I’ve been writing for a while about the necessity, for each of us, of turning towards our shadow – all those parts of ourselves we started to push away and deny from the first moment we encountered disapproval from others.
We each acquired a shadow for good reason. It’s part of the necessary development from the wild everythingness of a new-born towards social acceptability – surviving as part of a clan or tribe, a family or society. We acquire a shadow in the name of appropriateness, approval and acceptability.
Beyond a certain point, though, the shadow is troublesome because it blinds us to ourselves. Whole aspects of ourselves become invisible to us, and we deny they are part of us. Often we’ll see them in others who become the target of our scorn, derision and judgment. “I could never be that way”, we say when, more truthfully, we are precisely that way but cannot see it.
If we are going to create lives in which we can respond fully, compassionately and creatively – families, organisations, societies too – it seems to me that we have a responsibility to turn towards our own shadows and learn about them, so we can fully understand and draw from what’s there.
And, as I’ve been reminded today by the wonderful Hollie Holden, one of the very best books on this subject is, in fact, a beautiful novel from 1973, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin. How this book became labelled only as ‘children’s literature’ mystifies me – it’s deep, generous, rich in narrative and characterisation, and spot on about what it takes to meet our own shadow and grow up through the experience. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.