Carl Jung said it beautifully, "He who looks outside, dreams, he who looks inside, awakens." Once we start looking within, we shed light on what we have been hiding or repressing in ourselves which has become our shadow. In the words of Jack Sanford, “God loves your shadow much more than he does your ego."
Your shadow represents all of the aspects of yourself which you feel discomfort or shame about possessing that you would rather not look at, accept or acknowledge. It is important to be aware of the shadow; otherwise these attributes will be expressed and projected onto others in the worst possible moments. It is as if you are carrying around a little black box inside of you wherever you go. In it, you place all of your qualities that you are not proud of, all the things that bother you, all of your fears and discomforts, the things you want to hide from; your shadow. When something triggers a piece held in your black box, it is hit with such a force, that it is kicked open, spilling all of its contents out onto the person who gave the trigger. When you operate from the shadow, hiding yourself out of fear of being rejected or not accepted, the EGO gains control over you, always trying to satisfy and protect itself by appearing stronger in some form in the eyes of others.
Anytime you notice yourself harshly evaluating another person, chances are that they express a piece of your shadow, a piece hidden in your black box. Rather than judge, you can instead ask yourself, “What is the person doing or saying that expresses some aspect of myself that I feel is unacceptable, and therefore is unacceptable in this person?”
Your answer will help you gain insight into the nature of your shadow and will also help you move from a place of judging to a place of noticing. In the process of gaining and articulating awareness, you shift your focus from judging and attempting to change the other person, to noticing what part of yourself you have disowned. Once you are aware of what you have disowned, you can ask yourself, “what portion of what I have disowned would I like to reclaim for myself?”
As you begin to accept and value all of yourself (including the parts that you least like), you begin to cultivate a healthy Self-Trust.
Self-Trust is a deep form of self regard based on an awareness of one's positive and negative attributes, as well as recognizing our strengths and building upon them. When we accept that we learn through trial and error, we come to the realization that we do make mistakes and it is ok to accept them versus viewing them as faults and hiding them. We become like the master weavers of Persia who include an intentional error in every carpet, to remind us that nothing is supposed to be perfect.
Self-Trust is a combination of 3 emotional and spiritual qualities: Self-Awareness: the ability to know ourselves and to be in touch with both our thoughts and our feelings. Self-Acceptance: the ability to embrace who we are, with our strengths as well as with our weaknesses. Self-Reliance: the ability to use what we know about ourselves to get the results we want in our lives, without the constant worry about the approval or disapproval of others.
It is difficult to have a solid self-trust when you feel that much of yourself must be hidden from others. By choosing to assimilate and accept each disowned piece of the shadow, you are in effect saying that all aspects of myself are worth having and loving, and you begin your Awaken your shadow. Much of our energy is consumed and wasted on trying to repress our feelings and emotions, instead of acknowledging, accepting and starting to heal them. When you open your internal black box, and leave it open for the light within you to pour in, you illuminate all of what is in you, accepting and loving yourself as Jesus loves you. You give yourself the freedom to stop operating from an Ego-Centric standpoint and start operating from a loving standpoint.
To be able to see the light that is within, and be filled with the light, you must begin to make peace with your shadow.
“Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called 'Ego'. It’s time to tie “Ego” to a lamppost, walk away and be free, he’ll always be there, but he does not have to go everywhere with you.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)