The Neuroscience of Shadow Integration – Part I
My hope is that this article will inspire you to use the power of your own consciousness to become aware of your shadow, to allow it to be your teacher, and to integrate it. As we become more deeply and mindfully centered in our hearts, the recognition and integration of previously unconscious shadow processes changes our brains. This is exciting because it highlights the transformative power of our own heart-centered mindfulness or consciousness to transform our minds and our bodies.
First, what is the shadow? According to Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, the shadow is comprised of the denied aspects of the self; these can be both positive and negative. The shadow comes about when we narrowly identify with our social mask, the persona.
The persona represents our identification with our personalities and our habituations.It implies a lack of awareness, always at the expense of the unattended aspects of the self. This is a very important point, because we’re talking about a lack of attention to the deeper potentials of ourselves, whether they are positive or negative. So, the persona represents excessive attention on our social mask—our personalities, our thoughts, our opinions, our beliefs, and our biases.
Carl Jung taught that as we become excessively and narrowly identified with the persona, the shadow—the unattended aspects of the self—starts to sabotage us. We may set a conscious intention, and then unconscious processes will come up that seem to sabotage that conscious intention. This self-sabotage is an attempt by the shadow (our unattended aspects) to get our attention. To resist recognition of these aspects, the persona then projects the shadow on to other people, things, and situations.
So, how do we recognize the shadow? This sense of self-sabotage is one way. Whenever we feel like nothing we do is right, that our conscious intentions are getting messed around with, that’s often a sign that the shadow is in play; there are some unattended aspects of ourselves we haven’t been paying attention to that are trying to get our attention.
Another way to recognize our shadow is through the phenomenology of the shadow. Phenomenologically, the shadow appears in our first person experience as a strong emotional reaction to something. It could be anything or anyone in our environment; often it is something that’s very visible. When we feel a strong emotional charge, it usually comes with some kind of bodily felt tension or contraction. That’s how we become aware of it. For example, we might tend to be critical of somebody, or we might praise somebody, as in, “Oh my God, that person is just incredible! There’s no way I could ever be like them.” These represent two strong emotional reactions, one negative, the other positive.
What we’re experiencing is actually an attraction—an emotional attraction. It can appear as an aversion, but that is still a kind of attraction, because our attention becomes attracted to what we don’t want. Our attention becomes attracted to the things that bother us. We tend to focus on what we don’t like and to be critical.
So, who are you attracted to?
- Who makes you feel like you can never measure up? You might place them on a pedestal, and there’s a strong emotional charge when you think about them.
- Who annoys you?
- Who are you jealous of?
- Who do you complain about?
- Who makes you angry?
- Who can you not stand?
These people are our teachers, because they help bring our awareness to certain denied aspects of ourselves. So, this method has to do with becoming aware of our felt, visceral reactions to things, people, and situations in our immediate environment. A good thing to keep in mind here is that everything we experience is teaching us something about ourselves. When we really get that, it helps us become more aware of how we’re projecting our shadow out there, both the positive and negative aspects of our unattended selves.
Outer manifestations of projecting our shadow could be when we’re gossiping about or criticizing others, and a strong emotional charge accompanies that. If we’re using language and actions that indicate a strong desire to destroy somebody, either through language, physically, or emotionally, this is often the emergence of the shadow. Anything, really, that’s emotionally charged and is projecting something out there tends to be the shadow.
So we have talked about what the shadow is, as defined by Carl Jung, and how to recognize the shadow. Next time, I’ll continue the discussion by talking about the possible neural correlates of the persona and the shadow. And, finally, I’ll talk about how brainwave entrainment, specifically the approach that the Profound Meditation Program takes, can actually work on the shadow, surface the shadow, and help us to integrate it.
Eric Thompson is a co-founder of iAwake Technologies, LLC and was its Chief Technology Officer. Although no longer with iAwake Technologies, his contributions have been immense. Eric is also an inventor, researcher, and producer, and is considered one of the world’s foremost brainwave entrainment experts. In addition, Eric is a pioneer in the development of biofield entrainment technology, which digitally captures and transmits life-enhancing and beneficial subtle energies to the human biofield via any digital medium, including pictures, audio, and film. By combining this emerging technology with an unconventional, innovative, and original approach to audio brainwave entrainment, Eric strives to make profound spiritual development and emotional freedom more easily accessible to all. He writes and speaks on the intersection between neuroscience, psychology, subtle energy, and spirituality.
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