"It is the inner commitment to be true to ourselves and follow our dreams that triggers the support of the universe. "
With the term ‘Shadow’ we name this part of the psyche that has no faith, is angry, sad, deeply wounded and it’s also so well-hidden so that we can’t be aware of it unless we decide to do some inner work and bring it to light. In Astrology the house that symbolizes whatever stays hidden from the conscious mind is the 12th house, the one that is exactly before our Ascendant, while the planet that occasionally brings the Shadow before our eyes in a harsh way is Pluto, known as the Lord of the Underworld. In this article we will not deal with the Shadow through the astrological symbolism. On the contrary we will see through which behaviors the Shadow can manifest as well as in which ways we can throw light on it, so that we can free ourselves from the things that have become emotionally charged and burdensome for us.
To begin with, the Shadow may manifest through behaviors that are overly aggressive or reactive. Very often when we feel that someone ‘pushes our buttons’ or annoys us we tend to have a rather unfitting response to what has occurred. The Shadow here may hide our vulnerability οr softness. If we haven’t let our conscious mind recognize that, our visible behavior will be incompatible to what is hidden in the Shadow. A very usual mechanism with which the Shadow manifests is Projection. This happens when we attribute to another person a characteristic that we also have but which we don’t recognize in our self. In particular this usually happens with the less appealing qualities of our character which we deny, because we find it easier to hold the mirror on the outside instead of turning it within. Of course this doesn’t mean that the characteristic we project on another doesn’t exist, the important thing is that we don’t recognize that it also exists in us. Also, an exaggerated need to please others or become likeable shows the existence of Shadow, it is possible that in this case it is either anger or lack of self-respect that continuously drive us to make others like us or show us their appreciation. Last but not least, behaviors which are self-sabotaging such as getting into the role of the ‘Martyr’ or the ‘Victim’ show us that there is something in the Shadow, too. Another self-sabotaging behavior that is procrastinating things that we must do for our self may hide the neglect of our inner child or the tendency to avoid growing up by taking responsibility for whatever happens to us.
There are some steps we can take if we want to work with our Shadow, the first and most important is that we learn to recognize it and then to shed light on what is hidden in it, to bring it to the surface in other words. This is a tough and arduous process, because most of the time it shows us things about our self that we hadn’t imagined or we denied facing. Quite often the content of the Shadow is linked to events of a distant past (whether this has to do with childhood memories or past lives doesn’t matter). What matters is now and today, how willing we are and to what extent we will go to light this part of ours.
During this process it is very useful if we could write our thoughts on paper, because this helps us to be more aware of what’s going on with us. We can for example give voice to a particular element of the Shadow (eg. anger) and to write on paper in the 1st person what it dictates to us. After we have detached our self from it we can address it in the second person in a more neutral way. This can happen with every emotion that has overwhelmed us or with a cyclic thought that hides an emotion. When we personify it we can perceive what it is that tortures us and we may eventually see it from a different perspective. Dialoguing with dream figures as well as the recording and decoding of dreams is also another way to shed light on the unconscious. We must not forget that constant and persistent inner work bears fruits, since it is possible that a great deal of energy that stayed boxed in and domineered us through fear and confinement can now liberate itself and be used in a more constructive way.