Entering the winter is a wonderful time to spiritually examine what Carl Jung termed, “the shadow.” The concept of the shadow is challenging, and therefore, using a metaphor like a bear getting ready to hibernate for the winter, might help bring to light the nature of the shadow. The bear goes into the shadows of a cave and quiets itself to survive the winter. The bear is still breathing, but an outsider cannot see or hear the bear in the cave.
A definition: The shadow is simply the unseen side of someone's self-personality. What is unseen is always known only indirectly through projection upon others. This is why the first meeting with the shadow can be difficult. The difficulty of absorbing the shadow is huge if we have to face alone this powerful feature. The shadow can be of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously-depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness. On the other hand, if a person was raised in a family system where joy was suppressed (“take that smile off your face”), then joy gets pushed into the shadow.
As a bear protects itself, the shadow also must protect itself. Protection comes in the forms of defense mechanisms and/or avoidance. The shadow can be so painful that one’s psyche cannot imagine letting that bear out of the unconscious mind, but remember there can also be great joy that has been kept dormant.
As a spiritually evolving soul, I have come to appreciate my shadow. At times, although normal unhealthy, keeping certain thoughts and feelings helped me survive until I matured (and still maturing, just ask my youngest daughter). Now as I enter my 58th year of life, my shadow has ceased to protect me and has becomes a hindrance. I do not need protection, what I need is to trust in myself. To have faith in a Higher Power that my existence has meaning and purpose.
When I can reach that level of connection with self and Spirit, the shadow dissipates, the bear comes out into the Spring, and I get to be authentic in all my relationships.
Know that fear comes with awakening the shadow, so please be gentle with self and make sure to have a support person who is a phone call away to remind you that you are a great Beloved.
Spring will come, and when it does, how wonderful it will feel and how clear you will be. The shadow can become a great companion; just as we receive bear hugs, the shadow can help us grow.