The Bright Shadow
When the shadow is spoken of it is usually seen as the dark side of who we are. It consists of the aspects of ourselves that we find distasteful and unacceptable. We reject those aspects, repress them and often project them onto others. Carl Jung said that the shadow is “the person you’d rather not be.” It is composed of elements not valued by self, family and society. It is hidden and unclaimed. Wholeness is a process of reclaiming the dark shadow and integrating it into the Self so it does not need to be projected.
But there is more to the shadow.
In addition to the dark shadow there is increasing attention given to the bright shadow or what is sometimes called the Golden Shadow. This includes positive traits and valuable characteristics which we see in others but do not claim for ourselves. Many people have as much or even more difficulty claiming their most positive characteristics as their own. Beauty is seen in Hollywood, compassion in Mother Teressa, bravery in soldiers, wisdom in the Dali Lama. We often fear our light as much as our darkness.
My sense is that there are two reasons for this. The first is that we end up very dedicated to the stories of inadequacy, lack of love and trauma that we carry with us. These stories become entrenched within. It is a paradox that as much as they make us suffer they are hard to give up. As long as we believe we are incompetent we will not embark on challenging activity. As long as we believe we are an imposter in a successful person’s clothing work will create anxiety. As long as we believe we are unlovable we will feel unloved. People believe these things because they think they are what they believe about themselves. People find misery in these beliefs but they also find safety. This is a sort of puritanism which creeps into our consciousness that says we cannot trust ourselves and need to constantly watch our every move so it does not betray pride, ego or conceit.
But there is another reason we project our goodness. Our bright shadow calls us to be more. This is challenging and at times even scary. The dark shadow keeps us small and weak. The golden shadow asks us to fulfill more of our potential. The dark shadow keeps us restrained. The Golden Shadow when embraced frees us to develop the fullness of who we are born to be. When we stop projecting our inherent inner goodness we see who we truly are. Inadequacy suppresses confidence, fear suppresses leadership, inner criticism suppresses creativity. And yet all of these qualities are within us all the time in every situation waiting to be released. The core of our being reflects Spirit all of the time. As beings created in the image of God we are born with enormous potential.
As beings created in God’s image at our deepest levels we are Divine right now in this exact moment. We are the God we search for. We are not all that God is; but we are what he/she/it is. God is one, not as the number one or only one but as in one with everything including us. This is as real as our DNA, history, upbringing, and environment.
After time spent on our own inner growth refining our personality, inner beliefs and overcoming personal traumas the foundation is laid for ascending our inner heights. To discover the dark shadow we go deep within to the depths. We descend into the darkness lighting candles. Shining lights on inner demons. It takes great courage to face the things we don’t like and prefer not to see. To discover the bright shadow we ascend the heights. This is a form of inner mountaineering, climbing, to embody our Divine nature. In this we learn to bask in the original light that knows no limits. It takes the courage to hear the call of our highest self to full complete life which may be outside of usual safety zones.
I can’t believe what I just read. Thank you.
October 6, 2018
Thank you. I am glad you liked the posting.
October 7, 2018
Beautiful, helpful, deeply nourishing, thank you.
November 14, 2018
Thank you for your feed back.
November 15, 2018
Hi there, I am deeply curious about this concept.
I am wondering where Jung references the Golden shadow in his work? A cursory Google search is not turning up mention of this term .
Thank you for your insight
December 1, 2018
Thank you for your comment and the questions you raise. As far as I know Jung talked only of the dark shadow which was an enormous contribution to understanding of consciousness. The discussion of bright shadow takes his work a step forward. A way to put this is that the dark shadow projects onto others “They are the problem.” The bright shadow projects “They are the solution.” Both are projection and ways to deny our responsibility for our inner life.
Other resources include “Dark and Bright Shadow by Adriane Longstaffe which can be found on line. Also writings of Alberto Villoldo who is a teacher of Shamanic ritual. I THINK he addresses bright shadow in his book The Four Insights.
I hope this helps.
December 3, 2018
I stand corrected!!! According to Christine Valters Paintner’s “Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice,” Jung did discuss the bright shadow. I can not find the exact reference in Jung’s work. But I trust Paintner’s comment. Additionally, This is an excellent book for anyone interested in both photography and spiritual practice.
January 23, 2019
October 4, 2019
Thank-you for this! I am studying Enneagram type 3 and I am type 4. 3 seems to be my bright shadow…and your comments bring me to a place of more understanding of how I try so hard to be successful like these people all of my life and yet never ever get further than my fantasies about it. I am looking forward to what comes next in this new era of Corona perspective. If you have any further suggestions for reading…I would so appreciate. Sarah.
May 8, 2020