By Margaret Bell
Shadow lives not only in the monsters we create but the people we become.
When I was little, I cried for Darth Vader. I wanted to rescue him – seeing not a monster, but a man who was utterly alone with no one to commune with or understand him.
I mourned Maleficent when she was uninvited to Aurora’s baby shower, feeling her rejection and isolation.
I wept for the Goblin King in The Labyrinth, seeing a man longing for romance and intimacy.
They were all supposed to be antagonists, designed to evoke fear or condemnation rather than sympathy. But still, I somehow saw their agony and identified with it.
I wanted to heal it.
Shadow is everything we are and everything we are not.
We create villains to hold what we recoil and reject in ourselves, projecting on them everything we cannot welcome or fathom. They personify our darkness. They live in the spaces we try to escape.
Shadow lives in our pain and the pieces of us we discard.
The good guys remind us of what we long for, what we are missing, who we are not. We turn on the heroes because we see through their façade. It is because of our inborn intuition that perfection isn’t real that we cling to the characters that imitate the real human struggle between self and shadow. It is antiheroes who do this best.
Shadow is a container.
And so it was that characters created to embody the dark side, Darth Vader, the Goblin King and Maleficient were the ones I related to the most, while the upstanding idols, the characters created to mould us, like Snow White, dug at something hidden within me, something I was blind to.
Shadow is reveling.
I never liked Snow White, not even as a child. Her acceptance of everyone, felt naive. Her voice, a reminder I hide my own.
Shadow is the out casted.
My distain for Snow White is a window into my shadow, a mirror reflecting back at me those pieces I neglect to own.
Shadow is accountability.
As a therapist, I understand that personal growth and nourishment was to be found in Snow White. She showed me where I was severed from myself. She signified my aversion in using my voice. She illuminated my issues with my body. She exposed my lack of trust in self and others.
Shadow is comradery.
Darth Vader allowed me to explore feelings I abolished, like anger. While the Goblin King emulated my longing for unconditional love. Maleficent unveiled my craving to belong, even when I pretended not to care.
Shadow is a long forgotten abandoned building budding with new life.
Shadow is allusive and soft, she is transmutable, ever changing and expanding. She calls us into the dark, to the parts that feel the most vulnerable and scary. She is the pull to turn around, to face what is behind us.
Shadow is memories, lost, pushed away and suppressed.
Where does Shadow hide? Everywhere, even in the purest and most innocent of places, in the broken, the hurt, the disallowed. Shadow thrives in the disease of society’s ideals and morals. We run from our shadow because it forces us to accept ourselves as we are, human and flawed.
Shadow is someone else, not me.
She manifests in the things we disfavour, even hate. She projects onto others all the insecurities and character defects we refuse to claim as our own. Shadow festers when we compare ourselves to others, when we see ourselves through society’s eyes and the eyes of those we respect and prize. When we live by other’s standards, we deny aspects of ourselves. This is where shadow lives.
Shadow cries from the hurt heart.
When we meet our shadow, life unfolds. Issues and problems gain deeper meaning. We feel more unified. Meeting our shadow is like meeting a long lost friend who arrives with gifts, just not the gifts expected.
Shadow is freedom.
She is not good or bad. She is not the place of demons, even though she is where we often send our demons to live. She is the holding place, a waiting place, a place of infinite and enlightened progress.
Shadow is vulnerability.
She whispers reminders that we are imperfect, that we are human and gives us permission to see where we are visionless, allowing us to luxuriate, innovate and transform. Much like Snow White forced me to see where I was fractured, pretending and trying to be someone else.
Shadow is ever encircling.
There are many ways to work with Shadow. The more we despise, repulse, dismiss, and project, the juicier it is to work with. Something amazing is ready to be seen and healed. Shadow wants to be part of us, incorporated and complete. We can work with our shadow by meeting those pieces of ourselves we detest, discard, critic, loath, and repel. When we look at the labels we fasten on ourselves and others, we see our shadow.
Shadow is inspiration.
We can thrive in our shadow. Here is where we mend. Here is where we become whole. Where we are able to relish and honour ourselves and each other just how we are. Our shadow can be our closest ally. For she keeps us in check, keeps us aware, keeps us honest. She allows us to be human, to feel and accept it all.
Snow White’s picture now displays on my daughter’s wall, to which she announces, “I love her.” I smile and reply, “Yes, I love her too.”
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Undiscovered Self: The Dilemma of the Individual in Modern Society.