(It’s good to re-cycle! …Even old articles :)
In order to truly reach our potential as unique human beings, we must face our Demons – those parts of Self that don’t feel very respectable; the parts you’d like to disown; those aspects you do not want to accept about yourself.
Carl Jung coined the term “The shadow” to describe our demons. It’s the unconscious composite of self that has been repressed, suppressed or disowned. Our shadow often has both positive and negative aspects. For instance, the shadow of someone who identifies with self as being kind may not be able to see when he or she is being harsh or unpleasant. And a person’s shadow can have hidden positive qualities that have been repressed. The shadow of a person who perceives himself to be unfeeling may not see that he or she can also be tender. Jung described the unconscious is an active part of the normal human psyche, and that “neurosis results from a disharmony between the individual’s unconsciousness and the higher Self”.
The first task on the path to your potential happens when you become aware of your inner states of being – your motives, emotional reactions, and patterns of thought – as you experience the world around you. If you look into your own life, you will notice that your beliefs and expectations, many of them formed in early childhood, skew your experience of reality. And the effects of cultural, historical, and environmental influences may be beyond our individual ability to control. But many of those influences can be challenged. It begins with awareness.
Becoming aware is enormously important in freeing you from these patterns, but awareness will not, by itself, remove them altogether. At the level of daily living, these insights do not “fix” the old patterned emotional tendencies. You still have the same difficulties in your relationships, the same tendency to confirm what you think you already know, and drudge on, wishing it would all change.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Only by learning to investigate and integrate our unconscious patterns of thinking and feeling can we become whole and end our imprisoned patterns that cause most of our suffering. We must stop pushing away moments of discomfort, but instead welcome them as opportunities to see into and eventually through the unexamined aspects of self that have been driving us.
Making the unconscious conscious is a radical kind of responsibility for the self, and the only true path to freedom and authenticity.
“Each time we bring the light of awareness into the corners of our psyche, it is like turning on the light in a dark room. As we get accustomed to the feelings, we find we can leave the light on. The monsters and dragons reveal themselves to be shadows. Then we don’t have to do anything to get rid of them. It’s as if they were never even there.” ~ Sally Kempton
Our supposed demons have their own gifts and challenges. But the perfect way to tame each of them is by learning to understand them, appreciate their message, and give them the simple things they need. As soon as these parts of self feel understood, they tend to no longer threaten us. They become assets instead of liabilities.
Psychotherapy can help you learn to transform these unconscious energies into snuggly beasts. I haven’t met a client who didn’t love themselves more after meeting their demons with understanding. Maybe a therapist can help you, too.