Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Shadow integration refers to coming into a state of wholeness and authenticity by owning one’s negative or darker parts with insightful awareness. Shadow integration is rooted in Jungian psychoanalysis. Jung (1963) stated that the shadow is the repressed or denied part of oneself that can be accepted and assimilated into the conscious personality. The shadow usually manifests as negative primitive tendencies, such as greed, lust, envy, and selfishness. The dangers of continuing to live without shadow integration are many: scapegoating, projection, suppression, and rage (Toub, Zweig, & Abrams, 1991). The ego can be jeopardized by the shadow parts of the self through various complexes and mental afflictions if not integrated into the self (Toub et al., 1991).
From a place of integration and assimilation, one has the ability and expanded awareness to release any unhealthy or harmful behavioral patterns through self-forgiveness and clear understanding. Moving forward the person learns how to live with greater authenticity, loving-kindness, wholeness, insight, and peace. It is through confronting the darker aspects of oneself that one can begin to move forward into self-understanding and self-acceptance. The Shamans refer to this process as an initiation and undertaking to venture into the underworld for a return to inner wholeness. It takes courage to confront the self and integrate these shadow aspects of the self. Often it takes a guide or trusted counsel to help one venture into this territory.
The healing that takes place is transformational often resembling a renewed sense of self and rebirth. Confronting one’s own inner demons and fears will eventually allow them to dissolve so one can reclaim victory and inner strength. Through shadow integration one has a more grounded view of reality and the situation at hand. One can respond to situations with greater wisdom.
Shadow integration is the process of personal transformation towards an evolved consciousness that has broken free of societal programming and conditioning. By breaking free of societal and beliefs and conditioning, one steps into maturation and individuation. By taking one’s own moral inventory and through shadow exploration and self-inquiry, one begins to emerge more mature, grounded, and more comfortable in one’s own skin. One makes peace with the self and is better equipped to confront challenges and obstacles as they arise. One is no longer held back by the grips of the shadow and dysfunctional ego. One’s ego development has taken what Joseph Campbell (2003) refers to as the hero’s journey.
Campbell, J. (2003). The hero's journey: Joseph Campbell on his life and work (Vol. 7). New World Library.
Jung, C. G. (1963). Memories, dreams, reflections (A. Jaffé, Ed.; R. & C. Winston, Trans.). New York: Pantheon.
Toub, G., Zweig, C., & Abrams, J. (1991). Meeting the shadow: The hidden power of the dark side of human nature.