For every light space there is dark space, both within and around us. Lane Parker says it's important to embrace our shadows.
Autumn. The season of shortening days and lengthening nights. Of ghosts and goblins and witches. The season, seemingly more than any other, of shadows, those parts of darkness in the daytime.
Our relationship with shadows is complicated. In popular culture and folklore, shadows represent darkness and evil, both in the world and in people. Starting in the 1930s, the pulp fiction and radio character The Shadow knew “what evil lurks in the hearts of men.” More recently, Luke Skywalker had to search his feelings, and when he rejected the Dark Side we cheered, even though we thought those white storm trooper uniforms were totally cool.
We all have a Shadow side. As an archetype along with others such as the Hero, the Trickster and the Wise Woman, the Shadow represents what psychologist Carl Jung called “the disowned self.” This side is not necessarily evil but simply contains the parts of ourselves we struggle with, the parts we’ve rejected, left unexpressed, unrealized — aspects we’ve neglected or forgotten, such as creativity or affection. Expressed this way, Darth Vader’s Shadow side included goodness and paternal love.
How can we get in touch with our inner Shadow? That takes courage. Some soul searching. Inner work. One technique involves defining the traits we dislike in other people, such as pride or tardiness: Those same traits might reside in our Shadow side. Another technique includes asking friends and family — the people who know us best — to give us feedback about how they perceive us: Often we’re able to recognize someone else’s Shadow traits even though we’re blind to our own. Of course, any kind of successful Shadow work will include the recognition and acceptance of those hidden-away traits, resulting in a more integrated and complete psyche — in other words, a happier person.