When we stand in the light, we cast a shadow. Light and shade are to each other as breathing in is to breathing out. Some aspects of ourselves are in the light, visible to us and others. Other aspects, positive and negative, are in the shadow, unseen by us, even when seen by others. These are parts of ourselves that have been neglected, disowned, forgotten, judged, unrecognized or undeveloped.
Some of the ways we can glimpse what is in the psychological shade include noting what we idealize or denigrate in others; recognizing our uneasiness about others’ perceptions about us (good and bad); and paying attention to our bodies, where shadow can sometimes reside as a physical symptom (an aching back, a pain in the stomach).
Our shadow is an infinite reservoir of energy. Learning to recognize and take responsibility for our shadow qualities gives us more choices in responding consciously and creatively to the possibilities life offers us.
The shadow is anything
we are sure we are not;
it is part of us we do not know;
sometimes do not want to know,
most times do not want to know.
We can hardly bear to look.
It may carry the best of the life
we have not lived.
-Marion Woodman, from Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body and Soul
(Shadow photos from top to bottom: My beloved husband, me, Sweet Abbess Petunia, and a Seattle tree)