The impetus of Jungian Therapy is individuation. Individuation means, roughly, that we are working toward the recognition and development of all parts of ourselves, most which are unconscious at the beginning of therapy. The Shadow must be acknowledged, accepted and integrated. The Shadow is the parts of ourselves that at some stage of our development, we have ignored, repressed, suppressed, disavowed, etc.
In the realm of experience, everything is available to us. That means that in us are the evolutionarily based structures to feel the entire gamut of emotion that a creature has been able to feel since our brains reached a certain stage of evolution. Biologically, we may have individual temperaments (and you can Google “Big 5” for interesting stuff on this, which I will discuss in future blogs), and we have whatever our environment doles out. Thus, our personality is formed.
It is at the environmental level that the Shadow is born. Whatever attributes we have that are repressed or suppressed due to negative feedback of any sort remain in our psyche. There are numerous possibilities for negative feedback. Usually beginning with the parents. So, we grow up putting a lot of things on the back burner. The great psychologist, W. D. Winnicott referred to our “True vs. False Selves”. The true self is the one that expresses itself spontaneously in the earliest days of our interactions with mother and soon other people; the false self develops from learning which of our earliest interactions and expressions s are received in a way that makes us feel good, and which ones elicit anxiety or fear. The latter are expressions we learn to get rid of while developing the ones that garner positive responses from others and subsequently, feelings of acceptance in us.
Problematic is, going back to that biological creature who has the whole spectrum of experience within them, the parts we hold back get stored in our unconscious. And they try to get out. And they can screw us up if we ignore them. If you ever wondered why the Hell you did this that or the other, that’s the Shadow. Those parts of you that you ignore are still there, and will make themselves known if that is the case. For example, you dislike the fact you are opinionated. You want to be more humble. So you go into your meeting with all the intentions of remaining quiet, only speaking when absolutely necessary. All is well for 20 minutes or so, until you feel it is permissible to break the rule and say something, because it seems “necessary”. Suddenly, you are off on a tirade of free association as your perplexed colleagues look on. Why? The part of you that is opinionated resented being ignored and that is how it got back at you.