“Be what you is, coz if you be what you ain’t, then you ain’t what you is.”

                                                                                                                            ~ Epitaph anon


Our self approval is the cornerstone of our being. I met many people around the globe, often with high status, who had a confident outgoing manner that covered an insecure, rather unsure of themselves, inner feeling. It was in trying to figure out this polarity, that I came across the “shadow” concept. I didn’t realize then the extent of the phenomenon and what a decisive role it plays in our daily lives and in turning the tide of human history.

It caught up with me by surprise some years later in Bali at a friend’s place. A few of us, not suspecting what would be on the menu, were watching an interactive movie, “The Shadow Effect.” Pen in hand we wrote our answers as Debbie Ford led us through a series of questions designed to reveal the viewer’s main shadow. I enjoyed watching how the answers came together on my page, how it all linked up. I understood myself better, my family members, why I attracted certain types of friends, and what they were mirroring in me.

The traits that most bother us in others are those we don’t like in ourselves. Otherwise it wouldn’t bug us so. Of course, it takes one to know one, does it not? We all have these traits that we were told, or felt, were “bad” when we were young ~ so we learned to hide them, not just from others, but also from ourselves.

Let’s be very clear here: our shadow part is not the problem. The problem came from labeling it “bad,” as society had trained us to. This split us. Only when we accept and love these parts, do we become whole again. It boils down to knowing and approving of our whole selves, so we can be more relaxed with who and how we truly are. Then we don’t need to be better than we are, we can just be at peace with who we are. We become more confident and more genuine.


Encouraged by our own drive, our parents, and our education to excel, we have been all our lives busy enhancing and applauding our best and brightest sides. That’s all cool, except that the other parts, the less liked ones, have been ignored. Pushed into the shadows of our subconscious, they became our shadow. Unknown to us, our shadow determines our daily life, affecting our relationships to ourselves and to others. For just as one can’t hold a balloon underwater, what we resist will persist, often bursting out at inappropriate times. Not only do we use excessive energy to keep it down, we also deprive ourselves of the energy held within those areas. Like an ignored child or a task put off, it will continuously bug us.

It is vital for us to know our shadow parts so that we harbor no inner conflict, and therefore no dis-ease. So that one part of us is not condemning another part for not being smart enough, strong enough, or good enough. And so that our “acknowledged” part does not overpower, override, or overcompensate for our “unacknowledged” part.
What are our shadows likely to be? Often a part that feels not good enough, incapable, hopeless, or depressed; or a part that is superior, mean, manipulative, or greedy; or one that controls, intimidates, or freaks out. Now let’s look where that originates from. Imagine a small human being, who has to cope, without an instruction manual, basically alone in an insensitive, competitive, seemingly struggle-some world. A world that may feel at times shocking, hard, and unjust. Of course the little thing doesn’t feel up to it! Pretty normal I’d say. It may feel under pressure and threatened. To avoid hurt it develops survival tactics: defensive, aggressive, or escapist. And yet, what we resist will not only persist but also magnify.

It is one thing to identify our shadow, another to accept it, another still to love it. Commonly we express confidence to keep our low feelings at bay. However, when alone, our lack of confidence, our self doubts and fears surface. Not wanting to accept or deal with these feelings, we may tend to avoid quietness and time alone by keeping socially or mentally busy. We may push for happiness to avoid depression, insist on an attitude of fun to cover up survival fears, or express superiority to squelch our own feelings of inadequacy.

Rather than being purposefully hidden by us, our shadow feelings are often just repressed, usually through fear of not being socially accepted. Having taken on that judgment and rejected part of us as not good enough, we start to feel rejected and not good enough ourselves. Yet once again, little was wrong in the first place. Many perfectly normal traits are considered “bad.” Sensitive is called weak. Want is seen to be greedy. Honesty is impolite, expressive is disturbing, quiet is unsociable, and relaxed is considered lazy.

By accepting those parts we become more centered. We stop the swinging from one extreme to the other. Our shadow side has been yelling for our attention. By approving of it, we stop running to the other side, and so it stops pulling us back. Accepting the “dark” doesn’t mean we have to wallow in it. Simply allowing it to be there, it stops bugging us. When you pick the child up, it stops tugging at your sleeve. We become at ease with our undercurrents, we stop avoiding them and they stop ruling us. We retrieve our balance on the tightrope of life.

We overcome our enemies when we make them our friends.

~ The Dalai Lama

These unacknowledged traits are continually brought to our attention through the people and events we attract. Once we do acknowledge these parts within ourselves, we magnetize them less, because now we no longer need to have it put in our face. By welcoming our shadow parts, we better understand and accept ourselves, others and life; we gain great peace of mind.

We have been told that if we look within we will have to face the dark and terrible parts of our subconscious, our biggest demons, a monster, our deepest fear… Well guess what? All you will find is that you are human. Big deal, join the rest of the world. Our shadows are not evil but from our stored fear and pain. A bit embarrassing perhaps, but really not so bad. Most likely a hurt soul, a lost child, maybe a bit of natural jealousy, the antics of a big spoilt kid or the revenge of a wounded ego. Nothing we’ll go to hell for. Unless we condemn ourselves.

No one expects you to be perfect, except you. This is being a wee bit tough on yourself, for there is always going to be the three year old within us, and we have to understand it and love it, even if we don’t let it run amok. By not listening to our inner child we lose touch with our true feelings, our greatest ally.

Contrary to our social education, as we allow ourselves to show more of that part, we are actually more liked, more accepted. By showing our soft spots we are more real, others can identify with us, and suddenly we are not so alone. We become more open, less isolated, and strive less for outer appreciation.

A pioneer in self healing, Louise Hay helped open a lot of minds and hearts to the existence of our inner child and the healing that occurs through developing that relationship.

“When I loved myself enough I began to recognize a community within me; we hold team meetings.”

                                                                                                                                                                    ~ Kim McMillen


Every time something bugs you in another, do an internal search. By continually seeking our shadows, we start to include all the parts of ourselves that we so far deemed foreign to us. Our personality becomes less defined, broader, and more inclusive.

It can be hard to recognize our whole self because it has been buried for so long. It’s time to dig it up and dust it off. Welcome it; give it some loving to make up for it having been locked away. You are re-uniting. Throw a homecoming party! “I’m back! Partly! More to come, once I’ve got them all out of the closet.”

 The good news is that we are not just the facade we had so far limited ourselves to; we are, already, much more than we realize. Expanding our personality is like increasing our wardrobe, adding more styles and more colors. Why limit the rainbow of our personality? We are here to love all our parts: the bright, the strong, the soft, the sad and the vulnerable. It increases our scope. What we deem as our weaknesses are often our strengths, such as sensitivity and affection. It is therein that we can feel and access our true spiritual selves. When we see our own “weaknesses” as gifts we can see that in others too. Those who are not ashamed to display their shadow side may be further down the road than we think.

We hear a lot about the sensationalized “dark” side of ourselves that we have to welcome back. Let’s not forget our sunny parts too! All the expressive, strongly spirited, fun-loving and cheeky parts that we may have held back to be approved of, to fit in, to be respectable in our society. And wonder, and trust, our relaxed part and our carefree part, because through a sense of responsibility and all the struggles of life, we stopped believing in them.

Why do small kids have so much magic, so much energy, so much power?  Because they are whole. They haven’t yet condemned, split themselves. Our creative power, our very life energy, our own flow, is blocked by holding ourselves down. Remember the balloon in the swimming pool. That is why to discover the shadow empowers us: we become true to ourselves.

Our less preferred traits have also been part of our growth: stimulating us to overcome them, to climb high, to develop our brightest qualities. And with that strength we are able to return to the lower rungs and to acknowledge, love, and thus integrate our weakest links. It comes back to widening: from the identity we had become limited to, to the multi-personality we really are. We are spreading our wings. One wing is the “lowly” parts we were ashamed of, the other wing is the high parts we are scared of. Between the two we stand, and with the two outstretched, we soar.


 The Shadow in the Mirror

 “As the sun sets on the old world the shadows loom big in the evening light.”

                                                                                                                                       ~ Step JurJahn

The shadow phenomenon has long been apparent, in psychology studies, ancient mythology, and between the lines of our human history. These times can look dark and troubled, but remember: the brighter the light, the darker the shadows. It is because we have already done the first steps in self love, that embracing the shadow is simply the next thing on the list.

You have been taught to hate and fear the dark. It is just a trick so that you don’t find your way out. In time you’ll process that “darkness” within you, by loving and accepting it. Then nothing can touch you. 

                                                                          ~ Stuart Wilde

If we are not split from within, if none of our parts remain hidden or kept in the dark, then there is no underground resistance, no opposition “sabotaging” us, and we are not holding our own power back. Openness is the way to reconciliation and to wholeness, within us and within our societies.

Our collective shadow is projected large across the planet. Our own separatism, our energy games, our control tactics and our power trips are reflected glaringly back at us. They are magnified in the restrictions and the manipulation we see in the power structures around us. These represent the insecure part of us, resisting change, clinging to old behaviors of mistrust and exclusion.

When we focus on, criticize and blame that which is outside of us, little ever changes. But as we look within, we become aware of our own unconscious patterns that really rule us. And as we discover these within us, understand them and accept them, they lose their grip on us. Parallel to this, the outer shadow is also exposed and loses its power over us. On all levels we take back control over our own lives.

By finding more balance and harmony within ourselves, we help to create the same in the outer world. The state of the planet mirrors our own internal imbalance, our own split, and our own belief in struggle, our stored pain. It is our own disempowering behaviors and victim stance that attract rulers and abusers. We just cannot expect the world to change without us changing. That is why we have to become the change we want to see in the world.

The unconscious can only exist without the light of awareness. Once we do our own shadow work we are no longer controlled by our unconscious parts. Now, equate that to the world picture. We have been shadow boxing. Like my old philosophy teacher: we have all been scared of our own shadows, projected larger than life on the movie screen of Earth.

The biggest tool the “dark” has and uses, seemingly “against” us, is fear. But in facing us with it, “they” actually help us to recognize our own fears. To become aware of, to face and thus go through, our survival fears is very empowering indeed. By labeling them as something “bad” or “dark” we give them power over us, we give our own power away. By simply recognizing them as a normal aspect of physical life, caused by the feeling of separation, we thus accept, re-integrate, and finally en-lighten those areas ~ both within us and “outside” of us.

That is why it is the darkest before the dawn. The dark is not the enemy; it is just the unconscious part of us, the last and deepest residues of humanity’s stored pain, that is calling for healing.

Our shadow character embodies the very traits we took on to integrate. It is by discovering and nurturing our inner relationship that we take on our own evolution. It is the part we came to do here at this epic time. That is why it keeps bugging us until we do. This inner reconciliation is nothing less than our personal contribution to the uniting of humanity.



For those who seek to increase self understanding, love and inner peace ~ by recognizing and embracing our own repressed shadow sides ~ I well recommend THE SHADOW EFFECT film (interactive version) by Debbie Ford