I woke from a very vivid nightmare at about 5am this morning. In the dream I was chased by rats in a sewer. Once I reached the light and stepped out of a manhole, a hooded figure slashed at me repeatedly. I remember thinking—“this is death, but I feel no pain. I only feel fear.”
Once I was more conscious and able to reflect on the nightmare, I pondered on my own fear of death. It was a lesson from a teacher I would never choose—the nightmare professor and my Kali teacher from last night.
This experience came from the shadow—or rather my shadow. This is the Jungian concept of going deeper into the parts of our lives we hide to find meaning, truth, and understanding. In the end, diving into the shadow makes us whole and more centered in our own existence.
Whoa. Heavy. Let’s take a step back and try and understand this.
So I’m not sure where I heard it. I think it might have been a podcast or something, but it was explained to me that the shadow is the unchosen parts of us. And that’s simply it. It’s not the parts of us that are good or bad, but simply the unchosen parts. Jung believed that these parts live within us still and unless we dive into them, we won’t become whole.
We automatically think of the shadow as evil simply because it was unchosen.
Example: If you decide to major in marketing because you see it is practical, but you feel as though your true calling is being a veterinarian, then the shadow is your love for working with animals. If you explore the drive to work with animals and what made you feel called to that, then several things could happen: You could find a career shift, or you might not hate marketing so much because your need is met by walking dogs around town lake. This makes you more whole.
Example: If you come from a staunch traditionalist background, yet feel ashamed because you know that you are gay, then exploring your shadow is trying to make sense of the urges as they are the unchosen parts of who you are. Joseph Campbell might say this is your heroes journey with the only result of finding balance between the traditionalism and your innate and predisposed sexual drives.
Example: A more common exploration might be saying something stupid, slightly off-color at a party that might be inappropriate and offensive. Exploring the reasons why it came out and what brought you to say those things is shadow-work as well.
It’s important to note that the shadow is an ever-present part of us and that the unconscious has no understanding of time. So if we don’t explore it, then we suppress emotions, and may end up acting out.
In Star Wars, there is constant talk of the dark and the light being two dichotomous forces opposing one another. In my mind, the entire purpose is to “bring balance to the force”, and if one side were to simply cease to exist, then the universe wouldn’t be balanced and chaos would ensue.
So what is the takeaway?
The point is that it’s not fun and it’s uncomfortable, but if we really want to do good work and become balanced then we have to do shadow-work. Explore your unchosen parts from a loving and mindful state. Discover why you decided what you did. View your existence without judgment from an angle of a multiverse and see the patterns in what has made you YOU and the parts of you that are unchosen.
All the love,