Unless you are 100% enlightened, you have a shadow.
But what is the Shadow, and how do you recognize it.
In this article, I will be sharing concrete examples of what the Shadow is—giving you insight into recognizing your own.
Examples of the Shadow Self:
As a general rule, your Shadow Self is the aspects of your identity that you repress. These aspects can then come out in strange and unhealthy ways. An example would be:
- Uncontrollable rage/anger
- Social anxiety
- Obsessive/compulsive disorders
- Limiting beliefs
- Guilt and shame
Carl Jung, the psychologist that developed the theory, believed the Shadow represents the dark side of a person’s personality and psyche.
Examples of the Shadow in Literature and Movies:
Stories are a great way to explore the Shadow. We see the concept of a “dark mirror” in so many characters and stories. Examining these characters can give us insight into how it manifests within ourselves.
Tyler Durden: Fight Club
One of my all-time favorite movies, Fight Club, is a great example of the Shadow Self.
In the story, the nameless protagonist (sometimes referred to as Jack) has a friend, Tyler Durden. As the movie unfolds, we discover Tyler is just an imaginary projection in the protagonist’s head.
Tyler represents the Shadow. He is everything the protagonist represses out of fear but deep down admires.
Tyler is the bad boy, the wild and uncivilized part of Jack that wants to be let out.
The protagonist has repressed this part of himself so long that his subconscious creates a delusional character that over when Jack is sleeping.
What a great example of the Shadow.
It’s the parts of us that want to come out. And sometimes they do as small bursts of anger, slips of the tongue, and unconscious moments.
There is another reason for the Shadow, and Tyler puts it perfectly:
Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apartChuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Tyler Durden wants to change. He wants the conscious mind to break free of its chains and find life again. The Shadow knows that it has to break down the safe and complacent parts of the self to allow for change to happen.
DR. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The great literary classic of “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson is another masterful example of the Shadow Self.]
Dr. Jekyll is kind, well-mannered, and respected, but he is curious about his psyche’s darker aspects. Through experimentation, he lets this part of himself free.
The two are linked together in a battle over his identity.
Hyde may be violent, but he is also sexually free, determined, and has immense power of will.
This example demonstrates that deep within us all lies these animalistic desires. If repressed, they will grow. The key is to integrate these aspects into one’s identity and bring them closer to the conscious mind, so you aren’t ruled by it.
And keep in mind… you don’t have to have a split personality to have a shadow. It just makes for a better story.
Batman versus Joker
In many stories, the Shadow is represented by an external force or character. But within their dynamic, there is a question about what is the hero’s identity. The villain is just a mirror that helps the hero see themselves in a new way.
The story of The Dark Knight (2008) is a great example of this.
Batman represents the “superego.” In other words, it is the highest self of Bruce Wayne. Without Batman, Bruce would be a playboy with no purpose.
Bruce, on the other hand, represents the Ego. It is what he is, a flawed person with hopes of being something more.
The Joker represents the Shadow.
Throughout the story, the Joker tries to tell Batman/Bruce that he needs to accept his darker aspects to see how they are the same. He holds up a mirror to Batman, realizing that the stronger the hero, the stronger the villains. That they are linked together.
The Joker tells him that to become his full authentic self; he has to face and accept the demons within them.
V for Vendetta
The Shadow is often seen as a villain, but in actuality, it is trying to “save” people. The Shadow was made because some part of the psyche got hurt, and it needs protection.
A great example of this aspect of the Shadow is V for Vendetta.
In the story, V, the man in a mask, tries to bring down the government because he sees it as evil. He hides in the Shadow and manipulates people into fighting for him.
If you were the government, you would probably see this as violence and terror. Others see this as a fight for freedom.
V represents the aspects of our Shadow that want to protect us and create change through action, even if that action is extreme.
Just as V has a purpose, so does our Shadow.
The key is trying to discover what harm causes the Shadow to try and protect an aspect of yourself. It’s about listening to the Shadow and integrating it.
All of these examples give insight into how to recognize the Shadow.
The Shadow can be aspects of yourself that you repressed as “bad” or “uncivilized.” The Shadow is the parts of yourself you don’t want to see. It’s jealousy, procrastination, and guilt.
The Shadow is battling to be seen by the conscious mind and can come out in the strangest of ways. If you say something unexpectedly mean, fight for no reason, or find yourself regretting an action, it is most likely your Shadow.
All the stories I shared as an example would have been different if the characters sat down and talked with each other with empathy. That is the key to healing.
It’s about seeing the Shadow, trying to understand where and why it exists.
This doesn’t get rid of the Shadow, but it integrates it into a healthier way.