The shadow side and it’s importance in life

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Kevin Mangelschots

Our shadow side, also commonly called our shadow personality in analytical psychology, is typically that part of ourselves that’s darker, and more brutal. Yet, it’s absolutely required in order to survive.

But because we like to visualize ourselves in a positive light, and as being better than we truly are, we oftentimes desperately try to hide our shadow self. But I say that we should put in the time and effort to integrate that vital part into our personality.

Let me explain why the shadow side is so important in life.

What is our shadow side?

A woman looking sideways in the dark.

Historically speaking, the shadow side, which refers to a part of our personality, changes a bit depending on the philosopher.

These are the two main philosophies:

Jungian shadow side

Image of Carl Jung with the quote, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate” written next to him in white letters on a black background.

From the Jungian psychology perspective, the shadow side means the unconscious aspects of our personality that our consciousness does not identify with itself. In other words, it resembles the unknown in our lives.

From the Jungian perspective, the shadow self can be both positive things and negative things that we want to remain hidden from our awareness.

Freudian shadow side

A black and white picture of Sigmund Freud.

From the Freudian perspective, it’s roughly the same. But the main difference is that Sigmund Freud believed that the shadow side is the part of our personality that’s associated with our dark and vengeful nature.

In other words, it resembles the unknown. And the unknown is considered our negative traits that we desperately want to keep concealed from our consciousness.

I don’t think that both ways of thinking are exclusive, either. Both parties have a viable definition on the matter, and both make a pretty strong case for themselves.

My perspective

Not only that, but I personally would define the shadow side as the part of our personality that’s darker, generally associated with evil or dark thoughts and actions.

Sometimes this part of our character stays hidden and unconscious because we rather think of ourselves as being pure, good, and virtuous rather than someone who also has the capacity to be bad and do evil things.

Illustration of a woman with one part of her face being covered with a positive mask, and the other side of her face being covered with a dark mask.

Yet, realizing that every human being has both good and bad inside them can elevate you to a higher mode of functioning and wisdom. If you have the bad and evil part of your personality under voluntary control, then that means that you can call upon it when necessary. And make no mistake, it can literally save your life.

Life is cruel and unfair at times. People will be unjust to you, and some might try to hurt you, your family, or your loved ones. And it’s exactly in those times that you’ve got to be ready and prepared to tap into your dark side.

And if you’ve never utilized or trained that part of you, then you won’t be able to do so if the situation calls for it. You can’t apply that part of yourself if you only know kindness and forgiveness as your base mode of living, without the capacity for evil.

How do I find my shadow side?

The words “ask questions” written on pavement.

  1. Analyze your dreams and nightmares
  2. Write down your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings
  3. Journal your deepest insecurities and fears
  4. Identify patterns and practices of yourself that you don’t like or deem to be negative
  5. Talk to a professional therapist to discuss the things you don’t like about yourself

All things considered, you need to ask yourself tough, uncomfortable questions about the things you might be ashamed of.

This is difficult for most people since we typically like to bury the traits we don’t consider attractive as deep as we can, so that no one can see them. Yet, we can learn a lot from them when we can identify what these attributes are.

You can’t get startled easily if you want to find out your shadow side, and integrate it into your very being.

How to get your shadow side under voluntarily control

Multiple possible questions being written on a wooden board.

Meet your shadow side

Meeting your shadow personality is the first step towards owning your shadow.

And once the dark side of your personality is under your voluntary control, you can really start to utilize these traits in your daily life.

If aggression for example is part of your shadow, it would look like assertiveness, decisiveness, and confidence once it’s under your intentional control.

On the other hand, if jealousy was part of the dark side of your personality, then under your willful control it would look like striving to improve yourself, and to be the best possible version of yourself. To be confident with who you are, despite your flaws. This is what owning your shadow means.

Learn about your shadow self

The quote, “we do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience” written on a background with a woman staring.

Learning more about that which is unknown to you will inevitably lead to growth since it teaches us new skills and wisdom. And it’s no different with regard to our personality.

Learning more about the parts of our character that were previously unknown to us, whether good or bad, will change us. Both in the way that we think, but also how we act.

Who we are is ideally speaking not something static. And meeting your shadow self allows you to discover new parts of yourself and will consequently make you grow and blossom into a confident, mature human being. Thus, owning your shadow side through discovery, practice, and experience.

How to embrace your shadow self

Learning how to embrace your shadow self is about studying what parts of yourself you don’t like, and why you dislike these aspects.

Next, you need to accept two conditions. The first one is that humans aren’t perfect, and flawed by design. And the second one is that each individual possesses both positive and negative traits.

And finally, you need to realize and accept that your shadow is essential for your survival in addition to your success as well. It’s required to protect yourself, and to become content because you’re daring enough to put your own needs and desires first.

  • Analyze yourself
  • Identify what parts of yourself you dislike
  • Discover why you don’t like those parts of yourself
  • Accept that humans aren’t perfect
  • Accept that each individual has both their positive and negative traits
  • Realize that the shadow side is vital for our survival

What does it mean to embrace your shadow side?

 
Embracing your shadow side means accepting the parts of yourself that you deem to be darker, imperfect, negative, and dangerous.
 
People aren’t perfect, just like we aren’t entirely good or bad either. Embracing and controlling the shadow self of your personality will enhance your life, and allow you to tap into your darker traits when the situation calls for it.
 

What is an example of our shadow self?

Image of the word “example” being written with a blue marker by someone's hand.

A possible example of our shadow self in action is feeling angry, and even having a tendency to get violent when confronted with injustice. That’s why most of us typically want to hide that more ferocious, vengeful part of our personality.

And while getting violent is typically a bad thing, it also means that you’re willing to stand up for yourself and others who are being treated unfairly, and that you can be assertive when needed.

That is, as long as you learn not to act on these impulses by taking the time to develop, and control these characteristics properly.

Conclusion

The quote, “learn how to know yourself” written on a background.

All of us have a shadow side, and most of us desperately try to hide it from ourselves and the world by putting on a mask. What we typically fail to realize is its utility, and the numerous advantages it provides.

Identify your darker thoughts, insecurities, and fears in order to find out what they are, and why you’re trying to conceal them.

Afterward, work hard to control and accept them, so that you can apply your dark traits when the circumstance requires it.