In this year of the solar eclipse and heightened political and environmental turmoil, we have a great opportunity to explore our own shadow.
Shadow work, a term coined by the famous psychologist Carl Jung, essentially means to confront the sides of ourselves we judge as negative - things like jealousy, anger, wanting lots of attention, feeling needy, or seeking money and power. These are the things we don't like about ourselves, and it's very tempting to deny them and project them onto other people.
But the curious thing about the shadow is that as soon as we embrace it, it starts to shrink and change in ways that make us grow and develop more compassionate with ourselves and others. We start to accept ourselves and along with that, we can be more tolerant of others.
Recently, we have been heavily confronted with our collective shadow which makes itself known in the political arena. As America moves through a major transition in its development as a society and a nation, we are confronted with escalations of corporate greed, hatred of others outside the mainstream, racism, abuses of power, and the exploitation of nature and the Earth.
Our task is to explore the traces of these phenomena in ourselves. Where do we put material gain over compassion? When do we judge other groups in society, even just silently to ourselves? How do we contribute to climate change and take more from our natural resources than we need?
I'm most definitely not condoning the hateful aberrations of these occurrences that have been in public view lately. I am also not saying that we have to pack up our stuff and move to a cave.
I'm simply asking that we all take a closer look at how we deny our own shadow sides. By rejecting these shadows in ourselves, we too often project them onto other people and society, and onto movements that escalate them into despicable acts of intolerance.
We cannot control what others think and do. But we can start looking at our own inconsistencies and become more accepting of ourselves. That is how we slowly begin the process of spreading compassion, non violence and tolerance into the world.
Gerti Schoen is a writer and psychotherapist. In her spare time she enjoys learning, being in nature and around animals.