Working With Paradox

Despite human beings having spent many millennia attempting to understand and categorise the world, there are still many simple ‘facts’ that we don’t know. Is light a wave or a particle? Even the most cutting edge physicists don’t know the answer to this question. This kind of paradox is part of nature and part of life. When we look inside ourselves we also find many paradoxes, and paradox is something we work with often in Shadow Work. To be a mature Human we need to become comfortable with paradox. I am one and many: the sole master of myself, yet I am also made of many different parts, often with conflicting ideas and beliefs. 782px-Autorretrato_2006I love and care for those closest to me and yet I show them my worst sides. I am confident and successful, yet my sense of self collapses when my child criticises me…. Carl Jung, who did extensive work exploring the human shadow in the 19th century, notes one of the main paradoxes of the shadow as this – that our ego – the parts of ourselves we want to be known by in the world, and our shadow – the parts of ourselves we don’t want people to know about, come from the same place, and that they are entirely equal. They are all legitimate and valuable aspects of our being. The two balance each other, and one cannot exist without the other.

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Being Honest With Ourselves

 

Early in our lives, in order to be ‘civilised’ and to be accepted by those around us we undergo the natural process of dividing ourselves into what works for us in our world, and what does not work. 756px-Gustav_Igler_Der_zerbrochene_Krug_1876We hide away the parts of us that don’t work – the parts we are criticised or shamed for, and we work on presenting the ‘valuable’, ‘good’, or ‘acceptable’ parts of ourselves to the world. This is an essential process which we all go through in early life in order to be loved and accepted by those around us – or at the very least in order not to be harmed by those around us. it’s a survival mechanism, and it is unavoidable.

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The Shadow

We present to the world the parts of ourselves we wish to be known by, the parts we are conscious of and comfortable with. This is our psychological clothing, and it is how we wish to be seen by the world. But we are also made up of our shadow, which contains the parts of us that we have cut off, repressed or denied. The parts that we have at some point decided we do not want to be known by. Continue Reading