silhouette of tree near body of water during golden hour

Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.

Walt Whitman

A Psychology of Self-Development

The Psychology of the Shadow

Engage the Shadow Within

Shadow work is a well-known psychological construct in the field of analytical psychology. Yet, in the modern era of diagnosis and fast-track treatments to soothe humanity’s ever-decreasing attention span, we often fail to consider just how pivotal reaching into the emotional baggage is for the overall well-being of the soul. 

In modern treatment methodologies, we often focus on symptoms or problematic behaviors a person feels ostracises them from the human condition. Psychologists and medical practitioners of old understood this to be a pivotal part of their treatment paradigm. However, the practices of today are more than willing to fast-track to diagnosis, label the phenomena, and create ad-hoc treatment methods for many ailments that stand as a foundation for our journey to make sense of life. Depression, anxiety, fear, relational problems, or even problems seeking personal meaning do not need curing; they are simply conditions that drive the storyline from which our individuated state emerges. 

I do not write these words lightly. Even from the staunch tenets of science, I see the atrocities present in works committed in the name of objectivity. Yet these same works reek of the subjective opinions sought by the money bearer’s outcome. Even Mark Twain said, “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” As I once heard, statistics are on the auction block for the highest bidder. The golden rule turned onto itself, “the person with the gold makes the rules.” What can we do?

Each person has a shadow. But also, each entity, theory, or overarching belief has a shadow unto itself. When we watch a lunar eclipse, we see the Earth’s shadow cast upon its beautiful neighboring sister, the Moon. Two heavenly bodies dependent on one another, symbiotic, yet somehow, even in all the beauty, we see that pesky little shadow peek its head and deny light from the sun’s life-giving force. 

I think there is a lesson here. In Whitman’s words, we need to keep our face to the sun’s life-giving force. However, we must take heed not to deny honor to the shadow. Instead, we must acknowledge its presence in the light of the sun. That, in turn, gives us the capacity to focus on our light-sustaining force. It allows us to honor both sides of the equation, so we may find beauty in the radiance of what is our journey to find Self. 

What shadows have the light of your life work cast? Comment below. As always, my friends, Namaste. May blessings find you on your journey to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.

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