You and Your Shadow Side

-->The brilliant Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung advised his patients to become acquainted with what he called the “Shadow Side” of themselves, or the “Inferior part of the personality”. Indeed, there is a hidden portion of our minds that is compromised of memories from the past which terrify us and of which we ashamed, plus the mean, selfish and base nature which erupts occasionally and which we try to excuse and explain away in a thousand different ways.

We will be very reluctant to reveal this side of ourselves to another so long as it scares us. The natural assumption is that if we let others see this dark side they too will hate us. But generally, they are able to be more lenient with us than we are with ourselves. And a curious kind of chemistry begins to work. Because we have told another our deepest secrets, we begin to understand ourselves better.

I think I can even go as far as to say that you can never genuinely know yourself except as an outcome of disclosing yourself to another. When you reveal yourself to another person, you learn how to increase contact with your real self, and you may then be able to direct your destiny on the basis of this knowledge. The Delphic oracle advised, “know thyself”, but we could expand that counsel: “Make thyself known, and thou shalt then know thyself”. 

This fact is the source of some of the deep satisfaction and energy that come from the best friendships. If our beloved accept us with our shadowy parts, that act of confidence empowers us to accept ourselves more fully.

The Christian practice of confession has always been recognized for its therapeutic effect. The Bible advises: “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). It is not by accident that the biblical author says that if we acknowledge our dark side we will become whole. In ways we do not fully understand, self disclosure helps us to see things, feel things, imagine things, hope for things that we could never have thought possible. The invitation to transparency then is really an invitation to authenticity.

The Friendship Factor Dr. Alan Loy Mcginnis


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