological action yet can be a conscious choice. Going into a buffet restaurant and eating beyond your heart’s content gives you the impression that it was your own choice.
However, when we use this same principle in the scenario of the concentration camp where food is scarce and the environment is harsh, the meaning of eating changes.
From being a choice, it becomes more of a need. (not even tendency or habit) Because people naturally need sustenance in order to survive, they need to eat.
But in this case, we can see that man is not always ultimately subject to such assumptions. That even man, on harsh conditions, can choose to sway away from the conditioned choice.
This leads us to open a possibility for freedom, a leeway from which we can say that while man may be physically limited and constrained, he is internally free.
Frankl sought the power behind this which led him to this practice of logotherapy wherein he shows that Man’s search for meaning can be one of the greatest faculties that he can have.
The question now shifts – what does this tell us about our shadows?
The whole discussion on Kierkegaard, Skinner, and Frankl, wrestled with the idea of freedom. As we have repeatedly emphasized in these articles, freedom plays a fundamental role in understanding our actions.
In having this sense of freedom, we also have a sense of control with our shadows. For if we can ultimately conclude that we are responsible for the shadows that we face, it also brings us to the realization that we are free to alter and maneuver them.
If we are purely determined and our actions are mere consequences of prior events, then we cannot be held accountable for our shadows.
But as we can see here, it is the classic mistake of correlation does not equate to causation. While it can be true that our actions may very well be correlated to each other, to say that they are indeed caused is flawed.
This is because essentially, we can argue that each individual has a freedom of his or her own.
Using Frankl’s experiences, the liberty of the individual is not always conditioned by the society and environment around him. Even under harsh circumstances (even that of life and death), man can always choose to do otherwise.
Such choice is the very expression of his freedom, an outward act to empirically justify that man indeed can be free.
Given that this is the case, we can also point out that we can be free from our shadows.
While the shadows that we have can very well be caused by the forces around us, it doesn’t mean that we are limited to such.
For instance, society causes you to become homophobic given that you hail from a predominantly Christian culture. Thus, you create a negative view on them even when you haven’t really made your own choice about it.
This perception, of course, was socially influenced. However, your perception is not limited to these social formulas.
People can change the way they perceive religion, sexuality, and their own human existence at any time they wish.
The power of human will can will itself even beyond what is conditioned of him.
For unlike the pigeon who keeps on making the circular turn in order to be fed, humans are able to defy such limiting characteristics.
To conclude this section of the shadow work series, we have to note two important things.
First – that man is free and rational, making it necessary that he must look and discover his own self-project.
In creating himself, it is of paramount importance that he considers his shadows for they speak to him about himself.
Second – that while man is free, man cannot avoid society.
With this freedom, it is not from an omnipotent standpoint. Meaning, he cannot simply sway away from the confines of society, culture, time, and space.
His actions will almost always be influenced, just as his shadows can be formed without him knowing.
These two things that we have concluded will lead us to a higher plateau, an understanding of ourselves that transcends both the individual and the social spheres of life.
By taking control, we become more human.
In the previous section of this series, we have seen how the individual and the social factors contribute in changing the way people decide about themselves.
When we understand them as a result of both our individual and social forces, we get to widen our scope in perceiving, acknowledging, and interpreting these shadows.
However, while it is clear how this can be achieved, getting into that state of achieving it is perhaps the most difficult part.
Just as when you are selling something, it is always the first sale that counts the most – for it is in that sale that you get to begin the succeeding ones.
In the same way, starting points are almost always half of the whole burden. People hesitate to accept that they need to do these starting points.
When people go to the gym, the first payment meeting for the whole month is almost always the easiest part.
People think that when they are able to start paying for it, their body goals will automatically come to them.
But as we know right now, it doesn’t work that way.
In the same way, understanding our shadows doesn’t work by simply knowing and studying these topics.
Rather, it requires a lot of action and commitment from our part to actually live by the things we have learned.
But how do we do it in such a busy setting?
Are you bored? Open your phone and start scrolling up! This is a classic example of how people nowadays are eternally trapped by social media.
Following the good tidbits of the life of others posted in our social media platforms, for instance, consumes a lot of time and energy.
Before we know it, time has already been spent and we can no longer continue with our quest of acknowledging and integrating our shadows.
A lot of social factors nowadays can easily distract us on this quest of knowing and understanding ourselves better.
Thus, it is crucial to disconnect with these distractions and focus more on being the masters of our own selves.
In this case, we will be exploring ways and ideas from the spiritual level in order to create an environment within our minds that attract positive energy.
The First way that we will be exploring today is the power of meditation.
The practice of meditation is difficult to define in a clear-cut way. But following its root word of meditate, it means focusing one’s mind in silence or chanting as a method of relaxation.
In this broad definition alone, a lot of different ways can be implored. As a matter of fact, meditation is a practice that is shared in both western and eastern cultures.
While people usually associate meditation with Buddhism, meditation is not limited to such.
In exploring the works of the great Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, we can see that he even made a work on meditation which had very similar principles to those coming from the eastern world.
Nowadays, meditation is often associated with the monks in the mountains. Their long hours of prayers, chanting, and silence allows them to detach and meditate the meaning of life itself.
The problem, however, is that the same tranquility is something that the common man cannot usually afford to have.
By being constantly connected to the “everyday” world, it is difficult to step-back and have a distance in order to fully understand ourselves.
In order to have a deeper understanding about meditation, we shall use the example of Siddhartha Buddha.
Siddhartha Gautama is credited as the great founder of Buddhism which has strong emphasis on meditation.
Looking at his life, we can see where meditation took him. As a young prince, he was not exposed to any form of rotting and death. Not even a rose losing a petal was shown.
Buddha grew up believing this nature of life, one that is eternal and not decaying.
Eventually, Buddha decided to go on a quest in which he found people that are sick and dying. This made him question about the nature of life itself.
He concluded then the idea of suffering which was the inevitable nature of life.
In having this conclusion, he was on a quest for understanding more about life and the escaping suffering.
While in this quest, he met five ascetics who practiced deprivation and eating nothing but the seeds that fell from the trees as they do meditation.
Buddha, however, realized that this path only led to starvation which was futile.
He then revised his beliefs and turned to discovering the middle path.
After this, he went on to search for the fig tree in which he began his 49-day meditation, and achieved an enlightened status.
In this enlightenment, he found the four noble truths and eventually returned to these 5 ascetics becoming his first disciples.
We won’t be discussing the entirety of Buddhism’s 4 noble truths. However, we can see that in this quest of eventually becoming one of the major religions in the world, Buddhism was born basically out of pure meditation.
In this quest of understanding life, we have seen how Buddha basically utilized meditation as one of the ways to detach from the nature of the ever-changing world.
But why so? What was in meditation that allowed him to achieve this status?
Perhaps, it is most crucial to note that meditation sets the proper environment from which we can begin understanding about anything – including ourselves and our shadows.
By doing meditation, just as Buddha did, we can focus our thinking and energies in to things that matter to us rather than being simply distracted by what’s happening around us.
Going back to our problem, the everyday man’s mind is presumed to be pre-occupied.
Whether it be in work deadlines, family issues, or even positive ones like upcoming meetings with a long-lost friend, our mind is usually thinking of something else.
While this is good, some practitioners of meditation will say that it isn’t always as good as we perceive it to be.
This is because thinking of too much things can clutter the mind. When we think, we allow ourselves to go beyond and out of the moment, whether it be on a positive or negative stance.
And so, this constant process of thinking does not allow our minds to rest. Just as with everything else, a stressed mind will never lead to a good environment.
For instance, a cluttered mind will reflect in a hoarder’s home. Someone who is unable to give up a past life will continue collecting things which makes him/her remember of it.
But the problem with this is that people fail to live for the present.
Thus, the way to solve this issue is by way of meditation. Through meditation, we are able to create an environment within our minds that are clutter-free.
This conditioned state will allow for more space and positivity.
By removing ourselves from thoughts and concerns that we cannot fully deal with, we are able to allow our creative and good energies to flow.
As an exercise to prove my point, stop reading this article right now.
Pause for a moment and think, just think of anything.
After thinking, try writing whatever you thought of in a piece of paper.
What do you see?
If I’d guess correctly, most of the things written there are negative.
But why so?
This is because we are concerned with things from the past or the future.
Marcus Aurelius, the great father of stoicism, would tell us that this practice of being concerned with the present and the future will only make us worried about things that we have no control of.
Thus he writes:
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)
By going back to our minds, we find strength in realizing that we have to continually live day-by-day on the present events.
Upon realizing that we can only live for the present, we get to have an idea of how fleeting life is – that all other external things can never bring us happiness.
Even when he was coming from a different tradition, Buddha still came to the same conclusion using his method of meditation.
As a matter of fact, small-scale studies done on the present time will show that there is a difference in brain activity between the monk and the everyday man.
With someone who does meditation constantly, brain scans show activity in areas which anxiety and depression while increasing tolerance and positivity.
Some Buddhist monks were even able to showcase higher empathy and exhibit alpha waves in their minds.
Even more, heavy practitioners of meditation showed better immune system compared to the everyday man who’s constantly bombarded by stress and anxiety.
Studies show that when we are not focused on anything at all, our brains activate what we call the DMN or the Default Mind Network.
In this DMN mode, our stream of consciousness constantly processes things that we shouldn’t be really thinking about.
But in comparison, someone who is heavily focused on something like a craft or art of some sort, the concentration of the brain is on the task-at-hand.
Such leads us to the conclusion that meditation will allow one to go beyond one’s constant and default thoughts. By doing meditation, we turn-off the DMN, bringing us back to a state of focus and tranquility.
By slowing down our thoughts, we can reach a clearer mind. This is the principle behind meditation.
In the figures cited, we have seen Buddha using the same method to dissipate suffering. Marcus Aurelius utilized it as a core method for stoicism and achieving internal happiness.
But for our case, how do we actually use meditations in dealing with our shadows?
To cite a practical method of doing it isn’t the main point of the article. Rather, we are better off looking for the common thread that runs across the hundreds of ways that people meditate.
In our application to the shadow, it is clear that meditation will bring us to a status wherein we empty ourselves of both positive and negative thoughts.
Of course, we won’t be able to fully empty ourselves with that but along the way, in this course of constantly meditating, it will bring us to a state of tranquility.
In this state of tranquility, we get to temporarily step-back and detach from our consciousness as existential phenomenology suggests.
By doing so, we get to enter a state wherein we are not confined within our usual DMN network.
This is vital because if we try to look at shadows, they are mere ideas of ourselves.
As we look at ourselves at a distance, we are able to assess these traits from a more objective standpoint.
For instance, when we see a black cat passing right in-front of us, we automatically assume that it is bad luck.
This frame of perspective comes from our preconceived notions of what bad luck is. But do these black cats really bring bad luck?
By way of meditation, we get to realize that in the same example, there can be a different interpretation.
What is crucial is not the interpretation but the interpreter.
Knowing this, we get to realize that equating black cats to bad luck only creates the idea in our minds that it is. With it, we influence our own selves by fostering this negativity.
Even more, shadows are formed by way of value judgments. While they can be socially influenced, they are still value judgments that we constantly make about things.
We say that this painting is good while this one is not; these traits are good while other ones are not.
But in meditation, all of these value judgments are suspended. As we suspend the DMN, we also suspend generally negative thoughts about things.
By the time that we think about our shadows, we can perceive them more favorably and accept the good while acknowledging the bad.
As we meditate and give time for ourselves and our brains to rest, we become free.
Meditation doesn’t free us from external factors like the starvation that we experience and the suffering before us.
However, it frees our mind from endlessly thinking about this negative spiral. Thus, it creates a condition where the shadow cannot become denser in the dark.
To conclude, it is important to consider that meditation can be the first gate from which we can condition ourselves. As the classic saying goes “empty your cup”, meditating allows for new knowledge and serenity to overflow in us.
While in the first section we have looked at how meditation can create that condition for us, this second section will look at how we can tap on the powers of the earthly elements.
The recent surge of the new age movement during the 1960’s has created plethora of eclectic beliefs. Various ideas from different epochs, cultures, and societies are pulled over to create an ultimate jumble.
This has gained both positive and negative tractions. Skeptics believed that it was bogus, selective, and had no coherence at all. Proponents defended by posing its perspective and free-will based movement.
One of the crucial ideas that have resurfaced during this time is the use of crystal stones for healing.
To begin with, healing crystals are typically understood as natural crystals arising from the earth’s surface. They generally form part of crystallization process of earthly gases and elements.
In this harsh and time-consuming process, crystals are hardened and made without human intervention. They are the result of natural forces.
Along this way, it is crucial to note that healing crystals contain an energy force which is created by mother nature itself.
This energy is believed to have curative powers due to the principle that it contains vibrations which can alter and positively influence the flow of human energy.
A major principle behind this notion is scientific. It is believed that energy is neither created nor destroyed. Rather, it is simply transformed and transferred.
By transferring energy, we get to positively influence the state of the human person, removing negative energy by letting it flow out of us and replacing it with positive ones.
This basic notion that crystals do have this transformative power is often viewed as a bogus. Being part of the New Age tradition, a lot of skeptics think that it is simply make-believe.
However, if we look at crystals and how they were used in human history, we can see that it is not simply a practice during the new age movement. Rather, it is an ancient practice that is universally shared by cultures.
For instance, from the Chinese culture, they have jade stones which are commonly referred to as the emperor’s stone. For almost 9000 years, the jade stone has been the symbol of status, purity, spirituality, and health.
Jade stones are treated with utmost respect for they are believed to bring prosperity to the user to a point that they were heavily sought after in Chinese history.
While in the western world, the amethyst stone is highly valued for its spiritual power. Particularly in Egyptian tradition, they are believed to be helpful in guiding the dead in their journey.
Furthermore, the carnelian gemstone is also believed to be very important in Egyptian tradition. It is a source of constant renewal and vitality, placed in tombs as magic armor for the dead.
The long list goes on, only to show that these crystals and gemstones have been a long part of human history and not merely that of the new age movement.
Given its longstanding value, can we implore the help of crystals to better understand our shadows? If so, which specific crystals can lead us to such?
If we are looking to understand more about our shadows, we should generally look for crystals which brings balance and focus. Their vibrations are believed to bring stability to internal conflict which is common in shadows.
One particular stone that can help us in this journey is the Agate.
Historically, the philosopher Theophrastus first found the stone as he was strolling along the river of Achates. Since then, this stone which is formed from igneous rock and silica deposits, it has gained much value in various cultures.
These are stones which were also discovered by the Babylonian empire used as a healing amulet.
With regard to its healing properties, the agate crystal is believed to be bringer of stability due to the naturally lower and gentler vibrations.
Resonant with the earthly elements, the agate crystal brings stability like a rock in times wherein we cannot understand ourselves due to energy imbalance.
For instance, when our natural yin and yang is out of control and proportion, it creates an internal chaos in us.
This chaos may manifest in the lack of self-control, as if a part of us wants to take over. This is very well represented by the shadow, which seeks to manifest its qualities.
As a matter of fact, the agate is even part of the quartz family, a commonly used stabilizer for clocks and watches.
Particularly for the case of shadows, one must seek the agates with regular designs in order to stimulate total harmony and balance.
By placing it near the forehead area, it attracts and flows energies of stability and tranquility to the mind.
With it, we are better able to deal with our shadows over and above the method of pure meditation.
Another crystal that we should pay attention of is the clear quartz.
Hailing from the same family with the agate, the clear quartz crystal is even more famous for being referred to as the “perfect jewel” and is a centerpiece of various historical cultures including the Japanese.
Theophrastus, for instance, thought of the crystal quartz (literally meaning ice in Greek) to be a form of permanent ice while in Japan it is believed to symbolize space, patience, and purity.
Apart from its historical and socio-cultural value, the crystal quartz is even used in modern day technology as part of the LCD found in our phones, television, and even in your unbelievably expensive iPhone XR.
Given its clear composition, the crystal quartz is believed to be the “master of crystals” and is able to heal any problem that its user is faced with.
This clear composition is able to absorb all the negativity while providing a transparent balance to its user.
In the case of the shadows, since they are often viewed as negative, it is imperative that we utilize the crystal quartz to absorb such energies. By doing so, it empties our mind of this idea about ourselves which are not necessarily true.
To utilize the power of the crystal quartz, it is best that we begin with meditation and hold the crystal in our palms and begin projecting all the shadows within us. With its help, we can temporarily project the shadow in this crystal allowing negative energy to flow out.
By flowing out of us, we get to sort which shadows to keep and which to simply acknowledge as a tendency.
These crystals are simply some of the many stones that we can tap to for balance and focus.
What is important is understanding how they work and how we can use them in our daily lives.
Our shadows will always be behind us. We can never truly escape them. But with the help of these crystals, we are able to achieve a status wherein we attract positive energy and let it flow in us.
With it, we get to have a better grip with these shadows, leading to a sense of spiritual freedom of the psyche.
In the previous sections, we have seen how two methods of accessing our spiritual powers is possible.
First, the power of meditation allows us to empty our cups and dismiss us from the default experiences of dread and anxiety.
This allows us to clear the path in understanding our shadows.
Second, we have read the power of crystals in helping us moving forward. Given their curative powers through vibrations, they can aid in recovery of positive energies.
Such leads to a more vibrant and energetic feeling of inner harmony and peace.
Given both methods, we will complement it by tapping on another vital resource – our chakras.
To begin with, the practice of chakra energyregulation began from the eastern world. Just like healing stones, they are often accused as make-believe.
However, if we trace this practice of tapping into cosmic energy, we can see that it is an ancient practice originating from ancient eastern philosophy in India.
As a matter of fact, the word chakra refers to a spinning wheel in Sanskrit. This represents a constant flow or regulator of energy.
Basically, chakras are considered as basic focal points in the body, resembled by disc or wheel-like images.
Their function and the energies that they regulate are not simply based on some random associations. Rather, its practice originated from the ancient times, where certain parts of the body can be associated with illnesses. (we will get to know more about this later)
(If we look up the history of chakras and its origins, there would be a lot of debate regarding this topic. Regardless, we will simply take it as it is.)
Okay so to begin with, we have to understand that chakra energy is neither created nor destroyed. Similar to the vibrations of healing stones, chakra energy is simply transferred from one object to the other.
Their basic difference, perhaps, lies in the cosmic energy force. Chakra energy is often understood as tapping into cosmic energy, much like the one in the Avatar Aang series.
But why should we tap into cosmic energy?
If we are to think of the world, the universe, and everything that is, we would wonder what is the common thread that ties them all.
The answer to that is cosmic energy – the energy that is present in everything that is.
In Hindu philosophy, it is understood as Kashmir Shaivism or Prana which means spiritual energy.
Thinking of your own self as a physical lump of different organs, cells, and tissues, we usually ask what allows all of it to work.
The answer to that question, of course, is our mind – the intangible and metaphysical entity that allows us to be. This is often translated into pure consciousness.
Cosmic energy is similar to the mind. This is a metaphysical life force that exists in all that there is.
Its significance, of course, lies in the understanding that tapping the cosmic energy will allow us to achieve a state of higher self.
Such energy is always viewed as positive and essential given that nothing can exist without cosmic energy.
Just as sunlight is necessary in order for everything else to grow, cosmic energy cannot be done away with given that nothing grows without primordial powers.
If you don’t really buy into this notion, perhaps you should look at how the universe operates.
If ever you’re wondering why life exists in the universe, perhaps you should learn more about intelligent design.
One of its theories is the fine-tuned universe. In this theory, it is shown that it can be scientifically proven that the universe indeed has an intelligent design for life to exist.
This is because it requires perfect balance between various primordial forces such as electromagnetism, gravitational, and nuclear forces.
The mere fact that these highly essential yet destructive forces are fine-tuned in order for life to exist shows how the universe is built with intelligent design.
Furthermore, if we look at it, this intelligent design shows that at the center of it all is this concept of balance. If the values of these forces are slightly different (ex. By 0.000000000000001), life cannot exist in this universe.
By balancing these energies, it suggests that there is a great architect. From other perspectives, they call him God. But from our perspective, it will be the cosmic energy which keeps things at bay.
Given the presence of cosmic energy, these primordial forces are able to live in harmony, allowing life to grow in the universe.
Just think of it this way – if cosmic energy can fix the universe, common sense will tell us the obvious.
The problem is that not all of us tap into these cosmic energies. Instead, we continue to perceive that we ourselves are in control even when we’re not.
This is where the shadow comes in – when we think that we are the owners of ourselves, but our negative projections have already hijacked us.
Following this train of thought, allowing cosmic energy to flow through our chakra points will definitely improve our wellbeing by bringing back the balance that is lost.
Looking at a familiar case, our shadows usually throw us off balance. When we see someone wearing those classic jumpers and we judge them as gross, yet we truly want to wear that, our shadows are negatively manifesting.
This throws us off balance. We release negative comments and statements which are not well deserved by these individuals for simply being who they are.
While we are here at a distance judging them, they are there being their true selves.
And so, we ask, who are the ones truly discordant in this situation? Is it them for being judged or is it us for judging?
By tapping into these chakra points, we can better restore our internal harmony.
In order to do this, we must know the 7-chakra points which will allow us to focus on each.
Our shadows naturally manifest in many ways. It can manifest through our urges and preferences, all of which covers a wide range of feelings and emotions.
In doing this, all of our chakra points are basically important and relevant. For instance, the sacral chakra or the navel chakra is responsible for our sexual urges and preferences.
Thus, when we prefer one orientation over the other or have an urge, tapping into the sacral chakra will allow us to attain inner harmony.
When our shadows manifests in liking someone from the office even when we are already married, by tapping into this chakra we are able to take control.
This means that we don’t necessarily do something in order to express that urge but to simply accept it. Instead of flirting with that person, allowing cosmic energy to flow into our chakra points will make us more human.
In this article though, we won’t be discussing the entirety of chakra points and how our shadow may manifest in each. Rather, we are here to show its value and a basic overview.
But instead of skipping it altogether, I think that we should pay attention to one of the most relevant chakra points – the crown chakra.
The crown chakra, or referred to as Sashwara, is the 7th chakra point located at the topmost part of our head.
This chakra point is responsible for pure consciousness energy. You can think of it as a gateway to allow cosmic energy to enter within us. Moreover, our own personal consciousness is also located in this chakra point.
The crown chakra is very much relevant to the case of the shadows given that it is the driver’s seat of consciousness. Understanding that the crown chakra contains the individual’s consciousness, we get to pinpoint exactly where the shadows attack.
While the shadows usually hijack the consciousness of the individual, allowing cosmic energy through this chakra point will help alleviate inner conflict.
In this case, by letting it flow like a waterfall, cosmic energy will clear us of such impurities caused by negative associations with shadows.
Instead, it will present to us its positive side and negative side, allowing for a more harmonious way of acknowledging and integrating our shadows.
This experience is quite difficult to describe using words for it is usually by experiencing these things that we get to validate such. To help me tell you more about this, let us focus on the story of Kung Fu panda.
In Kung Fu panda, the main protagonist Po exhibits the same problem. Po, having a troubled past due to being disconnected to his real parents was in search of himself. Along the way, we can see that he made a lot of mistakes basically because he wasn’t resonated with himself.
He tried a lot of different things, and most of the time he was funny. But this façade only hid his true feelings of internal conflict.
When he was eventually selected as the dragon warrior training under master shifu (the rat character), he was taught of this idea of inner peace and how to achieve it.
Eventually in the movie, we can see that Po was able to achieve this state of inner peace by allowing cosmic energies to flow through him and recollecting his past.
This led him to the path of self-acceptance which eventually led to inner peace. Even at the brink of losing, Po was able to master the cosmic energies of the universe.
As the enemies were firing the cannonball, he was able to maneuver it not by fighting it but by resonating with its power, speed, and intensity.
While such is fictional and symbolic, it tells us the value and importance of being at peace with ourselves.
When we face our shadows, which may lead to conflicts in life, lacking that sense of inner peace won’t help us conquer our problems.
As he was defeated, Shen (the main antagonist) asked Po: “how did you do it?How did you find inner peace? I took away your parents, everything! I scarred you for life.”
This was an iconic scene given that most of us experience life and our shadows this way.
When something bad happens to our life, they leave wounds. While these wounds heal, scars remain. These scars remind us of the bad things which then affects the way we perceive ourselves.
Just as when an abusive parent leaves a negative shadow to a child, it is difficult to achieve inner peace alone.
The key, as Po later points out, is to let go of the past and accept that we can only deal with the present.
By tapping into our chakra points, they will help us let cosmic energy, whose forces are constantly operating in the present, guide our actions and lead ourselves to a path of acceptance to these shadows.
The last spiritual aspect that we will be looking at in this article is how we can possibly harness universal power.
As you can see, this whole section on the spiritual series began on an escalating pace.
First, we begin with opening the gates through meditation as it allows us to empty ourselves temporarily.
Second, we amplify this meditation by using health crystals whose vibrations can help us attract positive energy.
Third, we have examined the value of chakra energies and harnessing cosmic energy.
And lastly, fourth, in this section, we shall see the value of Om – or universal energy.
Contextually speaking, the concept of Om or Aum is considered to be a sacred symbol in Hinduist traditions and Eastern Religions.
It is one of the most important Hindu chants which brings inner harmony through meditation.
The word Aum, however, is not merely its literal pronunciation, but it also signifies important core beliefs in this topic.
The letter ‘a’ symbolizes consciousness, it represents the power to create which is very much significant to our nature as conscious beings.
The letter ‘u’, on the other hand, talks about balance between the two letters as it is at the center.
While the letter ‘m’, is about the transformative energy of the universe, leading us from one state to the other.
Its whole symbol represents the creator of the universe.
In Hinduism, the whole symbol of Om even is a representation of Brahma, Visnu, and Siva which directly corresponds to creator, maintainer, and destroyer.
In other words, the power of om is like the whole center of the cosmic power for it represents all and is all.
To understand Om is to understand that the beginning of the world is Om. Meaning, out of all the relevant energies and vibrations that we have discussed, Om is at the root of it all for it is the vibration of creation.
Much like in Christian religions wherein God’s word is the source of everything, Om is the beginning of all. The difference, however, is that this Om is an impersonal energy life force.
When everything was in pure stillness, it is believed that Om is the first syllable mentioned. Thus, representing the power of creation.
But if you think of it, everything else in this world is a mere manifestation of an idea.
For instance, new innovations even in the food industry are mere ideas that are actualized by people.
A paradoxical idea of a fried ice-cream is one of the many actualizations of great ideas that people once had.
In understanding Om, we can think of it this way, for our ideas are one of the most powerful and infinite things that we can master in the universe.
If we are to think of our shadows, for instance, we’d realize that they are mere ideas about ourselves. As we have pointed out in the previous sections, the way to deal with it is to realize that it is only an idea of the self, an aspect where we can change at will.
In the same way, this idea of the self can have creative powers given that it can lead us to become who we want to be.
The only problem is that sometimes, we don’t really know who we want to become.
This inner conflict can lead us to create wrong decisions in life, such as enrolling for a course that we aren’t really passionate for.
In light of this problem, the significant question to ask, therefore, is that “how can I make use of Om in order to create a proper idea of the self?”
One effective way of doing it is by aligning our thoughts with Om energy.
By recognizing that Om is the power of creation, we can then incorporate this notion in everything we do in order to attract the cosmic energies around us.
For instance, if you want to have a gift during Christmas, you can say ‘Om Gift’. This will move the energies of such ideas to create a condition which pulls in the same positive thought.
Of course, you won’t always receive the gifts that you want. But while you are missing out on the latest gadgets, attracting positive energies by saying ‘Om Gift’ can lead to you realize the value of the presents around you.
Your family and friends, who are there for you, can be an example of this gift which you fail to see and realize because your mind is clout with negative thoughts and feelings.
In the same way, when we say ‘Om Money’ or ‘Om Success’, we are attracting these things and placing ourselves in a favorable condition where we can have greater access to such desires.
By keeping these in mind, we get to see that success and money can come in many ways, and not simply in the ways that we envision them.
Perhaps, this gift of being positive will allow us to see the silver lining in between problems and challenges.
This will give us the opportunity to seize the moment and make money and success out of small stuff.
By embodying this om principle in our lives, we get to deal with the basic principle of creation about our self-project including our shadows.
If we look at it, one particular aspect from which this Om power can contribute is by attracting balance, harmony, and inner peace in our lives.
While other ideas such as abundance and prosperity seek to add more to what we have, aspiring for inner peace, balance, and harmony is more crucial in understanding our shadows.
This is because most of our shadows are a result of unresolved internal conflict. By having a wrong notion about others, we act wrongly and judge wrongly as well. But deep inside, we resonate with them and simply couldn’t accept it.
Another problem pointed out in our shadow work series is that it is not only unresolved internal conflict but also how external forces and stimuli condition us to have a certain idea about ourselves.
Looking at the latest model of Victoria’s Secret can make us have an image of ourselves which is technically demeaning given that society has set this high of a standard.
This shadow is not simply a consequence of our choice. Rather it is a consequence of how our choices are heavily influenced by the social factors that we conform with.
In both cases, whether it be internal conflict or social influence, we often find ourselves in internal conflict and not having inner peace. Just as Po was looking for himself though others, he could not find this inner peace and master the powers of the universe.
Our shadows, then, can be hindrances to who we can become. But in the same way, they can become part of who we are going to be – whether it be for the best or worst.
By attracting inner peace through Om, we get to see that life is beyond us. What does this mean?
Recognizing that there is a greater force, a universal cosmic energy force, that can move us, we surrender. This doesn’t mean surrendering to the crowd as Soren Kierkegaard despised.
Rather, what this means is surrendering our negative feelings and perceptions of ourselves by seeing that we are mere parts of the universe.
Think for instance of standing beside someone who you look up to. While standing beside them, you have two options – to admire or to be intimidated.
By feeling that intimidation, their mere success and achievements in life can create a negative shadow in you – that you really wanted to admire them, yet you ended up being intimidated.
But going for admiration can lead you to the other path – the one where you get to construct yourself with this idea that someday you can be as great as this person you look up to.
The problem is that most people will fear intimidation. As they compare themselves to great people, they feel as if their existence is nothing more than a mere speck in the universe.
While it is true that such is the case (that we indeed are mere specks and that is who we are right now compared to them), such should not remain to be.
Shadows can be negative ideas of the self which are not necessarily true, but we continue to attract them due to the lack of moving away from these attractions.
This is where the value of Om comes in. By realizing that such great force is behind us, we can allow it to flow within us and conquer our fears.
With cosmic energies within our body, constantly attracted by Om through consistent placement of it in our lives, we become something more.
We become something more given that we transcend the compounds of the empirical world. What we see, feel, hear, smell, and touch are mere qualities which signify the existence of something.
For instance, a freshly baked cheese streusel bread smells so good that we get to recognize it.
But being able to utilize the power of Om means that we transcend it and go to the realm of tapping this cosmic power in our consciousness.
Yes! It all goes back to the mind – the metaphysical operator of ourselves in this universe.
By seeing that everything else in this world, even our shadows, are ideas present and recognized in our mind, we can alter them and change them to our favor.
While this is clear to us now, how do we exactly tap into this Om resource? What physical ways can we do to invigorate this process?
In order to access Om energy, we have to incorporate it with the practice of meditation.
Remember that meditation brings us to a state wherein we are emptied of things from the past and the present.
Meaning, it flushes out the things that we constantly think of – like our next meal, the pending water bill for next month, and your upcoming anniversary with your loved one.
It also flushes out the past – just as you won’t be thinking of how relationships were broken between you and the other person.
By doing meditation, we prepare and set up ourselves for something greater than us – Om.
After creating this conducive state, carefully and gently utter your Om desire – in this case that would be ‘Om inner peace’, balance, or harmony.
After uttering in your mind, continue this reflective stance consistently day-by-day.
This will allow you to program yourself in such a way where it becomes one of your core goals. By slowly being engrained in you, it becomes part of you.
In realizing this whole process and how it can help us, we constantly add in ourselves this cosmic energy, being channeled towards our desire of inner peace.
By doing this, we achieve higher states of clarity and congruence with ourselves, making it easier to acknowledge and integrate our shadows.
In this whole section of the spiritual aspect of the shadow article series, we have seen how the shadow can be addressed by tapping on resources beyond ourselves.
Just as most of these shadows are formed in a social manner, a manner that is beyond us, it is necessary that we utilize energies and powers that are beyond us as well.
By placing an important value on spiritual ways, we get to harness and tap on methods which will place us on a higher level of ourselves.
In doing this, we get to perceive ourselves at a distance, with less contraction and discord.
This will allow us to sort our shadows, pushing it apart from us through vibrations, earthly energies, and cosmic energies.
All of these efforts will lead us to become a better person, one that has a real sense of individuality and self-mastery.
Finally, in this whole shadow work series we have seen basically in a more comprehensive manner how our shadows operate and how they are influenced by others.
As the writer of this series, I sincerely hope that whoever you are, reading this article, will know yourself more.
To further help you with that, I will also be introducing how the shadow can be present in your archetype.
This is very important given that our archetypes are from the collective unconscious – a state of our minds that transcend our present time.
Whether we like it or not, our archetypes will have an influence in how we decide and live our lives.
By looking at the tendencies of each archetype, we get to focus on what are some possible ways that we can deal with our shadows.
Thus, the next time you find inner conflict, you can simply look at your archetype through this website and ponder upon how you can improve yourself.
This will allow you to become a better person not only for yourself but also for your family, friends, and workplace in general.
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