It was Jung who said that we all have a shadow that follows us around that is made up of
our smaller, vulnerable, insecure selves. The shadow can be all the things we’re afraid of,
things we were humiliated by and learned to avoid. We hide from that shadow in order to
survive but the cost can be high, involving anxiety and/or depression. It’s not surprising
really. Jung’s idea of the shadow can be an intimidating idea. Who wants to know about
our hateful, envious and weaker parts? It’s hard to look at and so we see it in others and
focus on the negative parts of those around us inwardly feeling virtuous that we are not
like the hateful “other”.
Therapy can help us get to know this shadow which can bring a huge sense of relief.
Dreams can give us such a big clue as to what elements of our shadow are particularly
disturbing. Avoiding those parts can make you feel dissatisfied and contribute to a feeling
of a life somewhat unlived. Dreams as well as actively imagining the shadow with us, even
part of our strength paradoxically, can lessen shame and bring a massive sense of relief.
Helplessness is our shadow and our strength. It’s easier to have compassion for a benign
vulnerable shadow but harder to see the same part that aggression is defending.
Therapy or counselling can mean learning not to find your own helplessness intolerable. It
is about living with our vulnerability. Maybe it could involve not regard the shadow as a
weakness but as the means by which we are connected to the world and others. It’s what
can give empathy and profound strength