Written By: Lauryn Evans 

My Shadows are My Friends, written by Lauryn Evans A women's shadow is shown as she walks along a sidewalk.

If you have either taken a class in psychology or are just curious about psychology in general, chances are you have heard the name Carl Jung. Jung was one of the first to introduce the concept of having a shadow self, yet this concept can be recognized in works before his time, such as the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In more recent times, the television series Dexter brings to life the concept of one’s shadow self, among other modern works that utilize this concept. 

Everyone has a shadow, maybe two or even 10. However, many of us are not aware of our shadow. A shadow is described as being a part of ourselves that we have deemed unacceptable and only gets to exist in the darkness. Our shadows operate in our unconscious, meaning it can be challenging to recognize our own shadows because how can we see what only lives in darkness? The shadow is an unconscious aspect of one’s personality that typically does not align with our ego, leading us to resist our shadow, and we often project this shadow onto others or in inappropriate situations. Our shadow can be considered our emotional blind spot. Examples of shadows you can have are sadness, manipulation, greed, or resistance to change, among many others. Everyone carries a different shadow, and many carry the same one, yet people can express these shadows in different ways. 

How are shadows born? Indeed, such aspects of ourselves cannot be born into existence by mere chance. Shadows can be born through our upbringing or after experiencing rejection from someone we seek approval from. Shadows can be created through repressing parts of ourselves that have been criticized or punished by others, things we learned we should feel shame for. In many ways, our shadows are a form of psychological defense. To identify and label our shadows, we must be curious about ourselves and why our internal systems operate the way they do. We must look at our raw way of being and ask how and why we are the way we are. 

“The disowned part of self is an energy – an emotion or desire or need, that has been shamed every time it emerged. These energy patterns are repressed but not destroyed. They are alive in our unconscious.”

-John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You

I have always been fascinated by the psyches of others, as well as my own. When I first began shadow work, I thought it would be easy to recognize my shadows. First, I asked myself what emotion I was uncomfortable with. Quickly, I labeled anger. I knew I was uncomfortable with anger, but I didn’t know what about it made me feel uneasy. I was the person that would happily claim they didn’t have an angry bone in their body; that anger and I were strangers whose paths never seemed to cross. 

Anger is a human emotion and one that everyone will meet at some point. The truth is that anger and I never were strangers. Anger was an emotion that I did not welcome and instead pushed away. If I turned a blind eye to my anger, was it really there? If I could just put it in a box and tuck it away, I wouldn’t have to deal with it. I wouldn’t have to feel it. Even though I believed I wasn’t feeling my anger, it got my attention in many other ways. In the times I became passive-aggressive, when my anger became an attack on self, and all the times it simmered for so long that resentment grew in its place. Anger and I were not strangers, not in the slightest. We had spent a lot of time together, but I never allowed anger to take up the space that it needed.  

One of the most important things is understanding how you project your shadows onto others or situations you are in. I will also say this is a difficult thing to recognize because in short, you will be recognizing your faults and the areas where you may hurt others. I had to ask myself how my shadows affect me, but also how they affect others. Anger is one of my oldest and most persistent shadows, and I often reacted to my apparent “lack” of anger by trying to provoke anger out of others. Admittingly, this is something I was rather good at. I knew how to grind the right gears in people and after the fact, I found myself almost feeling a sense of pride. At least I didn’t get angry like that. Yet, I did get angry, and there were many times I got angry just like the people I wanted to distance this emotion from. I was not any better than others because I could not feel my anger, rather I was someone that would displace their anger. Though I cannot go back and magically fix the times I displaced my anger, I can do better because I now recognize how I projected my own shadow. I was able to meet my shadow in the darkness and sit with it until I could bring it into my conscious. When I did that, I realized I did not have anything to fear about anger. My anger does not mean I am aggressive or unsafe to myself or others around me, but it is about how I express my anger and about how I feel it. 

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”

-Carl Jung, Letters 1: 1906-1950

Having a shadow does not mean you are a bad person, but when you become conscious of your shadows and when you realize the impacts they have had on yourself and others, it is your responsibility to try and be better. Not to be better for the sake of others, but because you, too, deserve better. Being self-aware of your shadows and the parts of yourself you have disowned allows you to embrace parts of yourself that have been neglected. Integrating your unconscious self, even just a fragment, into your conscious self allows you to be more authentic in your way of being and it allows you to deepen your understanding of self. What we so often repress in ourselves – our anger, selfishness, grief, or our need for control is also what we tend to recognize in those around us. We all have shadows, we just have to look for them.


Bradshaw, J. (1988). Healing the Shame that Binds You. Health Communications. 

Jung, C. (1973). Letters 1: 1906-1950. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *