Our humanity is the most unpredictable and frightening aspect of our existence. Collectively and individually human beings are capable of a startling array of behaviors, from the most loving and altruistic to the most cruel and destructive.
Although the behaviors of others scare us, the most unsettling awareness is that we carry within us the ability to act out all aspects of human behavior. We want to believe, given the same circumstances, that we would respond differently. This belief insulates us from the anxiety-provoking truth that we are equally capable of destruction.
The more we negate this truth, the deeper our awareness will recede into the unconscious and along with it a chance to know ourselves more deeply and completely. Carl Jung referred to the disowned aspects of ourselves as the shadow.
It’s inevitable to have a shadow. It comes with the territory of feeling and thinking. Learning how to recognize and integrate it is the work of being human. The process of integrating our shadow in healthy ways is what makes us feel whole and at peace with ourselves.
Our shadow has the potential to become a problem when we fail to acknowledge it. As a general rule, the more rigid our sense of self becomes the larger our shadow grows. The classic example is someone who vehemently denounces the behavior of group while secretly exhibiting such behavior behind closed doors.
To build and sustain our personal integrity we need to dig deep and find the courage to understand and accept all parts of our personality. Our personal integrity must be large enough to include all of who we are, or our shadow will expand and seek expression – often times out of our conscious awareness.