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7 Ways to Spot Your Shadow Self & How to Use It to Become Free

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“That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.” — Carl Jung

What is the Shadow Self? We’ve likely heard of it referred to as our “dark side,” but what does it truly mean and how is it formed? Is it to be feared or venerated? If the Shadow is so unimportant, why does it seem to assert itself despite our many attempts to quash it’s urges?

The Shadow Self encompasses aspects of our personalities we choose to reject or suppress. We have our own personal shadow, and society reflects our collective shadow – the parts we all choose to ignore.

Much of the pain we see reflected in the world is a form of the collective Shadow. It is no coincidence that the “Shadow Government” and its workings play out as an exaggerated expression of our own sexual perversions, greed, mistrust, moral ineptitude, etc. It is the real government that hides in the shadows while the idealized government that everyone wants to believe in parades on like a comedic, nationalistic puppet show.

The “Deep State” is like the deep Self, repressed and ignored for hundreds of years as it goes around the world causing unchecked havoc and violence (until very recently as we all become more willing to look at our own personal Shadows).

Psychologist Carl Jung is famous for formulating the concept of the Shadow, but it has likely been around since human beings had personalities. He borrowed the term from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Both great thinkers warned against the exceptional dangers of excessive unconsciousness.

Anger, selfishness, violent tendencies, the quest for uncontrollable power, and sexual desires are all undesirable traits which are frowned upon by society, and are concealed to avoid scrutiny. In brief, we have an idealized self, and then we have a shadow self. We are more accurately, a combination of the two. However, there are benefits of confronting and developing the shadow, and as such, Jung often referred to this neglected part of ourselves as the “Golden Shadow,” hinting at the gifts which this part of us can bestow if we are brave enough to look at what we’ve repressed – often over an entire lifetime (or several).

‘‘The shadow,’’ wrote Jung in 1963 is ‘‘that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious.’’

Freud was pathologically oriented. He was focused on what is wrong with us/what is not working, but Jung was teleologically oriented – meaning he was focused on what is right with us or whole within us. And this includes us with our dark sides, and Shadow Selves.

The psychological Shadow is not very different from a shadow formed when we walk in the sun. In physical reality, a shadow is nothing more than a dark area where light is blocked by an opaque object. Light is not allowed to shine fully, and thus a shadow forms. In our own selves, the places we fail to shine light upon develop into an egoic personality, easily and effectively eliminated or lessened simply by allowing light to flood in. Thus, illumination allows us to free ourselves from the chains of the ego.

In Zen teachings, we learn that the ego is the “myth” of the Self – in other words, the parts of ourselves we deny or exaggerate, without a true sense of our Higher Selves. Our self is simply made up by the mind, a flash of being an “I” or a “me” which instructs self-importance. It’s really a story we’ve told ourselves like children, every night before we sleep, and then again when we rise in the morning.

This ego-self we cling to is the source of almost all our problems because it is a self-referential Universe, false in its assumptions of reality.

As such, addressing the Shadow Self helps to minimize this false assumption of reality, and bring us closer to Truth and Freedom. Ironically, it is only when we treat the Shadow Self as real that we become free of its illusions.

Jung said in his 1951 book, Aion,

The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”

As Theresa Bimka writes,

The good news however is that when the ego finally does relinquish its control – a recalibration – a new homeostasis is found and the ego embraces its new position relative to the Self archetype. Instead of false or petty ruler, it becomes the loyal servant.  This new re-constructed ego has the capacity to be responsive, creative, flexible and is available for the big work of transformation.  So, we are not trying to get rid of ego as is often misunderstood, but we are wanting ego to recognize its’ true place of service. Being able to recognize and name this process for someone can bring extraordinary relief.”

How do you address the Shadow Self, and bring it into the light?

There are seven signs that your Shadow is showing. Instead of squashing these tendencies, notice when you engage in them, and sit in silence to ask which aspects of your darker side are asking to be addressed and healed.

1 You Harbor Harsh Criticisms or Judgements of Others

Being hard on other people is usually indicative of things we judge harshly in ourselves, but have yet acknowledged.  Judging others is also a sign that our Shadow Self is afraid, feels lonely, or find it difficult to accept those who are different from ourselves.

2 You Point Out Someone’s Flaws as a Reflection of Your Own Insecurities

Mirror, mirror on the wall. . . The famous scene in the Disney movie where a witch asks a mirror who is the fairest of them all, is the perfect example of how we project our insecurities on others. We want to be beautiful, smart, outgoing, and cheerful all the time. We want others to only mirror these traits in us, and like the witch in Snow White be told how wonderful we are, but the mirror of life reflects all that we are – the good, the not so good, and the terrible.

3 You Exercise Unnecessary Power Over Those Who are in Subordinate Positions

As a means to compensate for one’s own feelings of helplessness people in positions of power will exert their will with force or violence (even if it is just verbal) to cover up their own feelings of worthlessness, ineffectiveness or vulnerability.

4 You Play Victim

By never taking responsibility, we never address our innate power to direct our lives and to affect change. We’re not martyrs or victims. We are the architects of our own reality. A victim believes that they are at the mercy of everyone and everything around them. And this can be used as an excuse for the lack of progress in their lives. If you can’t be assertive, feel powerless, don’t trust others, can never see the silver lining, constantly see your life as lacking in some way, get into arguments easily, feel sorry for yourself, or constantly compare yourself to others as a means to put yourself down, then you are playing the victim. Realize when you are doing this, and lovingly allow yourself to choose a different way of living.

5 You Refuse to Confront Your Own Bias or Prejudice

We’re all biased and prejudice. It doesn’t matter how many black friends, gay friends, people of different religions, and cultural backgrounds you have, you still have many biases and prejudices. The minute you use the terms “Me,” “My,” “Mine,” or “I” you leave space for bias to creep in. It’s that self-referential universe the ego is constantly creating. To truly address the Shadow we need to vigilantly address our own likes and dislikes, acknowledging that we live with bias on a daily basis.  Bravely enter into self-examination to uncover ways where you are privileged, or you have been using stereotypes to define the people around you. If you have no friends who are different from you, actively seek to make friends with others who are to start to break down your stereotypes. This man who made friends with members of the KKK is a great example of how to eliminate bias.

6 You Jockey for Position by Using Others

Self-confidence has nothing to do with ego. If you listen to others’ advice, but rarely follow it, always look for ways to “get ahead” while ignoring the well-being of others, find that you alienate others over time but you aren’t sure why or think that the bottom line is more important than your relationships with other people, you have some Shadow work to do. Speeding ahead to take that spot in traffic while cutting off the car to your right and almost causing an accident is a perfect example of this, but there are obviously thousands of other ways we try to step over (or on) others to inflate our sense of self.

7 You Have a Messiah Complex

If you think you were put on this earth to save everyone from themselves, consider that your Shadow Self is asking you to save yourself. This is a dangerous delusion that can cause a world of pain for you and those you try to “save,” as you will rob them of the power to save themselves. Maybe you don’t claim to be Jesus Christ, but if you constantly act like no one around you can take responsibility for themselves, you may as well.

In Closing

While addressing these traits in ourselves may be uncomfortable, there is gold in the shadow. As Jung expressed, “Creativity can spring from the constructive expression or integration of the shadow, as can true spirituality.”


Image: Nomad_Sou/Shutterstock.

Consciousness

10 Things You Don’t Wan’t To Know About Yourself

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“Freedom is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.” ~George Orwell

Sick of all those self-affirmation articles? Tired of all the self-help gurus blowing sunshine up your skirt? Need something a little more grounding? More down-to-earth? More humbling? Here’s a fresh batch of wake-up calls and kicks-in-the-shin straight from the oven. Get it while its hot…

1.) You are an animal:

“What a chimera then is humankind. What a novelty; what a monster, what a chaos.” ~Blaise Pascal
This one is painfully obvious, but you probably need a reminder.

You are a naked ape. You are blood and bones and improbable apposable thumbs. You were born from the womb and you will one day be food for worms. In the womb, you went through all the phases of evolution: from a single-celled amoeba to a multicellular tadpole to a brain-wielding infant.

In your short life, you will piss and s*** and bleed. You will rage and cry and sleep. You will go through all the profane motions of being a mortal mammal within an amoral universe. And here’s the real kick in the teeth: it’s going to hurt like hell. Hope you have a good sense of humor, because you’re going to need it.

2.) You are fallible:

“Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.” ~W.B. Yeats

You are terribly imperfect. You will make mistakes. More so, you are mistaken about a great many things. Most of which you will probably never admit to yourself, because admitting you are wrong is one of the most difficult things a human being can do.

But it goes deeper than that. There are fallibilities within fallibilities. It’s a veritable fractal forest of fallibility. A fractal wrongness, if you will.

You are more wrong about things than you can possibly imagine, and yet you insist. You force your wrongness. You are fierce with it, ruthlessly certain with it. You are so hungry for rightness that you bludgeon the Truth with your wrongness. All the while imagining that you are right.

As it turns out, you are more likely to be right by admitting that you are probably wrong than by declaring that you are probably right.

3.) You are a hypocrite:

“You have not learned to play and mock the way a man ought to play and mock. Are we not always seated at a great table for play and mockery? Learn to laugh at yourselves as a man ought to laugh. Learn to laugh beyond yourselves, and learn to laugh well.” ~Nietzsche

You are a hypocrite by nature. By the fact that you perceive an unfathomable reality with fallible faculties. It’s not even your fault. Just the fact that you are a “you” precludes hypocrisy. The self is smoke and mirrors, masks and mayhem. More akin to a chaotic theater of actors than a single personality.

Indeed, the self is masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up. Hypocrisy was always inevitable. Merely the biproduct of a fallible self.

Amidst this mayhem of fallible selfhood, you will experience dissimulation and self-deception, dishonesty and deep pretension, inauthenticity and artificiality. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The rest is hidden beneath layer upon layer of subconscious/unconscious double-dealings, feigned sincerity, two-faced unctuousness, and the mealymouthed choruses of canting contradictions.

Your hypocrisy knows no bounds, so you might as well own up to it.

4.) You will fail:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” ~Samuel Beckett

Failure is a given when you are merely a fallible, hypocritical animal going through the motions of living life in an uncertain universe.

But there is wisdom hidden in failure if you are keen to it. Setbacks can be transformed into steppingstones. Tragedy can be hardwired into comedy. Catastrophe can be whittled into accomplishment. You can build a ladder out of the shattered pieces of your life and climb out of the abyss.

But guess what? You will probably fail again. The higher you climb the farther you may fall. When it comes to failure, there is always a deeper abyss. Defeat, hard luck, and utter collapse are right around the corner. Disappointment is Accomplishment’s kissing cousin. Tragedy is Triumph’s red-headed stepchild. Today’s achievement could very well be tomorrow’s tripwire. So be it. Use it all as a sharpening stone for your all-too-mortal soul.

5.) You are never not broken:

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” ~M.C. Escher

Wholeness does not imply perfection. It infers embracing brokenness as an essential part of being human. There is never a state in which you are not broken.
You are a walking, talking broken heart going through the motions of breaking apart and coming back together again. This also applies to the mind, the body, and the soul. You are constantly in a state of repair.

Your suffering is sufferable. What’s insufferable is your ideal of perfection. There will always be pain. There will always be heartache. There will always be existential angst. We wreck ourselves against these. Then we knock out the dents, mend the cracks, and heal the wounds. We do this in the hope that it will make us stronger. But perhaps it won’t.
The wound may or may not become a sacred wound. All you can do is hurt, heal, and hope. Hurt, heal, and hope. From fragility to robustness to antifragility, you will always be in a state of falling apart and coming back together again. Embrace it.

6.) You have a dark side:

“There are no shortcuts to wholeness. The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we know ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say, ‘I am all of the above.’” ~Parker J. Palmer

You have a shadow. Even your shadow has a shadow called the golden shadow. Your shadow is your repressed or unconscious self, struggling to be liberated and more conscious. Awareness is key. Becoming aware of our shadow side is shining a light into the darkness and giving our dark side permission to shine its blacklight back into the blinding light, which creates a unity of opposites.
An empowered dark side balances out the equation of the complicated human condition. Without this balance, you risk fragile one-dimensionality and a brittle ego terrified of taking responsibility for its shadow and thus fearful of the shadow of others.

You cannot fully know yourself without knowing your dark side and embracing your shadow. Such wholeness breeds wisdom and the ability to experience the full range of what it means to be human.

7.) Your beliefs limit you:

“If you adopt an idea or perception as the absolute truth, you close the door of your mind. Attachment to views, attachment to ideas, attachment to perceptions are the biggest obstacle to truth.” ~The Buddha

Your beliefs are incredibly restricting. You’ve been indoctrinated to think that you need to believe. Even worse, you’ve been brainwashed to believe more than you think.

In the battle against bewitchment, all beliefs, no matter how powerful or well-intended, are a hinderance to clear thought and self-improvement.

tter to think rather than believe. Thinking that something might be true allows for error, fallibility, and wrongness. Believing that something is certainly true cuts us off from all other possibilities. Belief is all or nothing, predicated upon faith despite facts or evidence. Thought is open-ended, taking beliefs, facts, and evidence into deep consideration and then using probability and validity to discover the truth.

More importantly, thinking rather than believing allows for skepticism and questioning. It is considered blasphemous to question a belief. Whereas questioning a thought is considered appropriate. Might as well just skip belief altogether and simply take things into thoughtful consideration.

8.) You are culturally conditioned:

“When war turns whole populations into sleepwalkers, outlaws don’t join forces with alarm clocks. Outlaws, like poets, rearrange the nightmare.” ~Tom Robbins

You are programmed to think a certain way. This programming has propped-up your identity into perceiving a particular worldview that may or may not be based in reality. It might not even be healthy. This identity tied up in your worldview is an abstraction of an abstraction, a story within a story that you’ve convinced yourself is true.

But you have the power to reprogram your programming.

We are all conditioned by culture. The key is to become aware of it and to weigh our conditioning against the truth of reality. Then recondition the conditioning. We each have our own Plato’s Cave to navigate.

The extent to which you can become aware of your own “cave” will be the extent of your flexibility, open-mindedness, and personal freedom.

9.) You know less than you think:

“Some people are more certain of everything than I am of anything.” ~Robert Rubin

You think you know more than you actually do. Your certainty about a great many things limits your imagination, creative thinking, and ability to question. It leads to dogmatic reasoning and close-mindedness.

ou are just so certain, aren’t you? Your certitude is so powerful that you cannot see past your beliefs. Hung up on what you’ve found, you have given up the search. Your journey has come to an end. Your certainty has led you to a dead-end. You are stuck. And the only way out is to question what you think you know.

The more you question, the more you realize that the only answer that makes any sense is to keep questioning. When you stop questioning the journey for truth comes to an end and stagnation, sloth, and dogmatism begin to rule your world. Keep things in perspective by accepting that you know less than you think you do and keep questioning.

10.) Your life is terribly inconsequential:

“Don’t slip on the banana peel of nihilism, even while listening to the roar of Nothingness.” ~Lawrence Ferlinghetti

When it comes down to it, your life is a flash in the pan. It’s dust in the cosmic wind. It’s an infinitesimally insignificant spark in an unfathomably dark, unforgiving, and meaningless universe. But it is a spark.

What you do won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But it’s very important that you do it anyway. Why? Because you are the universe attempting to become aware of itself. You are an awareness machine in an otherwise unaware cosmos. You are a meaning-generator in a reality void of meaning. You might be nothing more than a speck in the universe, but you are also the entire universe in a speck.

Either way, you will one day be dust. Your tiny insignificant life will end. Face that fleetingness with a fierceness. Laugh into the abyss. Face fear with fearlessness. Climb the highest mountain and kick God in the nuts. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Or not. None of it will matter in the end. You will still be the butt-end of the cosmic joke. It’s all laughable. So you might as well have a laugh.

Gary Z McGee, Self-inflicted Philosophy, republished here with permission.

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Consciousness

Physicists Suggest All Matter Could Be Made Up of Energy ‘Fragments’

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Matter is what makes up the Universe, but what makes up matter? This question has long been tricky for those who think about it – especially for the physicists.

Reflecting recent trends in physics, my colleague Jeffrey Eischen and I have described an updated way to think about matter. We propose that matter is not made of particles or waves, as was long thought, but – more fundamentally – that matter is made of fragments of energy.

From Five to One

The ancient Greeks conceived of five building blocks of matter – from bottom to top: earth, water, air, fire and aether. Aether was the matter that filled the heavens and explained the rotation of the stars, as observed from the Earth vantage point.

These were the first most basic elements from which one could build up a world. Their conceptions of the physical elements did not change dramatically for nearly 2,000 years.

Then, about 300 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton introduced the idea that all matter exists at points called particles. One hundred fifty years after that, James Clerk Maxwell introduced the electromagnetic wave – the underlying and often invisible form of magnetism, electricity and light.

The particle served as the building block for mechanics and the wave for electromagnetism – and the public settled on the particle and the wave as the two building blocks of matter. Together, the particles and waves became the building blocks of all kinds of matter.

This was a vast improvement over the ancient Greeks’ five elements but was still flawed. In a famous series of experiments, known as the double-slit experiments, light sometimes acts like a particle and at other times acts like a wave. And while the theories and math of waves and particles allow scientists to make incredibly accurate predictions about the Universe, the rules break down at the largest and tiniest scales.

Einstein proposed a remedy in his theory of general relativity. Using the mathematical tools available to him at the time, Einstein was able to better explain certain physical phenomena and also resolve a longstanding paradox relating to inertia and gravity.

But instead of improving on particles or waves, he eliminated them as he proposed the warping of space and time.

Using newer mathematical tools, my colleague and I have demonstrated a new theory that may accurately describe the Universe. Instead of basing the theory on the warping of space and time, we considered that there could be a building block that is more fundamental than the particle and the wave.

Scientists understand that particles and waves are existential opposites: A particle is a source of matter that exists at a single point, and waves exist everywhere except at the points that create them.

My colleague and I thought it made logical sense for there to be an underlying connection between them.

Flow and Fragments of Energy

Our theory begins with a new fundamental idea – that energy always “flows” through regions of space and time.

Think of energy as made up of lines that fill up a region of space and time, flowing into and out of that region, never beginning, never ending and never crossing one another.

Working from the idea of a universe of flowing energy lines, we looked for a single building block for the flowing energy. If we could find and define such a thing, we hoped we could use it to accurately make predictions about the Universe at the largest and tiniest scales.

There were many building blocks to choose from mathematically, but we sought one that had the features of both the particle and wave – concentrated like the particle but also spread out over space and time like the wave.

The answer was a building block that looks like a concentration of energy – kind of like a star – having energy that is highest at the center, and that gets smaller farther away from the center.

Much to our surprise, we discovered that there were only a limited number of ways to describe a concentration of energy that flows. Of those, we found just one that works in accordance with our mathematical definition of flow.

We named it a fragment of energy. For the math and physics aficionados, it is defined as A = -⍺/r where ⍺ is intensity and r is the distance function.

Using the fragment of energy as a building block of matter, we then constructed the math necessary to solve physics problems. The final step was to test it out.

Back to Einstein, Adding Universality

More than 100 ago, Einstein had turned to two legendary problems in physics to validate general relativity: the ever-so-slight yearly shift – or precession – in Mercury’s orbit, and the tiny bending of light as it passes the Sun.

These problems were at the two extremes of the size spectrum. Neither wave nor particle theories of matter could solve them, but general relativity did.

The theory of general relativity warped space and time in such way as to cause the trajectory of Mercury to shift and light to bend in precisely the amounts seen in astronomical observations.

If our new theory was to have a chance at replacing the particle and the wave with the presumably more fundamental fragment, we would have to be able to solve these problems with our theory, too.

For the precession-of-Mercury problem, we modeled the Sun as an enormous stationary fragment of energy and Mercury as a smaller but still enormous slow-moving fragment of energy. For the bending-of-light problem, the Sun was modeled the same way, but the photon was modeled as a minuscule fragment of energy moving at the speed of light.

In both problems, we calculated the trajectories of the moving fragments and got the same answers as those predicted by the theory of general relativity. We were stunned.

Our initial work demonstrated how a new building block is capable of accurately modeling bodies from the enormous to the minuscule. Where particles and waves break down, the fragment of energy building block held strong.

The fragment could be a single potentially universal building block from which to model reality mathematically – and update the way people think about the building blocks of the Universe.

Republished from TheConversation.com under Creative Commons

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Consciousness

Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field

Justin MacLachlan

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A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.

The study published last month in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness is entirely based off a theory absent of tangible evidence. However, the author of the research Johnjoe McFadden said that his hypothesis could offer a way forward for robots that think and feel emotions.

McFadden believes that neuron waves of electrical activity get sent out and as they propagate across the brain, they help compose our entire conscious experience.

Johnjoe McFadden, is a molecular geneticist and director of quantum biology at the University of Surrey. McFadden points to flaws in other models of consciousness as the reason that we don’t have sentient artificial intelligence or robots capable of achieving consciousness.

McFadden’s hypothesis swerves away from most traditional neuroscientists, who generally see consciousness as a narrative that our brain constructs out of our senses, perceptions, and actions. Instead, McFadden returns to a more empirical version of dualism — the idea that consciousness stems from something other than our brain matter.

McFadden’s theory adapts the idea of “dualism,” which is the belief that consciousness is a supernatural force. Dualism has long been rejected by scientists and ruled pseudo-science, but McFadden has attempted to apply a scientific explanation for the idea, which hasn’t been done before.

Neuroscience news reports that the theory is based on scientific fact:

“The theory is based on scientific fact: when neurons in the brain and nervous system fire, they not only send the familiar electrical signal down the wire-like nerve fibres, but they also send a pulse of electromagnetic energy into the surrounding tissue. Such energy is usually disregarded, yet it carries the same information as nerve firings, but as an immaterial wave of energy, rather than a flow of atoms in and out of the nerves.”

It’s also a fact we have an electromagnetic field surrounding our brain is well-known and is detected by brain-scanning techniques such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) but has previously been dismissed as irrelevant to brain function and supernatural. Instead, McFadden contends that the brain’s information-rich electromagnetic field is, in fact, itself the seat of consciousness, driving the ‘free will’ of an individual.

“How brain matter becomes aware and manages to think is a mystery that has been pondered by philosophers, theologians, mystics and ordinary people for millennia,” McFadden said in a press release published by Medical Xpress. “I believe this mystery has now been solved, and that consciousness is the experience of nerves plugging into the brain’s self-generated electromagnetic field to drive what we call ‘free will’ and our voluntary actions.”

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