A central component of Jungian psychology is coming to terms with our shadow. This is the part of us that we have unconsciously repressed because it makes us feel embarrassed or ashamed about ourselves. Anything unpleasant that we have hidden from ourselves and the world – this is our shadow. It’s often made up of primitive impulses such as anger, selfishness, jealousy, and greed.
Our shadow is often projected on people in our daily life, but it also appears in our dreams – and this is my preferred way of figuring out the shadow. Almost every night, in some way or the other, our shadow is personified in the characters and events in our dreams. If you think of it, that makes it extra exciting to see who shows up in our dreams, and what “they” do!
In fact, we can learn quite a bit about ourselves by analyzing the people who are in it. It is by working with the projections we make on characters in dreams that we can get a better understanding of our own shadow. After all, each symbol and person in a dream has been carefully chosen by our unconscious to highlight something that may also be present within us.
As a general rule of thumb the majority of our dreams tend to be quite subjective in nature, and with that I mean that most characters actually represent a part of ourselves (even when we dream of people we know). This is definitely not always the case though, there are some dreams where characters actually have been chosen by our unconscious to show up as themselves, just to help us work through our emotional interactions with them, or to develop higher awareness about a certain situation.
Whereas we may be oblivious to our own shadow ourselves – chances are that other people around us have an easier time seeing this side of us than we do.
At the end of the day though, I think we all have a pretty good sense of what our shadow could be about. At least most of us probably have a good sense of what it could be. In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung said that the average man intuitively knows what is meant by the term shadow, and that “if he has forgotten, his memory can easily be refreshed by a Sunday sermon, his wife, or the tax collector.” As hilarious as this sounds, it’s so very true. It’s in testing situations, where our buttons get pushed that our shadow comes out!
On the path of individuation – a Jungian term for becoming all that we can be, it is crucial that we learn to assimilate the shadow into our conscious self, and not ignore it. If we try to push it away, we risk having it control us. We need to honor all parts of ourselves, and make the best of our personalities, instead of judging and punishing ourselves.
Living in reverence of ourselves, including our shadow is one of the most beautiful things we can do for ourselves on the path of soul growth.
With Love & Gratitude, Anna-Karin, xo
Anna-Karin Bjorklund, M.A., MFTI is a joyous writer and inspirational speaker, and the author of Dream Guidance: Interpret Your Dreams and Create the Life You Desire! She is also a Therapist in Newport Beach specializing in Dream Analysis, Anxiety, Public Speaking, Stress, and Couples therapy. She loves sharing her passion for dreams and soul growth with audiences near and far, and has made expert appearances on Fox & Friends, and the Steve Harvey TV Show on NBC, and been interviewed by Money Magazine, Daily Worth, Marie Claire UK and other media outlets.