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Facing shadows

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”


Reaching heaven can be understood as self-realisation, but that can only happen after you become aware of your shadows, their projections and integration. Shadow is the unknown dark side of your personality.

Are you willing to acknowledge your shadow?

If you are not ready to face the unpleasant side of yourself, you will reject it. In order to avoid facing your shadows, you will project them onto others.

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Projecting shadows

Projecting shadows onto others is your defence mechanism, used to avoid your own anxiety, which arouses out of facing your inferiority. Everything that is unconscious in yourself, you will discover in other people as their moral deficiency. Others are your mirror.


In couple dancing, partners are projecting shadows onto one another all the time, without being aware of it. For example, your dance partner is extremely competitive and it gets on your nerves. You become annoyed and anxious. Is it possible that deep down you are very competitive as well, but you just don't dare to show it?

There is also a lot of gossiping on the plate. Accusing opponents, speaking badly about their dance interpretations might tell you about your suppressed potentials.

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As an adjudicator you might judge the couples that you teach or know higher and others much lower. What does that tell you about yourself? Could it be that you are afraid of your incapacity and you don't want to face it or that you are angry because the couple left you and this is your revenge? Is there a shadow of your cowardice that you are hiding under double standards?

Coaches often comment negatively on other coaches or the couples that they don't teach. Seeing mistakes or deficiencies in others can lead you towards your inner investigation. Observe your own resentment when you don't get what you want. The way out of trouble starts with considering that exact resentment.

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According to Jung, projection is a necessary and inevitable component in our psychological development. It takes courage to withdraw the projection from the external world and to integrate it into the conscious awareness. You need to face your faults and then find solutions, make corrections.

Integrating shadows

How you assimilate shadow is a very individual matter. First you have to accept the existence of it, rather than deny it. You have to pay attention to your intentions, moods and impulses. Then you have to be ready to go into a long-lasting process of negotiation within yourself. It might feel that there are two or more voices inside you talking to each other. But there is a way to get in touch with your repressed energies.

Psychotherapy with an expert can help by guiding your insight into your shadows and the process of their integration. It might take a long time to penetrate into your subconscious, but the process is a rewarding one.


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When the shadow is acknowledged and integrated, it can be a source of renewal. There is power on the dark side. Take aggression for example, the healthy side of it protects us and can fuel our sense of ownership.

Anger is considered one of the most powerful and also most destructive emotions. What generates anger and resentment is the sense of powerlessness and helplessness. As a child and even as an adult you are culturally conditioned to suppress anger, not allowed to show it or even feel it.

On the other hand, anger is action-orientated energy and can generate development and progress, shift you towards needed change. Anger is a powerful instinctive drive that can also be seen as a source of creativity when you need to resolve conflicts or chaos.

The secret is to act with force without being forceful. Being able to stand up for yourself means being courageous and self-reliant.


Shadow on a larger scale

When life is difficult and things go wrong or against your expectations, you often search for a scapegoat. The scapegoat takes the responsibility away from you. For example, you might blame dance politics and corruption for the loss of quality in dancing.

When the tendency for scapegoating happens on a collective level, it can be dangerous for the whole society. If you are not able to understand yourself, to reflect on your inner world regularly, you can be an easy target in the hands of manipulators, media or unhealthy schools of thought.

For example, you may think: “If I want to defeat the corrupted, I have to become corrupted.” So what is the point of the fight then?

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Psychological balance

Psychological balance is an extremely important pillar which supports your house of health, physical and mental. But daily life is full of opposites – good and bad, happiness and misery, joy and pain, therefore your psychological balance is always at risk. The dynamic tension that exists between various elements of your personality can move you forward or hold you back. You carry the potential to be creative or destructive, be it in your thoughts or actions.

So how to build up your psychological wholeness? Regular introspection and examination of your behaviours and beliefs is of extreme importance. Then there is your common sense which tells you what is moral and correct. You have a choice.

Don't ignore your misbehaviour, traumas and depression, hoping that things will improve without your active involvement. Well known Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek once said: “There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's another train approaching you.” A somewhat pessimistic concept, but that other train can be all the suppressed in your subconscious that wants to come out and represents danger to your psychological balance.

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Completeness or wholeness of your personality is reached through the process of your individuation, returning to yourself.

Your inner world, “the world within”, all that happens in the psyche, is as real as the physical world outside. You need to turn your attention towards your inner self. Integration of your shadows will reduce their destructive powers and enrich your personality.

You will move to a higher level of self-understanding and self-realisation.

Source of inspiration

Carl Jung, Approaching the unconscious

Carl Jung, Archaic man