Sometimes we act in ways that seem out of place according to our established character. On such occasions we wonder,”where did that come from”, or tell ourselves that “I’m not myself today”.
Since the Shadow is not part of our conscious nature (but lives in the unconscious), we are not normally aware of it except via behaviors (and by knowledgeable experiences).
One of the most readily available knowledge-experiences is catching ourselves in the act of Projection (detailed below). Projections are so much easier to see in others and that is the first clue about our own.
Our Conscious mind is busy avoiding those aspects of itself that we deem unsavory. Whenever one of these comes up, we shove it back down and banish it to the dungeons of our psyche.
Invested with a will to live and eager to contribute, it will emerge at the strangest opportunities to assert its right to be.
Phanes are Appearances. Most of the times they are good beings; sometimes they represent the Shadow. The shadow may appear in dreams (or visions), taking various forms and generally appears as a person of the same gender as the dreamer. Often times it may take the form of snakes, serpents, underwater denizens, scorpions, demons and criminals.
There is a collective shadow as well –the shadow of society dwelling in the collective unconscious. This Intersubjective shadow is nourished by the stigma, neglect and marginalization of our repressed communities and persons as well as oppression and rejection of non-consensus values.
Unless we know about the Jungian Shadow, it’s really difficult to see in ourselves, consequently it remains unnoticed—but we seem to love picking out faults in others.
Seeing objectionable traits in others is what Jung calls “projection.” While our conscious mind is busy trying to avoid confronting our own faults, our subconscious is at work with the growing and development, so we amplify a perception of fault in others. First we reject, then we project.
What you know of as ‘you’ is only a working model of your identity process. It is like a spotlight shining on the lead actor as he performs upon a stage inside your mind.
Beneath the light of consciousness is a whole world of ‘dark consciousness’ that operates unseen to our self awareness. This ego center is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ with the bulk of our psyche submerged beneath the surface.
Jung felt that the Shadow had great merit and was there for a meaningful purpose. “Where there is light, there must also be shadow” he wrote.
Just as the letters are drawn in black ink upon the white page—just as the black keys and white keys make up the chromatic scale of the piano- so too is the Shadow a necessary and important part of the Whole Individuated Psyche.
Exercise #1: Watch Your Emotional Reactions
Since we have been repressing our Shadow aspects for most of our lives now, it has become good at being elusive. Nobody wants to come right out into the open and be vulnerable to getting clobbered.
Therefore you will need to be attentive to your emotions, your triggers and your reactive ‘seepings’ at first, in order to greet and engage your shadow expressions.
As time goes by and you win the trust of your subconscious, it will come forth and express itself in a more straight-forward manner.
Also be aware of how we project our subconscious onto other people via what we dislike about them. Keeping an eye out for this is one of the best ways to identify with your shadow expressions.
Jung is often quoted as saying:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”.
Exercise #2: Engage in Inner Dialogue
Most of us are already engaged in a running inner dialogue.
Everybody has subpersonalities who carry on with one another in an autonomous way. We’ve been told that talking to ourselves is a sign of being ‘crazy’, but all creative and spontaneous people do it to some extent. Self-dialogue is one interesting way to engage the shadow conscious in a friendly and interesting manner.
The idea is to win the trust of your shadow aspect and become friends instead of enemies.
Method #3: Become familiar with the Shadow Archetype
For this, you may want to read and study more about the Jungian Archetypes in general. You can google the subject on the internet or watch a you-tube video.