The Shadow Side of Creativity

Making friends with my shadow. ©Cristina Acosta
Making friends with my shadow. ©Cristina Acosta

Watch toddlers on internet videos when they first understand that their shadows are connected to their bodies and you’ll see reactions from calm acceptance and curiosity to crying and fear. Some of the babies cry as they try to outrun their shadows, only stopping when they are in the shade and their shadows disappear from view. Occasionally, a baby will coo happily at their shadow, possibly meeting an invisible friend for the first time.

I feel like I’ve been every one of those toddlers at some point in my life. The shadow side of my self, defined by Carl Jung as the dark side of each person’s psyche has been the part of myself I’ve come to know and appreciate over the years despite many years denying it, running from it or trying to chase it down. Not only might this sound confusing, it felt confusing.

Duality is confusing for me. The yin and the yang; the light and dark; the tendency to hear my inner voice as two sides of one self – one the “good,” the other the shadowed “bad” side of my psyche. Keeping both sides of the psyche in balance to access the deeper knowledge within requires paying attention to and striving to understand both the light and dark sides of ourselves. Denial only causes projection and a lack of compassion both towards myself and by extension, others.

One of the things I’ve learned about looking into the dark side of myself is that the darkness within me grew with injuries. It didn’t begin with those injuries, I feel the dark side is always present, but it certainly can grow with pain. Those pains became the darkness and grew more darkness. It’s a paradox I don’t understand, but I’ve learned to live with it. And I’ve learned that by shining the light of my attention into the darkness within, I can reverse the growth of my dark side, opening more room for light and life, creativity flourishes. Clarity and peace can move into the freed space and I feel lighter and more creative.

The shadow within shrinks to a manageable size and has become my invisible friend once again. These many years later, deep into adulthood, I am learning again to skip and play with my shadow as I move between the light and the absence of that light.