by Angela Passidomo Trafford
Recently I was introduced to a flower which only opens at night. This mysterious exotic bloom is called a moonflower. A friend brought one to me and I have watched this slender trailing vine produce a rapidly growing oblong silvery white pod which is about to unfurl its mystery upon the sweet night air. Tonight beneath the stars I gazed upon it briefly, for one cannot sit in darkness for too long a time watching and waiting. One must move on.
I began to think about the moonflower and pondered its meaning, for I look deeply within the heart of living things searching for a connection. When I risk this journey, as I always do for I cannot help myself, it is my nature, often I segue into human darkness.
Mystic psychologist Carl Jung has said of this hidden aspect of human nature: “The shadow is that hidden repressed, inferior, guilt laden personality…that personifies everything the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself…”
A human shadow is attached to us yet we cannot make out its features. It carries with it our form and likeness yet we can only see it in the light. In terms of our human psyche the shadow harbors our dark secret passions, our jealousy, envy, rage, our instinctive animal instincts, sexual impulses, denied pain and guilt that are not condoned by society. The shadow, however, is part of us and cannot remain in darkness without taking control of our lives and destroying us with self punishment.
Do you constantly pull defeat from the jaws of victory and wonder why? Perhaps your unrecognized shadow is wreaking havoc on your life.
A client named Bob began to connect with his denied buried guilt during a session. That evening while reaching for a cup, he swears his own hand threw the cup into his face! That is only a minor instance of what the repressed shadow can do. Examples from literature include Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde or Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. In these portraits of the dramatic split between the persona of society and the shadow, we view the struggle which is being waged in the depths of each human heart and in society at large. This shadow aspect keeps pulling our strings behind the curtain to our own detriment until we take stock of our morality, amend our behavior and do the right thing.
What is the right thing? We find the answer when we come face to face with the shadow.
Jung states, “To confront the shadow involves recognizing the darker aspects of the personality as actually present and morally binding. Such confrontation is the essential condition of any kind of self-recognition.”
When we take responsibility for what is morally right we experience life’s sweet success which is inner peace. Society demands we behave in a certain way yet human beings are always breaking the rules because the laws of God are at one with human nature. So a conflict arises that becomes a spiritual test that we must overcome in order to reach the next step of our lives. For success in this leap of faith, we must reach into the shadow and free the tormented feelings from their emotional trap. Through inner work on the spiritual path, with a profoundly sincere intention, we can succeed. Interpreting our dreams is a treasured revelation of symbolism, guidance, meaning and healing. There are riches here if we have the courage to explore this dangerous territory. When we light up the darkness we can see the hidden saboteur, ferret it out and instead of initiating self-destructive behavior, we are empowered to choose to love ourselves.
Each and every one of us is capable of any vile thought or act. When we realize this truth we are able to forgive ourselves, forgive each other and by choosing love create positive change. By choosing to love ourselves enough to see the painful flaws in our character, even depression —t he ultimate shadowland — can be healed. This is the meaning of unconditional love: to view without judgment all our feelings so we can overcome through love the darker aspects of ourselves.
We must all evolve, for life is a force that sweeps us along in its mighty currents and washes us onto new shores of delightful growth in relationships, if we let it. Sometimes a flow of tears can unleash a powerful insight that causes a great light to shine for us and show us the way. To create positive change we must have the courage to shine light into the darkness and witness the sometimes twisted aspects of ourselves that need healing and love to straighten up and provide strength instead of shame and self-hatred. This buried part of us, rich in depth, waits imploring to be seen, loved and integrated to live. Like the moonflower that unfurls its pale pearly radiance in the dark of night with only the stars to witness its magnificent unveiling, so we too can open up and find beauty in the painful dark heart of our shadow selves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nationally syndicated columnist Angela Passidomo Trafford is a spiritual teacher and author of The Heroic Path and Remembering the Language of God. You may contact her with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 239-434-0757.