Anyone who claims or thinks they are all good probably have it backwards.
Civility is as wrapped layers that protect the ego from pain. When we are children, we have no layers: we are raw and open; we know nothing of “shame” as a concept.
It is only when we begin to consciously interact with the civilized world, beyond the reach of our mothers’ embrace and our father’s protection do we experience our first pushback.
As we grow, we develop layer after layer of civility, each one a form-fitting mask we rationalize as anything other than a straightjacket encapsulating our darkest nature.
Our savage nature.
We cannot escape our shadow. We can only integrate it with the conscious mind, pulling it from the unconscious to what we can control, lest it control us in ways we are too weak to admit.
Therein, the process of developing self-awareness is synonymous with the process of integrating your shadow. It is when you acknowledge the illusion of your own civility. You acknowledge that there is, indeed, a higher stage: our complete undoing, a returning to who we once were, who we’ve always been.
But what does all that mean?
The Foundation Of The Shadow
The concept of your shadow is a reference to legendary psychologist: Carl Jung. He was the student and right-hand man of another legendary psychologist, named Sigmund Freud.
From gaining a deep understanding of human psychology, Jung developed the concept of the shadow as a way to describe the complex internal nature of human morality.
Why is it that we do “bad” things? And what is “bad” as determined by whom, in which culture, and why do we hide what those “bad” things are, even often from ourselves?
To understand the answer to that question, it helps to have a discussion about pain and one’s ego, their sense of self. Morality as a concept external to the self, acknowledged by one’s society as the bedrock of its stability, acts as a balancing beam for calibrating and manually determining one’s behavior.
Or, at least, what we know our behavior should be like, but there are far more other factors at play that tie into how we interpret reality and the decisions we make from that interpretation.
Our genes are a great example. In the ongoing debate widely known as “nature vs. nuture,” there is the tug of war between thinkers of varying forms trying to determine what has a great affect on the development of our personalities: our environment, or our blood?
You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who denies that both don’t play a part, but the question is how much and why?
You Lie To Yourself About Yourself
The shadow is the element of our character that we don’t like to face.
It exists, in Jungian theory, partially as an extension of not one personality but multiple stemming from different sections of the brain that form a kind of symbiotic relationship with one another in order to function in society.
Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.–Carl Jung, “Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131
You are not one entity; you are a collection of micro-entities that combine to form your macro-consciousness of self.
The shadow exists in the sub-personalities or elements of them that have been with you largely since birth but have fragmented as you’ve consciously thrown them to the back of your mind because of how society tends to react to them.
This is why it’s called the “shadow;” it’s the part of you that exists in the dark corner of your subconscious, the demons you keep in the shadows of your mind.
…because it was largely civilization itself that has told you to cast those demons there in the first place, in order for you to get from point A to point B in society, while playing the meta-game of social interaction.
You may not want to admit that this part of you exists, but it does, buried under the illusion or top layer of civility.
What most people do is believe the illusion, the blue pill effect. Not wanting to consciously awaken to the fact that those demons never go away.
In fact, the more you deny them, the more they have control over you.
This is why developing genuine morality is actually very hard work, because the person you’re most likely to lie to, as well as the person simultaneously most likely to believe your lies about yourself…is, well…you.
Therein, the way to develop genuine morality and control over your life can begin with first understanding your shadow self, getting in touch with your inner savage.
Who are you…truly?