A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way, and is, in addition, fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour.

This quote refers to the unconscious or shadow side that forms part of Jung’s theory of personality. Jung theorised that we have a persona that we show to the world. This is the way we wish to be seen by others. Most people have multiple personas. There is the friend persona, the work persona, the parent persona, the child persona, the lover persona to name a few. Our personas express the way we wish to be seen at work, with different friends, with our families and with our intimate partners. Our persona’s emphasise features we wish to have associated with us in given situations and involves accentuating the features we like best in each situation.

Jung saw the shadow side as being unconscious. It was the behaviours that did not fit our idea of how we should live in the world and be perceived by others. He theorised we have aspects of ourselves that we do not recognise and that will motivate our behaviours on occasion, without our being aware of what has triggered the behaviour.

We often see our shadow side in behaviours in other people that we do not like and criticise. Joelle worked as a school counsellor. She became angry with a parent who she felt was neglectful of her child and put him in second place ahead of her career. Her anger at the parent was out of proportion to what the parent was actually doing. Joelle’s teenage daughter came to see me. She was distressed at her mother’s neglect of her and her little brother and her preference to pursue her career instead of care for her children. This was something Joelle was unaware of, yet subconsciously she was. She was getting angry at the other parent when it was she who was the neglectful parent.

Not all shadow sides are so negative. Craig was raised in a family where he was taught never to show sadness. Sadness was seen as an extremely negative thing. So he presented a persona to the world that was happy all the time. He genuinely believed he was a happy person. He came to see me because there were occasions where he had become disproportionately sad about events and had cried uncontrollably. In this case, the sadness was repressed under a rigidly positive persona.

Sometimes, the shadow side is expressed in uncharacteristic behaviour. Other times it is expressed in pain in the body. I see many clients who have stored their repressed behaviours in their bodies.

Other people find their shadow side appears in their dreams. This can be disturbing, particularly if the repressed behaviour is one that the individual believes is wrong.

One thing I teach clients is to become aware of the feelings underlying behaviour so that, instead of acting blindly and instinctively, they can act with full awareness and control of their feelings. As a result of this learning, clients can learn to accept their shadow side.

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