We all face challenges in our lives, and sometimes that can have us singing the blues. It's not a comfortable emotional landscape to reside in, as those times of struggle can bring repressed parts of our nature to the surface. There's no denying that the emotional states we humans brand as "negative" are powerful forces, and it's only natural to want to sweep them to the side and step back into the light as quickly as possible. Yet, those dark and painful places are a part of us, and offer as much of an opportunity for personal growth as the sunnier side of life does.
The concept of "shadow aspects" started with psychologist Carl Jung's study on personality archetypes.
In a nutshell, shadow aspects are those parts of our personality which we deny, repress, or reject. Given that behavioural responses such as jealousy, pettiness, and neediness can be met with displeasure, it isn't unusual that we should choose to avoid or brush away those responses as soon as they come up. Feeling angry or unworthy isn't a good feeling, so it's not a place we willingly choose to linger in; yet to truly meet with our shadow aspects, that is exactly what we need to do - we need to sit with our more challenging emotions to truly get a sensation as to what they're all about.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." -- Carl Jung
Shadow aspects can manifest in ways that are less easy to detect than simply experiencing anger, envy, or contempt. They can come pouring out of us in ways that affect others even more greatly than they do ourselves - take, for example, the need to control people's behaviours, assigning blame for our emotional state rather than taking responsibility for it, projecting thoughts or words that are really our own onto others, or simply finding another person's personality traits grating . While it may be easy to externalize examples such as these by attributing them solely to residing outside of ourselves, if we apply personal awareness in the heat of those moments we may come to realize that perhaps this really *is* our circus, and yep - those really *are* our monkeys.
Sitting with our shadow aspects invokes the work of Emotional Alchemy, supplying us with the raw materials necessary to transform dark matter into gold.
Our shadow aspects are not without benefits. The energy that is generated by emotional responses such as outrage, anger, and jealousy can be extraordinarily useful when directed in a constructive manner. Having the awareness to recognize, harness, and then express that energy is no easy task, but I have found I craft some of my most powerful work when I have the sense to channel those uncomfortable emotional states towards my creative endeavours. Other times, I will draw a single tarot card to inquire as to which energies I need to be aware of, what I need to learn from my current state, or simply ask the cards to comment on whatever it is I am feeling. I find both of these techniques are helpful in that they allow me to sit with my shadow aspects and observe them without judgement. When my energy is running a little too high for contemplation, meditation, or creative expression, a good bout of physical work or exercise helps to bring me back into the present. I've come to think of it as emotional shadow boxing, whereby bringing awareness back into the physical body aids in grounding the static being produced in the etheric body.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” -- Carl Jung
Our darker sides can craft some powerful magic - just think of the relation between the two: we cast spells the same as we cast shadows. We have black magic the same as we have white magic. Grimoires are often known as "The Book of Shadows." There is a balance between our dark and our light, and each needs to be recognized and embraced if we wish to be truly whole. It isn't easy work, and it's a never ending process, but there is a peace to getting to the point where we feel able to welcome those parts of ourselves which we tend to push away.