The Shadow Self and South African Flower Essences

Understanding the Shadow side of ourselves is one of the major challenges to humanity today, particularly as it holds the key to transforming ourselves and, thereby, our world. In the following pages I will attempt to present material which will be of assistance in coming to an understanding of the Shadow. Please bear in mind that the subject of the Shadow is too vast to begin to do it real justice in an article of this nature. Although I am also writing about how to use The South African Flower Essences in the context of working with the Shadow, I will discuss the Shadow first, in some detail, before looking at the relevant flower essences.

Many of us have heard the term ‘Shadow’ without really understanding what it means. Perhaps we have some vague idea that it may be a rather undesirable part of ourselves and feel that it is best ignored. Maybe we imagine it to be dark, or evil and, consequently, tend to be rather afraid of it and avoid the whole issue. Thus, the subject of the Shadow often remains a mystery, swathed in misunderstandings.

So, let’s look, then, at what the Shadow is and why it is relevant to our daily lives.

It was Carl Jung who first popularised the concept of the Shadow in his work with the unconscious aspects of the self. In the Healing Power of Illness (Element Books Ltd.) Dethlefsen and Dahlke define it as “The sum of all those rejected aspects of reality which people either cannot, or will not, see within themselves and of which they are therefore unconscious.” The Shadow is actually a component of the Self, more than just the sum of its parts, and since it is always with us and holds so much of our life energy, anyone serious about increasing self-awareness or about growing spiritually, must, of necessity, tangle with this Shadow Self for the reasons we shall examine below.

A way that I, personally, find to be helpful in understanding the Shadow is as follows. When we are born, we accept our world as it is. We do not judge ourselves, the situations in which we find ourselves, or our interactions, as either right or wrong. At this stage, our sense of self could be pictured as spherical, rather like a huge beach ball, representing the totality of all that is. We do not differentiate into good or bad. We do not feel that we should not be this, or that we should be that. We just are.

Within a short time we begin to learn, in very practical ways, that this is a reality of duality. We learn that there are expectations of us already firmly in place, that certain behaviour attracts positive responses and other behaviour attracts negative responses. We learn that we are required to live up to those expectations in order to be loved, to fit into the roles in which we have been cast, with the family dynamic, with the society into which we have incarnated. As we need love in order to survive, we learn to adapt ourselves. Thus, the process of splitting off parts of ourselves commences and we begin to divide that sphere into what we accept as part of ourselves and what we reject.

The fact is, however, that we actually encompass both polarities, the good and the bad, the light and the dark. As Kahil Gibran put it:-

“The whole universe exists within you

And everything that is within you also exists within creation.

In a single drop of water is to be found the secret of the boundless ocean.

A single manifestation of yourself contains all life’s manifestations.”

Ultimately, we have to come to an inner understanding of this. We have to deal with each aspect, even that which we have discarded, as it holds part of our energy which we need to transmute and transform. And the Shadow is here to help us.

In life we learn to identify ourselves in certain ways. For example when we say “I am a woman, I am a mother, I am a teacher, I am kind, I am tolerant, I am capable” or, on the other hand, “I am unkind, I am intolerant, I am bad and I am incapable ” these beliefs form part of who we see ourselves being. However, all of these ways in which we identify ourselves are choices we make and each one implies, automatically, that we are rejecting from our consciousness the polarity of what we define ourselves to be. So it is that we will deny our hostility, our rage, our deceptions or our envy. Since we are, as Gibran points out, the totality of all that is, what happens, then, to all that we exclude? The nature of reality is such that banishing aspects of ourselves from our consciousness does not cause them to disappear anymore than the ostrich, hiding his head in the sand, becomes invisible because he can no longer see his foe! It truly is a major deception we foist upon ourselves.

My favourite description of the Shadow is given by Lazaris in Working with the Shadow (NPN Publishing Inc). For an in-depth understanding of this subject, and, in fact, of the spiritual paradigm in general, you cannot, in my opinion, do better than the Larazis Material?. He says that, particularly in our youth and young adulthood, “it is as though our arms are filled with bundles and packages, far too much for us to carry” and so we drop things. The Shadow comes along behind us and picks it all up, the garbage, as well as the treasures, and keeps them until we are ready to deal with them. He says that the Shadow is not, as many think, our enemy but our loyal friend. It “is there to hold sacred and protect all the stuff that we are unable to deal with and unable to accept.” So the Shadow is a part of us, a being, “who holds for us all the stuff we deny, discount, disown and pretend does not exist.”

Along with this, it also holds all that we refuse to be responsible for and also that which is too painful for us to handle at the time, all that we hide from ourselves. Thus, the Shadow serves as a faithful friend, picking up and holding for us what we discard and disown. Its function is to keep these parts of us until such time as we are ready to take them back and recognise them as integral to who we are.

As pointed out above, it is not only the so-called ‘negative’ aspects of the self that we disown. The Shadow also picks up the treasures we let fall. Now, why would we disown positive aspects of ourselves, you may ask? A starting point in understanding this is to remember that, as children, our primary need is to be loved in order to survive. In order to obtain this love, we will adapt to whatever is required of us, whatever it takes to fit into the required role, even if this entails giving up abilities we innately have or taking on a negative role in the family dynamic. Perhaps a sibling is the favourite, perhaps as a boy or girl we are taught that we have to be a certain way, perhaps the family needs someone to blame, someone to take on the role of black sheep. Perhaps our conditioning is that we are bad, lazy or incompetent. Perhaps, it is not acceptable to be powerful, strong, loving, intelligent, compassionate, empathetic or sensitive. In these cases, what happens is that we may well disown the light or ‘good’ aspect of ourselves and, this, our Shadow Self will pick up for safekeeping.

Another helpful tool in understanding the Shadow and in obtaining insights into its way of working in our lives is the astrological chart. To those unfamiliar with a chart, it may appear at first glance to be a mass of indecipherable and incomprehensible glyphs. With study, it can come to be a fascinating source of insight into our own very individual psyches.

In looking at any chart, one usually begins with the three most important factors –

the position and sign of the sun at the time of birth (commonly known as sun sign and the basis of the astrological reports you will find in the press); the position and sign of the moon and, thirdly, the sign on the horizon at the time of birth which is called the Ascendant.

The Ascendant indicates how you see yourself, how you present yourself to the world, what your sense of self is. Since determining where the Ascendant is on the wheel requires accurate information as to the exact time and place of birth, the average person is often unaware of what their Ascendant is. Unfortunately, this is such an important source of information that the lack thereof results in incomplete interpretation of the chart.

Well, what does all this have to do with the Shadow? On the wheel of an astrological chart, the Ascendant marks what is called the cusp of the first house. As the wheel turns, the Ascendant moves from the horizon up into the light of awareness of self. In a diagonal line, directly across the chart, the area moving down, away from the light and into the dark, is the cusp of the seventh house which marks the Descendant. It is also the indicator of the Shadow Self. Situated as it is, in opposition to the area of which we have the most awareness, this is the part of ourselves of which we have the least consciousness, the part of ourselves we disown and consequently, tend to project outwards onto others, situations or our realities in general.

Fittingly, this Descendant marks the section of the chart that deals with our relationships with ‘the significant other’ in our lives, the person upon whom we are most likely to project the disowned aspects of ourselves. Initially, we are likely to fall in love with our Shadow’s characteristics. The person who openly displays what we deny in ourselves has enormous attraction for us – in them we see ourselves completed. Later on in the relationship these are the very characteristics that infuriate us.

Understanding of this projection process is of crucial importance in learning how we can work with our Shadow and, thereby, reap the harvest of benefits that result from integrating it. In this process, we have set up a wonderful feedback mechanism in order to allow ourselves to attain self-knowledge which can lead us back to wholeness. Since everything we do not wish to be, or of which we do not approve, is held by the Shadow, this is what will be mirrored to us by our outside world. In this illusion we have set up for ourselves, what we disown is presented to us in order that we may recognise it as part of ourselves. In Lararis’ words, “when we are finally ready, the Shadow returns to us, meticulously, what it has held for us – to be processed and to be used”.

To work with our Shadow we need to look at the characteristics of the people in our lives whose behaviour pushes our buttons, at people we dislike or hate, at what irritates or angers us the most. It is very possible that we may pride ourselves on having the opposite of these particular qualities for, ironically, the more intensely we polarise ourselves in any characteristic, the more we will attract its opposite to us in our lives. Also we need to look at what we really admire in others. This is information that teaches us so much about ourselves.

The standard response we often have, when asked to look to see where we can identify ourselves in people, or in situations, which upset us or get to us in some way is “But I don’t do that!” And the answer is ” No, you probably don’t but maybe you would really like to”. Perhaps what stops us is the judgement we have on such behaviour that prevents us allowing ourselves to act in such a way. It follows that we are really infuriated when someone else has the audacity to do so.” Similarly, when we admire someone passionately and long to be like them, identify the quality in them that triggers this response and work on reclaiming it from your Shadow.

We should also look at the feedback we get in life – what do people tell us that we don’t like to hear, what are we ashamed of, what do we hide (even from ourselves), what patterns do we repeat in our lives? These are important ways in which our Shadow communicates with us. With practice and perseverance, we can find, in these areas, the hidden keys to understanding the disowned aspects of ourselves which the Shadow holds in waiting for us.

So the secret is to sit by yourself, calling on your Higher Self and unseen counsellors to help you and to give yourself time to work with whatever it is that evokes this response in you or that you have identified. With real self-honesty and integrity, examine the depths of your psyche. Admit the truth to yourself. I am not suggesting you need to admit the truth to anyone else nor that you go into the adolescent part of yourself and start beating yourself up about it. Castigating yourself or going off on a blaming trip of “Oh, I am such a despicable, horrible person, no one could possibly love me!” is going to achieve nothing at all. What is needed is the recognition of this aspect in yourself; the lifting of the judgement you have (for you judge what you disown); forgiveness of yourself – for having hidden the truth from yourself for so long – and for the pain you have caused yourself, and others, in the process and a desire to be different from now on.? Then, put into practice what you have learned about yourself and actually be different.

We have a choice as to how we process the stuff in our lives, not whether we process it. We can grow through struggle and pain or through joy and adventure.? Illness and crisis occur when we refuse to hear the whispers urging to us change voluntarily. The Shadow can be a very valuable teacher, if we choose to work with it.

So how can flower essences help us with this? The South African Flower Essences produce a wide range of essences that includes several individual ones aimed, specifically, at working with the Shadow Self. Additionally, many of the other essences have very pertinent uses in dealing with the issues that arise in the context of Shadow work.

Chinkerinchee Essence is the essence that brings in a resonance of integrity, so important if we are to face truthfully that which we have hidden for so long. It assists us in developing the ability to be honest with ourselves and to act with purity of motive. Coming face to face with that which we fear in ourselves takes strength of character and courage but, through doing so, we are able to transform our reality. Borage Essence can provide a valuable boost when this courage is needed. Strelitzia Essence helps us focus and persevere, giving us clarity of purpose and the ability to hold the vision of what we want to become and create for ourselves. Disa Essence is recommended for when it all feels too much and we hit despair and hopelessness. These are major issues we are facing and we should not underestimate the power of the emotions that may be unleashed.

Cancer Bush Essence works remarkably to assist us in confronting and transforming the ugly, or dark, aspects of our own nature. Meet and integrate these demons and there is little to fear in the outside world. Among the baggage the Shadow picks up and carries for us are our hostility, our anger, pride, greed and lack of morality. These are not very pretty and facing them can cause considerable apprehension and inner torment. What we fear tends to come at us in life. The Shadow draws people, circumstances and experiences to us so that we can become whole. When we find ourselves battling in the inner world, confronting fears that are generated by the disowned parts of ourselves, Cancer Bush Essence is the one to use. It helps us transform the dark and ugly aspects of our nature. If this generates fear Coral Tree Essence is amazing for alleviating generalised feelings of fear and Cape Almond Essence is a wonderful essence for grounding, centring and providing a sense of safety and security while you process these aspects of your nature.

When we polarise ourselves in the upright, moral side of ourselves, disowning our ability to be violent or hostile, judging this behaviour in others, there is the potential to meet this violent side of ourselves out in our world. Reality manifests from the inside out. The dark, Dr Jekyll, aspect of self may be represented to us by our realities, not to punish us, but to teach us to recognise these energies within ourselves and in order that we take back the power we have given away to outside forces in our lives. On a spiritual level we already know this.

Another important essence for dealing with these violent or abusive aspects, which we have projected outward, is Wild Ginger Essence . It facilitates the owning and accepting of these aspects, drawing them out of shadow consciousness and allowing them to be transmuted. We all know, perhaps first hand, of people who find themselves, repeatedly, in abusive relationships, replaying the old patterns set, most probably in childhood. The way to deal with this is to own this pattern so that reality no longer has to keep presenting it.

Geranium Incanum Essence can also be of particular value in such destructive or vengeful relationships, where we find ourselves attracting violent, threatening situations in our lives. Consciously integrating the Shadow aspect of the self in these circumstances will free the very powerful, magnetic energy which holds us locked into such relationships. It may well be that Crisis Remedy and Auric Protection Essence could be used most beneficially here, as well.

There is the probability, in these circumstances, that you will feel victimised, failing to remember that reality is a product of the inner world. Use Yucca Essence as it works to help transform feelings of victimhood through taking personal responsibility for what happens to us.

Grevillea Essence is another essence that works to assist in the incorporation of the Shadow Self. Because judging that which we disown in ourselves, when we see it is others, is so characteristic, we may similarly feel judged and vulnerable to criticism. Understanding that we create what happens to us, that it is our judgements which are being reflected back to us, frees us to take back our power from those onto whom we have projected it and thereby change our outer realities. Pompom Tree Essence can also be used for fear of rejection, feelings of shame and vulnerability to the opinions of others and Plumbago Essence deals specifically with the feelings of shame and low self esteem which can increase our vulnerability.

As mentioned in passing above, another major function of the Shadow is that of holding emotions, for us, which are too intense to deal with when we first experience them. When a loved one dies violently, when we are sexually abused, when a relationship ends, when the loss, pain, grief, abandonment or betrayal are too great or when we just cannot face the anger or shame, our Shadow will pick up these feelings and keep them until we can face them. There are many of the South African Flower Essences that are applicable in such circumstances. I will mention only a few to give you an idea of how to use them.

English Hawthorne Essence is for intense grief, when our hearts are broken, when the hurt and anguish are unbearable. We really cannot afford to leave pain of this type in our bodies, unprocessed, as it can easily lead to illness. We have to have the courage to tangle with it and this is a valuable essence to help us. Dog Rose Essence works, similarly, with unexpressed grief facilitating expression and integration of the pain. Peach Essence assists us with the effects of past trauma, or grief, which continue to effect the present. The beautiful blue Water Lily, indigenous to the Cape of Good Hope, has been used for the Water Lily Essence which benefits us when we have numbed ourselves against the pain and simply deny what we feel. Pelargonium Essence is indicated when the emotional baggage we carry results in a sense of alienation and isolation. It also facilitates the integration of the unconscious into the conscious.

In our world we are taught that anger is an unacceptable emotion -“Nice people don’t get angry!” Since we will all feel anger, regardless of whether society says we may or not, we often have to suppress it to keep it from view. Once again, the Shadow will keep this anger for us until we are ready to own it. Suppressed or depressed anger rapidly turns to poison in our lives and the sooner we deal with it, the better for us.

We can turn anger back upon ourselves to cause self-hatred and self-condemnation. It can result in depression and despair. This is when Daffodil Essence is needed. Another way that anger seeps out in our lives is when we use it passive aggressively to punish those around us, and we can be remarkably inventive in finding ways to do this. White Geranium Essence , for unreliability and irresponsibility, and Vygie Essence , for control and manipulation, are two to remember here.

Since women, in particular, are conditioned not to feel anger it is an important issue for them to bring to the surface. There are several essences which focus on this emotion in the context of female issues. The first of these, Touch-Me-Not Essence deals with anger which is in response to limitations and judgments imposed on women by chauvinism and patriarchy. Another is Gazania Essence for the woman who has to subjugate herself to the needs of others and who is sexually repressed. Lemon Essence is particularly helpful as an aid to processing anger in women which is disallowed by virtue of society’s judgements.

The negative ego and the Shadow are very different. Whereas the former really is the enemy, seeking to destroy us at every opportunity, the Shadow, as we have discussed, is our friend. One of the negative ego’s favourite games is that of superiority, feeling better (or in some cases – worse) than everybody else. However, when we encounter pride, elitism and prejudice in our world, we may do well to look to see what messages our Shadow has for us. If prejudice and unfair discrimination make our blood boil, if we hate people who hold themselves up as being elite, above others, and if we are convinced that we would never, ever, be so arrogant, perhaps we should take Roella Essence . However much we are convinced that this is, in no way, a characteristic of ours, the intensity of our emotional response is telling us something about ourselves. Roella Essence facilitates humility and allows us perspective on ourselves.

Another way we need to seek wholeness is by incorporating our masculine and feminine sides in balance and harmony with each other. With the identification of ourselves as men or women, comes the disowning of important parts of our nature. Men will tend to disown their feminine sides and women their masculine sides, leaving it to their partners to mirror these aspects to them. Of course, we are all both and focusing on either polarity will attract situations which challenge us to change. Take a look at your interaction with the men and women in your life to gain insight into the relationship between your inner male and female. If you don’t like what you see, change the inner world. The South African Inner Male Essence and Inner Female Essence Combination Essences are a valuable adjunct to growth when working with these aspects of self.

The South African Lotus Essence works on a very powerful, spiritual level to align the chakras and open the crown chakra to contact with our Higher Self, Soul and Spirit. Because so much of the resistance to growth and to attaining enlightenment is tied up in the Shadow, this essence is of great assistance in helping us integrate and incorporate our Shadow Selves. Coming into contact with the resonance of our Higher Selves breaks down the resistance to growth, allowing us to release the pain and anger of the past and transmute the energy to a higher level.

This, ultimately, is the gift of the Shadow Self – to use the discarded aspects of self it has lovingly kept for us throughout our lifetime and become whole.