Within Psychology the shadow usually refers to the parts of your personality that you are unaware of, see only in others, try to forget about or just plain ignore.
You also tend to see those parts of yourself that are contained in the shadow in the people around you. When you see your shadow in others, you are “projecting” it out onto others. You may do this because of deep seated unmet needs, fear or shame. This may be because you may have learned at a young age that your desires or needs were unacceptable, so you pushed them away. Our shadow is made up of our secrets, the things about ourselves that we wish to hide from others. This doesn’t just mean that the shadow only contains our dark or negative aspects, because we can also use it to hide from our own strengths, passions and abilities. It really contains the parts of ourselves that we feel would hurt our chances of belonging or fitting in.
As we mature, we learn to hide the feelings, behaviors, emotions, traits and thoughts that seem to annoy or bother others. Especially as children, we might be told things like, “Be a man, ” or “Good girls don’t do that,” or “Man up,” or “Crying is for babies,” After we hear things like this enough, we begin to feel conflicted and confused. We don’t know what to do with our “unwanted” emotions or behaviors and we learn to hide them from others. After a while we begin to disown, reject or lose parts of ourselves, and only fragments of our true selves really remain for the world to see and live with.
Accepting your shadow means that you are willing to work with your fears and insecurities. Your fears may have protected you from further damage and hurt. By hiding in fear, and not standing out, you could have avoided being shamed or ridiculed. Others can get us to hide and contribute to the growth of our shadow, by getting us to believe that there is something unwanted, wrong or unacceptable about us.
Repeating patterns are a part of the shadow. This is why it is so important to understand and work with your shadow. For example, If a daughter constantly experiences her parents as highly controlling and domineering, as she matures she might be unconsciously directed toward a life of rebellion. She might project “controlling and domineering” traits out onto everyone, especially people of authority. In many ways, she may also live out these qualities within her own life.
Robert Bly, an author who has written about the shadow, says that the are many stages of work that will eventually help us to work with and retrieve the “gold” from our shadow. He calls the process “eating the shadow” and says that “Eating our shadow is a very slow process. It doesn’t happen once,” Indeed, working with your shadow is an ongoing and deliberate process.
How do we learn to live with and accept our shadow? Within Numerology you can begin to work with the process of accepting your shadow, through an understanding of your Outer Number. As a representation of how people see you, it can help you to begin to ask important questions about yourself. Perhaps some of the traits that others see in you are really there, although you might not believe it!
As an example, let’s consider “Abbey” who has an Outer Number 1. When others first meet Abbey, they might often get the impression that she is “her own woman” and that she has a very creative mind, yet she can seem stubborn, closed and hesitant. Others, who are willing to get to know her, may even ask for her opinion on artistic matters. Abbey might be inspired by the interest of others, in her creative eye, but if over time, Abbey has come to believe that she is not talented, she might see herself as simply being dull and uninteresting. At parties she might even always the one that is talking about what worked and didn’t work in the latest play or movie. Perhaps unknowingly to her, she has a good deal of artistic and critical knowledge that may have been turned inward or devalued. If she is able to begin to develop her skills, talents and knowledge, she might be able to better spread her own creative wings, while maintaining her own independence and remaining connected with the outside world. This doesn’t mean that she has to be an “artist”, rather it’s about owning the artist inside her and having value for it. It’s about having value for her desires and interests, rather than pushing them away.
Do others see some talent, skill or ability within you? Do you acknowledge what they see? This process is really about re-discovering yourself and developing a strong belief and acceptance of who you really are.
I think one of the most important things to know in understanding the process of shadow work, is that you are not flawed. It’s just that you have blocked out your connection to the “inner you.”. The goal of working with your shadow, is not to present you with a quick fix, but rather it is to allow you to develop a deep and conscious awareness of your true self. It’s about valuing your interests, talents and desires. It’s about owning your own power. And, it’s about becoming connected with the real you and allowing that person to step forward into your life!