What is “My Shadow Self”

Q. I am quite new to practicing Centering Prayer and entering into the contemplative life, and I am craving it more and more. I am an avid reader and have been enjoying Father Keating’s books and meditations. I come from a non-denominational background, so everything is new to me. Could you please explain what “my shadow self” is? I have heard this term several times. Or is there a different place I could get the information?

A: I believe this statement by Fr. Thomas Keating can help explain what is meant concerning ‘the shadow side’ on the spiritual journey. 

I understand the psychological unconscious to contain all the events of one’s life, especially repressed emotional experiences that were never dealt with or resolved. These hidden and negative emotional energies constitute what Jung called the shadow side of our personality. The ontological unconscious contains all the human potential for growth communicated by the grace of Baptism that remains untapped. This includes the awareness of our spiritual nature with its faculties of intellect and will, the Divine Indwelling and the supernatural organism, as well as the creative energies which sustains our life at all levels. The true self might be described as the presence of God within us manifesting in our uniqueness. As the spiritual life unfolds we make contact with various levels of consciousness, each one more integrated than the previous one. All of this human potential remains unconscious until we deliberately begin the spiritual journey. In some cases, God’s presence may impose itself on us whether we like it or not, but we cannot count on this happening and hence need to take steps such as the practice of regular periods of interior silence, to prepare ourselves for the gift of contemplative prayer.

The best way I know of testing the theory of the Divine Therapy is by observing and reflecting on one’s own experience. This reflection would probably be superficial unless one is sincerely committed to spiritual growth.

C.O. News Newsletter, December 2006

You may also like to see more of what Jung has to say about the ‘shadow’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology).

Blessings, Fr. Carl