Light And Shadow: Psychology And Jung's Insights Into Personality
While Jung did criticize some of Freud's theories, he continued to focus on the unconscious, believing that a person's childhood and past experiences influence future behavior. However, while agreeing with Freud on some important main points, many of Jung's psychological assumptions reflect Freud's theoretical differences.
Jung acknowledged and agreed with the basic Freudian concept of the 'id,' which Freud defined as the primitive and instinctive personality component. The id is the impulsive and unconscious part of ourselves, responding directly and immediately to impulses. The id is infantile and does not evolve, operating in the mind's unconscious space on the pleasure principle (fulfilling impulses immediately without thought of consequence).
Jung takes the idea of the id and branches off to build his own theory of the id, calling it the 'shadow.' He refers to the shadow as the animal side of our personality, the source of both our creative and destructive energies. It is the unconscious aspect of personality, the unknown. Jung agrees with Freud that the shadow or id are largely negative in nature (being unpredictable and without a thought for consequence, only seeking immediate satisfaction). However, he goes beyond this, believing that the shadow may include everything outside of the light of consciousness, creating the possibility of the shadow being either positive or negative. Jung creates the theory of the shadow part of one's personality is more of a scale, moving between positive and negative based on how it embodies one's conscious life. The less embodied into the conscious, the denser and darker the shadow. The shadow is one's dark side of their personality.
The Dark Side
The idea of the shadow or the dark side is an innate part of every human being. Even before Jung's theory, Robert Louis Stevenson writes of the good and dark within human beings in his 1886 novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the story, Dr. Jekyll represents the respectable side of the self, the side we put forward consciously. However, deep within him lurks Mr. Hyde, the shadow personality (dark self) who can gain dominance, taking over the conscious, good side to create chaos and discord. Dr. Jekyll is then left without any conscious memory of the events that occurred.
This story is representative of human nature. A majority of us choose to remain blind to the existence of our shadow. It is quite natural for us to want to hide our negative qualities and traits, not just from others but also from ourselves. Rather than acknowledging our shadow side, many of us revert to the defensive, shifting focus to others' faults and criticizing their misbehavior. This allows us to walk with our heads held high, boasting a false sense of morality, while we believe that others are the only destructive ones. Acknowledging and focusing on the shadow of others allows us to suppress our own from our conscious thoughts.
Repression Of The Shadow
Some aspects of the shadow are a product of evolution. As discussed previously, the shadow can be compared to the id, the animalistic part of ourselves that is solely concerned with instant gratification without regard for consequence. Because of how we have evolved into societies with social contracts and mores, we have had to repress certain parts of our innate desires. For example, all humans have the animalistic urge to have sex. While we technically can satisfy these needs whenever and wherever we want, we have evolved into societies with rules we follow. People do not simply strip in the middle of the street and have sex the second they have the urge. We have learned to abide by certain morals and contracts, repressing our shadow from satisfying its needs. Children are more in alignment with their shadow, as they are constantly in the process of learning how to adhere to social norms rather than listen to their shadow and fulfill all desires. At a young age, we are trained to repress the expression of certain behaviors that are not socially acceptable or appropriate, moving them into the dark unconscious.
How Do We Take Control Of The Unconscious Side Of Our Personality And Overcome Our Innate Darkness?
All humans have shadows. What makes us each individually different from one another is the degree to which we are conscious. Leaving your shadow in the darkness, the unconscious, allows it to create chaos and run freely. Even though we may consciously repress our dark side, it is expressed through our unconscious, without our control or awareness, which is way more dangerous. The unconscious control that a shadow has over us is often responsible for much of our self-destructive behaviors. A prime example of the shadow taking control is with addictive behaviors.
To ensure you don't remain a victim of your shadow, we need to acknowledge and accept our shadow (dark) qualities, bringing them forward to the light, to our consciousness. To do this, we must find ways to integrate our darkness with our existing conscious (light) lives. Here, the light and shadow become one, co-existing, aware of one another, complete. Wholeness is made of both light and dark, good and evil, so both deserve a place in the conscious world.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as it has become a part of our nature to reject our shadow and consider ourselves wholly good.
The Shadow Has The Potential Of Being Powerful
To help you learn to accept the shadow of yourself, Jung argues that it is important to understand that while, in essence, it is animalistic, there is the capability of the shadow being a creative and powerful asset. When developing from youth, many characteristics and talents are repressed to align with social expectations. What is often unnoticed is that not all repressed behaviors are necessarily forced beneath the surface with good intentions.
One such example can be seen in individuals who fight or deny authority. This is not acceptable social behavior, according to our agreed-upon social contracts. If people were to have such control and power to be self-reliant and without the need for social constructs, our society as we know it would fall into chaos. While this may be for the "greater good," it represses some very interesting traits that could be extremely powerful for an individual when expressed healthily and consciously if nurtured the right way.
Integrating Your Shadow Into Your Light
While the shadow (unconscious) personality is often feared due to its unpredictable nature, it does not have to be. It can be integrated into the light of the (conscious) world. Jung did not believe there were any specific ways to integrate your shadow with your light, as each person's shadow is unique, so each journey towards integration would also be unique. However, a good place to start is learning that your shadow personality (all of your behaviors and urges that have been repressed into the unconscious) is not 'wrong.' It is not a side to hide. Pretending the shadow does not exist is what gives it its dark and destructive nature.
Instead, shed some light on this darkness. To do this, we should, in a sense, go against what has been pushed upon us by society (suppression and repression) and instead find a healthy expressive outlet for our animalistic urges, nurturing them. Find ways to pursue your passions that are constructive rather than destructive. Learn to accept rather than fight your shadow. However, on that same note, we need to remain conscious of the strength of the shadow and not end up completely going the other way, allowing the shadow to take over the light. While we should accept and nurture our wildness, we should do so within reason and with certain constraints. The goal here is to achieve a balance, a yin-yang if you will. Once we can find a balance, a way to allow the shadow to move out of the unconscious and live with the conscious, we will better understand ourselves and our true desires in life.
Anyone interested in exploring their shadow and finding healthy ways to express this side, head over to Regain.us, where we would be more than happy to help you through this journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are light and shadow in psychology?
In psychology, light refers to a person’s conscious thoughts and behaviors. It’s out in the open, under the light, and accepted as the person’s primary personality. The term “light,” however, does not necessarily connate a positive demeanor. Instead, it only describes the ego of a person that they present to the outside world. It is a form of outward psychological projection.
Meanwhile, the shadow represents a person’s unconscious thoughts and behaviors. It is the id's hidden expression or shadow archetype that drives that person’s mannerisms. Thus, a personal shadow is something that lies beneath the outer expression to influence thoughts and behaviors. In many cases, a person will experience their shadow in dreams or nightmares.
What are Carl Jung's 4 theories of consciousness?
Jungian psychology suggests there are four interconnected facets to human consciousness.
- The Persona
- The Shadow
- The Anima
- The Self
In Jungian psychology, every person has one of each facet, and they dictate that person’s personality, mannerisms, thoughts, and behaviors either exclusively or as part of a cluster. Here is how each facet breaks down:
- The Jungian Persona is an exaggerated version of ourselves, most commonly used to impress others. In turn, it’s usually based on societal norms of expected behavior. It’s also used to subdue primitive impulses and unacceptable emotions.
- The Jungian Shadow is an expression of the id - hidden personality traits, beliefs, and behaviors that melt into the Persona. It’s where sexuality, aggressiveness, and spontaneity originate. The Jungian Shadow is also responsible for mood, demeanor, disposition, and instinct.
- The Jungian Anima (or Animus) is nested inside the human Shadow, according to Jung psychology. It describes a person’s recognition of and influence by the opposite gender qualities within. Thus, the Anima carries a shadow of its own and is therefore used to understand the unconscious's psychology better.
- The Jungian Self is a facet that defines a person’s individuality. It provides purpose and passion, according to Jung's psychology. Most commonly expressed through psychological projection, the Self reveals what happens when there’s a confrontation with the shadow.
Meanwhile, the psychology of the unconscious mind is still being researched, especially in shadow understanding and how it relates to psychoanalysis.
What is the relationship between light and shadow?
The relationship between light and shadow in psychology takes an understanding of what a personal shadow is. Basically, it dictates a person’s thoughts, actions, behaviors, and habits on an unconscious level. Unlike light, it remains beneath the surface and may not ever get fully explored.
Shadow understanding consists of acceptance because the human shadow isn’t always a positive place to be. A person’s shadow - the hidden parts of their personality - can reveal many things that may be uncomfortable for them to face. Thus, to understand light and shadow, understanding the dark parts of oneself is almost always essential.
What is shadow behavior?
Your shadow - the shadow that lies beneath the light of your outward personality - consists of countless unconscious responses that originated from various life experiences. It drives the automatic, unintentional reactions that you have to different stimuli. Thus, shadow behavior refers to defensiveness, manipulation, and general resistance to change or growth. Understanding the dark parts of their personality is key to grasp how someone is affected by their shadow fully. However, not all dark parts are negative or traumatic. Some may be rooted in positive stimulation or be affected by other parts of the personality.
How do I find my shadow self?
Finding your shadow - the shadow that dictates how and why you react the way you do - can be extremely beneficial to your mental health. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to begin therapy or conduct comprehensive psychoanalysis because it reveals unconscious urges, beliefs, and thinking errors. Therefore, it may be wise to seek professional help when trying to discover your shadow self. In the meantime, the best way to uncover your hidden personality traits is to pay closer attention to your emotions. Here are 4 other techniques to use as well:
- Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself because we all make mistakes as flawed human beings.
- Meditate on your most worrisome thoughts and try to determine where they come from.
- Practice self-compassion to better define negative mindsets and hurtful feelings.
- Write your thoughts down in a journal to help keep track of your shadow self-expressions.
Remember, you cannot uncover or understand your psychological shadow until you face it without shame. So, watch how you treat others and try to define your triggers with that information.
What does shadow mean in psychology?
What is a shadow personality type?
What is the shadow according to Freud?
Is the shadow self the ego
How do you identify shadow traits?
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