Embracing Your Shadow: First, Acknowledging it Exists

By Rachel Puryear

We all like to see ourselves in the best light possible. Most of us like to believe that we are good people – and purely so. Few of us like to believe ourselves capable of doing or even thinking things that seem wrong or which go against what we believe to be morally sound.

Silhouette of a person sitting under a full moon late at night.

Human beings, however, are not perfect. Even ones who are basically good, have a dark side – and are capable of doing harmful things, both big and small. And, whether or not we admit to others or to ourselves; we have all done things we are not proud of. Not only that, we have probably also thought of doing much worse things.

We all have a shadow side of us. Yes – even empaths. In fact, empaths may have particularly intense shadow sides, as everything about our emotional makeup tends to be more intense.

That doesn’t make any of us bad. It makes us all human. If you have a side of you that makes you feel terrible, and that you try to suppress; you are not strange – you are normal. What shapes your character is what you actually do in response to competing urges within you.

Even so, everyone has a spotty track record at best. But what can come from that, is learning important lessons, and working to improve one’s actions in the future.

Denying that we all have a shadow side, creates far more problems than it solves. Empaths may particularly deny their shadow side, because it’s at odds with how they normally view themselves and their values.

To keep the shadow side in check, and to utilize it well, however; we must first acknowledge that the shadow side exists. If you have never done so, it will certainly feel uncomfortable initially. But it will then get better.

Give this a try: Take some time and some quiet space by yourself to think. Let your mind wander, and see what thoughts come into your head. See what crosses your mind that makes you uncomfortable. The stuff that conflicts with your values. Instead of instinctively trying to push it down, ignore, deny it as you are likely conditioned to do; just notice it. Remember, you don’t have to act on it, or even like what you observe. But just realize that it is there, and that it came from a part of you. And, that’s ok.

No matter what came to your mind, you don’t need to feel guilty or shameful about having the thought. The important part is having awareness of it. At the same time, that does not mean you should act on it or that it is not a matter of concern. And of course, if it would cause undue harm to you or someone else, please do not act on it.

Your own thoughts which make you uncomfortable are a product of your shadow side. Your shadow side has no filter. It’s about looking out for you, but it lacks an inherent sense of morality and fairness (morality and fairness is instead where your empathic side comes in).

Your shadow side brings things to your attention that need addressing. Again, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily use your shadow side’s way of solving problems. However, it does mean that these thoughts need your attention, and that they are coming to you for a reason.

More will come on the shadow side. For now, try practicing the above exercise. You might be surprised how much doing so over can gradually sharpen your instincts, get you to pay attention to your gut more, and even better advocate for yourself and others close to you.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to listening to yourself with more curiosity, and less judgment. xoxo

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