The “Bad Wolf” in us all

Retirementor Dawie Smith explains the shadow self and how it projects into our thoughts, feelings and behaviour

In each of us a shadow side exists and it is usually awakened and seen most clearly when we are faced with life’s challenges.

Emotional pain, sadness, feelings of meaninglessness, relationship problems, financial worries, job burnout and insufficient sleep are some of the challenges that can unveil our shadow sides.  These experiences in life exacerbate negative energy, spiritual dissonance and emotional vulnerability, and ultimately lead to the projection of our shadow qualities into our thoughts, feelings or behaviour.  Remember the saying: your strengths may potentially become your weaknesses.

Someone who is demanding and exacting, for example, may be a painful perfectionist when their shadow side is awakened.  A talkative person may become a babble mouth.  A naturally skeptical person could turn to excessive fault finding, and those who tend toward negative thinking are more susceptible to bouts of depression.

The trick with the Bad Wolf is being conscious of how it plays out in your life.  Simple awareness shines a light on the shadow and allows us to observe how it affects our relationship with others, and our lives in general.  A good way to pinpoint your shadow qualities is to observe those things that irritate you most about other people.  Those are invariably qualities that exist within you too.

The concept of the shadow was first introduced by Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung and “bringing the shadow to consciousness,’’ writes one of Jung’s followers, Liliane Frey-Rohn (1967), ‘‘is a psychological problem of the highest moral significance.  It demands that the individual hold himself accountable not only for what happens to him, but also for what he projects. . . Without the conscious inclusion of the shadow in daily life there cannot be a positive relationship to other people, or to the creative sources in the soul; there cannot be an individual relationship to the Divine.”

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