What Is Shadow Psychology? Carl Jung’s Theory

What’s shadow psychology? What are your “shadow” parts?

According to Not Nice by Aziz Gazipura, a step in unlearning your patterns of niceness is to embrace your full self by acknowledging your “shadow” parts. Referencing the work of psychologist Carl Jung, Gazipura explains that each of us has multiple parts, some we present to the world, and some we hide.

Learn more about shadow psychology below.

Embrace Your Full Self

According to Jung, shadow psychology represents parts you might unconsciously deny, suppress, or disown because they don’t align with the image you want to present to the world or because they trigger feelings of shame or discomfort. While everyone’s shadow is unique, Gazipura points to common qualities of shadows—violence, sexuality, selfishness, or hostility. Embracing your full self requires you to accept that these qualities are a natural part of who you are.

(Shortform note: Psychoanalyst James Hollis argues that our relationship to our shadow parts isn’t static, but changes as we move through different life stages. For example, Hollis argues that as people approach midlife, the confrontation with the shadow becomes more pronounced. The existential challenges of aging, including reflections on mortality, purpose, and unfulfilled desires, propel people to confront the parts of themselves that they had previously relegated to the shadow. He suggests this confrontation often results in a “midlife crisis,” where individuals reassess their values, relationships, and life choices.)

Gazipura argues that embracing your full self is critical to your overall well-being and happiness. He explains that your shadow is home to your primal desires and therefore a source of untapped energy, creativity, and growth. Acknowledging and accepting your shadow unlocks authenticity and vitality that might otherwise remain buried. Furthermore, repressing your shadow leads to self-rejection, potentially resulting in issues like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or heightened negative emotions.

(Shortform note: Jung refers to the idea of “embracing your full self” as integration. By integrating the shadow, you reconcile with the repressed, denied, or unknown parts of yourself, leading to greater self-awareness, understanding, and psychological balance. Jung argues that integrating your shadow into your identity is the only way to become the person you’re meant to be and experience a sense of wholeness.)

Make Room for Shadow Parts

Gazipura offers two strategies to help you make more room for your shadow in your daily life without acting on every whim or ugly thought:

1. Start an unfiltered diary where you say everything you would never dream of saying out loud. Gazipura suggests writing down every unfiltered idea, impulse, and taboo thought you have for 15-20 minutes regularly. Begin with what stresses you out, what annoys you, what frustrates you, or demands being placed on you that you resent. The more unfiltered you are, the more you’ll get out of the experience. Make sure that this diary is secure and private. If you think there’s a chance that someone might read it, you won’t be able to be as honest as you need to be. 

(Shortform note: According to some therapists, recording your negative thoughts can do more than just vent them; it can reveal recurring patterns in your mindset. By reviewing these entries, you might find that you frequently criticize yourself or make hasty negative assumptions. Identifying these tendencies allows you to proactively notice and address self-defeating thought patterns.)

2. Take a rage walk. A rage walk is similar to the unfiltered diary but has the added benefit of physical movement. The goal is to walk and feel all the things you’re “not supposed” to feel. Gazipura suggests talking out loud and letting your body and face express your anger or frustration. Don’t worry about what you look like. It doesn’t matter, and your rage walk is for you, not for anyone else. 

(Shortform note: If you’re considering a rage walk, opt for a natural setting. Scientific research suggests that being in nature reduces rumination—repetitive negative self-thoughts. In a 2015 study, participants who walked in natural rather than urban environments reported fewer negative thoughts and showed decreased activity in a brain region associated with mental illness risk. An outdoor rage walk allows you to vent your emotions and take advantage of nature’s therapeutic benefits.)

What Is Shadow Psychology? Carl Jung’s Theory

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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