How To Uncover The Hidden Parts Of Your Personality (So You Can Reach Your Fullest Potential)

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What new hopes and dreams will you discover?

The shadow side of your personality, as characterized by psychiatrist Carl Jung, for many is wrongly accused of holding only your deep dark secrets, or human tendencies to be other than good and gracious.

This is somewhat true, but the shadow also holds all the uniquely brilliant and creative aspects of yourself. If you let some light shine on it, you'll find that you are allowing yourself to have a more complete and authentic human experience.

Just how can you understand your psychological "shadow self?" What does it really mean?

Perhaps one of the least understood and most powerful concepts in personal and spiritual development is the shadow.


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In the world of self-help, where so-called experts are found by the thousands, the spiritually hungry and uninformed consumers eagerly seek and gobble up unproven and often useless advice. And there is a concept that does not receive the attention I believe it deserves: your shadow self.

Your shadow self is the part of you that seems to be in opposition with the rest of your personality.

It's the part that feels like a weakness, or even a fault. Someone's shadow self might be that they're selfish, or afraid of confrontation, or perhaps that they're a people pleaser, or maybe that they can never say "no" to anyone, even when it ends up hurting them. 

And here’s the truth: Either you own your shadow, or it owns you.

You can try to ignore it, hide it or deny it, but until you embrace and make friends with it, you will be missing the key to optimal living as the shadow contains what needs to be unlocked and freed.

This is both what is holding you back and what will propel you forward to a more fulfilling existence. My friend and best-selling motivational author, the late Debbie Ford, used to say, "The unexpressed emotional baggage we keep is like trying to keep a beach ball under water… eventually, it pops up!"

‘‘The shadow,’’ wrote Carl Jung, "is that hidden, repressed (for the most part) inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious."

The shadow is a primordial part of your human inheritance, which, try as you might, can never be eluded.

But the view you should consider is that your shadow self is so much more! What is also hidden in the darkness of the shadow of you are the uniquely creative areas and the parts of who you are that haven't been revealed yet.

It is a yin/yang relationship of good and bad, powerful and scary. But it is just the shadow; an archetype that is not real, a metaphor that can be useful, rather than constraining.

Think instead of shadow work as the process of illumination.

In addition to the concept of shadow, you might also consider your use of masks, disguising your true self at various ages and stages of life. When you were disappointed by a birthday gift but smiled and said you loved it anyway, you were wearing a mask to hide your true feelings. When you told someone you were fine but inside, you were seething at them, that's also wearing a mask.

Human beings wear masks all the time throughout their lives. It can seem harder to be open, honest, and completely bare about your needs than it is to smile, lie, and cover up the issue. Every day, you fight as your work toward short- and long-term goals in life. And how you proceed through them, and the decisions you make, and how much of your own truth you uncover is entirely up to you.

It is your own personal battle. And by denying parts of yourself, or your "shadow," you may not realize how much you're hindering yourself.  

This concept parallels significantly the writing of Joseph Campbell in his famous The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This book has influenced the writings and creation of many a famous storyteller, filmmaker, and artists.


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The stories of Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, King Arthur, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and Homer’s Odyssey are all about the hero's journey. This mythical journey includes rites of passage of the hero, his quest, the magic elixirs or swords, or lightsabers, and finding the way back home in the end… the way back to your former self, so you can see how much you've grown and matured since then.

The problem, though, is that it's easy to get caught up in the small challenges and the drama in your everyday life. You stop aiming for your overall goal — to be as true to yourself as possible as you face your personal battles — and instead get mired down in putting out tiny fires.

You lose sight of the fact that you're not in this challenge alone and stop trying to embrace the parts of yourself that would actually make you happy. Instead, you allow the fear that comes from your shadow to overwhelm you instead of driving you to bigger, better things.

If you don’t learn to share yourself — even your shadow self —  authentically with one or a few trusting individuals, then you risk living your life with a drawer full of masks and a detached shadow. You risk living your life as an incomplete, unhappy person.

It is important to also not forget that if you're looking at the shadow only as the dark and scary part of your psyche, you're denying many wonderfully unique aspects of yourself and the gifts, dreams, and aspirations you bring with you or discover along your journey.

If you don't begin to recognize all of yourself, you'll let the fear of this unexplored part of you control your actions because you're too afraid to move forward and embrace it and use it to propel you into greater positions or skills.

If you're an office worker that dreams of being a painter, but your fear of failure convinces you that you're doomed before you start, that's letting the fear in your shadow control you.

If you dream of being a novelist but you don't know how to start, you're keeping yourself from achieving a goal because you're too overwhelmed by what you think you "know" about writing.

Your shadow self is both the urge that tells you to follow your dreams and the fear that keeps you from doing it. It is only by embracing this part of you that you can move toward your true goals.

Even if there is a dream you have given up on, and even if it might not be realized now as it could have been, the yearning is still there for expression of that unique calling or a unique personality aspect that is all yours.

What greatness in you is unspoken, undiscovered? Human development is more about discovering than it is uncovering and recovering. Too often, you have created a view that you must have something wrong with you… You begin to do personal archeology and dig up and then rebury your deep secrets and the narrative you live with.

Instead, you should shed light on the positive and unrealized aspects. Come out into the light; your shadow is with you all the time, even when the sun is not shining. Perhaps that is what enlightenment is: shining the light on what could be, rather than what was.


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For more ways to recognize your shadow self and use it to bring more happiness into your life, see DrPatWilliams.comAlso, read Dr. Pat Williams's new book, Getting Naked: On Emotional Transparency at the Right Time, the Right Place, and with the Right Person on Amazon or Balboa Press and in Audible books.

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