Meet Your Shadow

The Alchemy of Transformation

Keri Mangis

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Photo by I.am_nah on Unsplash

What is the Shadow?

The Shadow is an archetype that lives within all of us. It is the home for all the parts of ourselves we don’t want to look at or accept: our shortcomings, prejudices, or perceived negative qualities. The more we reject our shadow, generally, the larger it grows. The more we deny its existence, the more insistent it becomes on getting our attention, and suddenly, we find we cannot keep ourselves from saying things we don’t want to, or falling into unhealthy habits.

Most of us expend a lot of energy trying to avoid, hide, or diminish our shadow sides. We know it’s there, but we’re ashamed of it, and we don’t want to talk about it, let alone engage with it. This is partly due to upbringings that don’t allow discussion around such topics, as well as our culture at large, which tells us either that a) human beings are uniquely special and good, or b) they are innately sinful, and must work hard to rid themselves of any negative impulses, thoughts, or behaviors.

But, once inside the crucible of transformation, you come face to face with your shadow. There is no hiding. For however many years, you were believing your own lies, fooling yourself with your bravado or external confidence. And then, suddenly, it all crumbles. All the pretenses fall away, and no amount of hiding will work.

Sometimes, an external event causes the crumbling — the loss of a job, a relationship, our health, an identity. Other times, it’s an internal crisis or transition that causes the breakdown of all the beliefs and ideas you held about yourself. But no matter the reason why the first cracks in our façade begin to show, once you’ve arrived at the crucible, you have two choices:

  • Continue to try to repair the cracks in your identity and beliefs, hide the damage, and pretend that everything is fine. You might be able to get away with this tactic once or twice. But you will be here again, at the mouth of the crucible and a decision point. Every time you arrive at the crucible of transformation and choose to walk away instead, the next time, the stakes will be higher, and the work will be harder.
  • Let yourself break down, melt down, and go down. If it is transformation you seek, then there is no…

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Keri Mangis

Keri Mangis is an award-winning author, teacher, and speaker.