To proceed toward wholeness and manifest the promise only you can bring to the world, you must investigate your shadow. It contains values and perspectives needed to round out your conscious personality. It contains personal powers you’ll need when you befriend or wrestle with the inner and outer dragons and angels encountered on your soul journey.
In the encounter with shadow, your conscious personality will sometimes be overwhelmed or shattered. Your ego might experience a death, but it will thereby be enabled to later rise from the ashes like a phoenix endowed with new powers….
Before being reclaimed, the negative elements of the shadow appear to the ego as disagreeable and frightening. They show up as scary dreamworld characters and as dayworld people onto whom we project our own negative qualities, such as greediness, cowardice, rage, weakness, arrogance, or cruelty. We project our negative shadow onto nature, too: hairy beasts, dark forests, swamps, tornadoes, bats, snakes, and volcanoes. Yet the negative shadow possesses beneficial attributes we need in order to mature. Without these qualities, our personalities remain unbalanced, fragmented, or otherwise incomplete….
The positive qualities of our shadow – qualities we would consider virtuous, elevated, or otherwise exemplary – are also projected onto others. These are the exemplary traits we see in others but can hardly imagine for ourselves.
Often we discover our shadow holds something sacred: our deepest passion. This may be a longing to dance, to create magic, to sing in public, or to love with abandon. Donna Medeiros, a teacher at an alternative high school, says that when we are young, we name our passion something else – so we can suppress it. We name it foolish, selfish, odd, crazy, or evil. This misnaming protects us from social injury, from being rejected or marginalized by our family or peers. Donna knows this not only from her own story but also from her daily classroom experience with teenagers whom she guides through the process of self-reclamation. When awareness of their passion begins to return, they don’t recognize it at first because it had been mislabeled.
– Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft