By Dr. Larry Grubb
I once worked with a man who I would feel angry towards every time we got together. I just couldn’t understand why he bothered me so much. It was only after I had a chance to think about my reaction to him that I realized that he was showing me all the things I didn’t like about myself!
Think about someone you know or work with who really bothers you. Write down everything you can think about your negative feelings using words such as “lazy…inconsiderate…doesn’t tell the truth” and so on. Then honestly ask yourself if you have the same issues.
All of us have traits that we don’t like to admit we have and do the best we can to ignore them and go to great lengths to protect our self-image from anything unflattering or unfamiliar. These traits are called the “Shadow.” Carl Jung a Swedish Psychiatrist, described the Shadow as the part of ourselves we deny because we have been told that those traits are “bad” or “evil” or that we need to feel shame and guilt if we have it. You can readily identify your Shadow by looking at what bothers you in others because it’s easier to observe somebody else’s Shadow than our own Shadow.The harder we try to appear kind, good and virtuous and the harder we try to deny that there are things we don’t like about ourselves, the stronger these traits in the Shadow become.
If you read my previous article about The Emotional Bank Account you can readily see that the Shadow can tie up a lot of your emotional resources and psychic energy. If we take the time to bring our Sshadow into the light we can be more realistic in dealing with others and ourselves, become more authentic, more creative and free up that emotional energy that the Shadow holds.
To bring your shadow into the light you should:
- See what traits in others that bother you, for example being late, eating junk food, gossiping about others. If you keep seeing the same traits over and over, it means that your Shadow is creeping into your awareness and it is the perfect time to address it.
- Focus on these traits and the emotions they cause you to feel. Try to be objective. For example, if you feel angry at someone, try to understand WHAT about that person causes you to be angry. Is it because the way they speak to you or someone you like? Do you recognize that you do the same thing?
Once you are aware of your Shadow, let go of those traits that you feel cause you to feel uncomfortable. This takes time, but once you are aware of these things you don’t like about yourself, you will find that people who used to bother you won’t bother you as much.
Remember, your goal is to bring your shadow into the light and to become conscious of those things you don’t like about yourself and have kept hidden. Maybe not all of your Shadow traits will disappear but you will gain more and more knowledge about the unwanted traits and they will slowly lose their power to negatively impact your relationships with others.
The Columbia Counseling Center offers an eclectic and integrated approach to treatment. The Doctors, Therapists and Counselors at Columbia Counseling Center are highly trained in the use of medications as well as multiple techniques and strategies to address anxiety, depression and other psychological difficulties to improve the quality of your life.
You can call (410) 992-1949 for the first available appointment with the provider who is best suited to address your needs.