text and photo © Jonathan Zap
I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
and carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said, “Comrade! Brother!”
— Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. Everything has a shadow side. If you don’t see the shadow of a person, you don’t see the person and are blinded by idealization. If you don’t see your own shadow, you are in denial, and will project your shadow onto others.
When I took this detail shot of the person in the photo I had not seen much of their shadow. Since they are a Gemini I knew that there was probably a hidden twin that I hadn’t met. When the darker twin came forward it was painfully apparent. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t see a person’s shadow, you have not seen the whole person and should not relate to them as if you had. Many people begin romantic relationships from a place of idealization and are sometimes even foolish enough to make long term commitments based on that woefully incomplete comprehension of the other person. Similarly, if you are not aware of your own dark side you are in a state of perilous ignorance.
We all have a side of ourselves we consider dark. Our shadow may include appetites, lust for power, manipulative agendas, chaotic emotions and sub-personalities, addictions, and so forth. The more we deny the shadow, the more it weighs us down. But if we embrace its reality, learn how it works; and then integrate it into our awareness so that it cannot rule us, we become enlightened, we become wiser and more empathic for having a shadow and discover that there may even be hidden treasures in the dark continents of the unconscious.
If we are at war with our shadow then it dominates us and we project it onto individuals and groups and act out our inferior side. If we are unable to accept our shadow, we become hungry ghosts, forever seeking outside recognitions to compensate for the doubts that forever gnaw at us. When we recognize and accept our imperfections they strengthen us, and we become more nourishing and attractive to others. All people have a shadow, but only the strongest are able to integrate their shadows with acceptance and love. Summoning the intense moral courage to accept your shadow is an ongoing process that creates healing for yourself, those close to you, and the entire world.
When it comes to relating to the other, recognize that they are a stranger until you have become aware of their shadow and have integrated their dark side into your understanding of them.