archetypes / Coping / Jung / Psychology / Rape

Why the Shadow?

I am a person who loves symbols. I look for them. When none exist, I create them. For me, symbols are a kind of language, one that marries thought and feeling in one tidy package.

Names are symbols, too. “Temira” isn’t who I am. It isn’t my real name (shocking, I know) and it isn’t a collection of letters grabbed at random. Temira is a Hebrew name. It means hidden. Secret. In shadows.
Shadows. I have been thinking a lot about shadows lately.
The name of this blog is The Shadow Aspect. And that’s a symbol, literally and figuratively. Specifically, the “shadow aspect” is the name early psychologist Carl Jung gave to a part of the psyche that is hidden. Sequestered. Often even unknown to the person. And like anything else kept in the dark, it’s there for a reason. It’s the thing you are ashamed of. The thing you don’t want other people to know. The thing you don’t want to know yourself.
This can be many things. Maybe you secretly delight in hurting others, even though to the rest of the world you seem like a good person. Maybe it’s the part of you that detests gay people even though you had gay relationships in your past – or present. Or maybe it’s not something expressed outwardly. Perhaps it’s the part of you that wants to cut at yourself to let out all the sickness. Or the part of you that can’t get past what was done to you…
Whatever it is, it’s hard to deal with. Painful. Frightening. So often, we don’t. We let it sit there, hidden. That’s safe, it seems. Because if you can’t see it, maybe it doesn’t exist.
Except, it does. And no amount of pretending it’s not there will make it go away.
After I was raped, just hours after, I made myself a promise. I told myself that what had just happened would not change me. I meant it. I liked who I was before, for the most part, and I wasn’t about to let some man take that from me. I swore that I would not become fearful or mistrust men or limit my activities just because this had happened. And I didn’t do any of those things.
But that wasn’t enough, and the change happened anyway. What happened to me became part of this shadow thing, this monster, this beast I’ve kept locked away and out of sight. And every time I locked some other thing away, the monster just took it and added it to itself, growing mightier and more massive each time.
And then came the day I just couldn’t pretend I didn’t know it was there anymore.
Of course, there’s only one real way to make a shadow go away, and that is to bathe it in light.
It isn’t going to be easy. There are a lot of things I’m not proud of. And when I say that, I mean I am deeply ashamed of some of them. It is going to hurt to acknowledge them, but I will. There’s a lot of guilt in the shadows, too, and a lot – I mean a LOT – of feelings that I never truly let myself feel.
It’s time to start feeling them. And I’ll do it with the knowledge that feeling them won’t make the shadows disappear completely. That’s impossible. But I do it in the hope of learning that the shadows don’t come from some monster. They’re just a side of me I haven’t seen before.

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