“Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light, but making the darkness conscious.” - Carl Jung
As you can imagine, unlocking your true, authentic self can be a lifetime of discovery, but overall, this means being more of who you truly are, bringing more of your own unique light into the world, more of your essence, more of your powerful gifts, more of your highest inspirations, your calling, your missions… whatever they may be.
In other words, doing your mission is part of your purpose, but only part. The other part is simply being your essence or most authentic self, which is usually a life-long journey of self-discovery, shedding layers, and conscious elevation.
Another thing to remember in this context is that your current mission can change and elevate as YOU elevate. In my experience, elevating and aligning your life with your callings and mission leads to greater fulfillment. (We’ll explore more of the topic of fulfillment as we advance throughout the year).
The above, however, begs a question. What’s in the way? Or may I say, what are we allowing to be in the way...? What are the obstacles for shining our light and countless gifts into the world?
After more than a decade of pursuing fulfillment and working one-on-one with individuals and carefully observing patterns, the answer eventually became clear: what blocks our light from fully shining into the world is our Ego and the unconscious shadows that dwell in it.
Our first step, therefore, is to bring more awareness to our Ego and the shadows it casts. This doesn’t mean denying our Ego. Remember that all parts of you—including your ego, your personality, and your shadows—are here to serve and protect you. Instead, the key is to lovingly accept and integrate your ego and its shadows so you can become whole.
What exactly is “our shadow”?
Our shadow is everything we've ever rejected, reacted to, left unexpressed, forgotten about, or hidden from ourselves and others—such as our shame, our fears, our dark secrets, our insecurities, our past traumas, and our wounds.
Put simply, our shadow is everything about ourselves we refuse to look at and accept.
We deny those aspects of ourselves primarily to feel good about ourselves, and perhaps even more importantly, to be loved and accepted in society. However, all of these rejected parts of ourselves still remain with us. They are and will always be there. Regardless of how much we try to deny them, every so often they continue to bubble up and reveal the full extent of their presence. This won’t stop until we learn to lovingly accept and integrate them.
In many ways, our shadow is simply seeking our attention...
“The gold is in the dark.” - Carl Jung
Paradoxically, our shadow is our best ally on the path to living our purpose and shining our light. Our shadow shows us where we need to focus our attention. It shows us where we suppress, project, deny, lie, distort, run away, or all the other ego-defense mechanisms. It shows us where we leak vital energy...
Whether we like it or not, we must own the darkness before we can truly step into the light. Generally speaking, this happens in stages throughout our elevation journey, for our body cannot withstand the strain of many integrations all at once.
When the shadow reveals itself in full force, there’s no point to resist or go against it. On the contrary, it must be embraced and integrated. We must feel all the feelings that come with it. Otherwise, our shadow will continue to attract people and situations that match those unexpressed feelings. As mentioned, the shadow is always there in our psyche; we just suppress it.
Another important thing to consider in this discussion is the role of our ego, as both the ego and the shadow are tied together and support each other.
What exactly is our Ego?
The ego is merely a construct designed to keep our physical form safe. It protects itself from perceived threats and fears, mostly without us even being aware of it.
In many ways, our ego can be seen as a filter that separates (and also distorts) the way we perceive reality in order to stay alive, sometimes literally.
In fact, you could say that at its core, the ego is simply a survival mechanism. It’s arguably not something we can survive without in this 3D physical reality. It is as much a part of life as eating or sleeping.
While the ego does protect us from some physical harm—such as touching fire or stepping in front of a moving car—it also learns to associate other experiences and situations as threatening to us. When that happens, it launches some kind of attack—passive or aggressive—almost automatically, .
No less important for our discussion, the ego likes to resist change and prefers the comfortable known (even if it’s not what we truly want) to the unknown (even if it’s what we truly want). The ego simply wants us to stay right where we are, as it’s much safer.
So what are we to do? It’s not like we can just cut the ego out of our lives. As mentioned, the ego is there for a reason. Therefore, the way I see it, instead of trying to kill off the ego, like many religions tell us to do, it’d be wiser to get to know it better—its mechanism, its triggers, its needs...
You see, the ego is like a child expressing its fears. And what do children need the most? To be reassured... to feel safe... to be accepted.. to be loved… Otherwise, they throw tantrums, they resist, they attack and defend.
All children are looking for trusted guidance, for growth that honors their stage of development and their individuality. All children are simply looking for loving parents, accepting parents, patient parents...
Developing a Healthy Ego
Following along with the above logic, and contrary to popular belief in many spiritual communities, “Ego” is not a dirty word. The actual meaning of ego is “a person's sense of self-esteem” (Oxford Dictionary), and it can be quite a healthy thing, depending on how you choose to express it.
Couple the ego with arrogance and too much self-importance, and your ego will take over the throne and become the centre of gravity in your life. Remember, the ego is driven by your fears… There's no freedom in fear—no fulfillment.
If you let your ego lead the way, it will start tricking you at every corner… It will trick you into believing that you are superior to others, it will trick you into believing you have “arrived spiritually,” it will trick you into not listening to your heart’s callings, not taking worthy risks, not being connected to a bigger picture… Never underestimate your ego’s power to keep you blind.
The only way to free yourself from an ego take-over is simply to become conscious of it… become aware of your limiting self-talk, of your judgments towards yourself and others, of your over-attachment to your goals and desires, of feeling separated, of resistance to change, of any enslaving obsession with self-image, status, and dominance.
Instead of letting our ego take control for its own sake, we want to develop what I call, “a healthy ego.” So what is a healthy ego? A healthy ego is a servant, not a master.
A healthy ego goes after what it wants, but it is not attached and remains open to guidance and new information. A healthy ego can express its wants and needs while at the same time respect the other’s perspective. A healthy ego is not self-obsessed, heartless, and uncaring, but it is able to practice enough self-respect, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
The key word here is “enough”.... Having self-esteem, but not arrogance… Being prideful, but also humble. Being confident, but not overconfident. You get the point...
Unveiling Our Shadow Parts
In order to step fully into our light, we need to face anything we refuse to accept about ourselves. One of the most fundamental steps to take in the journey from the unconscious to the conscious is to become aware of your reactions.
As mentioned above, the ego and the shadow support each other. For example, when we blame or negatively judge someone else, our ego doesn't see—or doesn't want us to see—how it is projecting itself onto the other. The ego immediately labels it as “not us,” making it into our shadow.
As you already know, relationships are merely mirrors in which we see sides of ourselves reflected. For example, whenever we morally judge someone, it’s an indicator of an aspect of ourselves that calls to be accepted and integrated within us. In other words, it mirrors back to us our own shadows. Or, on the other hand, when we fully accept and don’t react to someone, it’s an indicator that we own this aspect of ourselves.
More importantly, if we continue to attract similar repetitive situations that provoke a strong reaction in us, then we can look at it as a gift from the universe. Once again, it shows us a shadow aspect of ourselves that calls for integration.
Here are key ego/shadow indicators:
- Anything you reject, deny, resist, or morally judge
- Any feeling or emotion you refuse to own. Any “out of character” behaviour or emotion that shows up in your life every so often (e.g., burst of anger)
- Deepest secrets and hidden aspects of yourself you don’t want others to see
- Blaming, projecting, and refusing to accept full responsibility for situations in your life
Contrarily, here are key signs for shadow integration:
- Feeling peaceful and calm, not reacting to people and situations
- Not blaming and accepting full responsibility for anything that shows up in your life
- Fully embracing and loving all parts of yourself, including the so-called “negative” parts
- Accepting others, no matter who they are or how they behave
This is, of course, a journey of thousands of miles which requires not only self-awareness, but mostly patience... One thing is certain, though: the more you face and integrate your shadow, the closer you’ll be able to shine your light onto the world.
Facing Our Shadow
Facing our shadow is not always easy. It usually comes with a lot of fear and discomfort. This is where courage comes into play. Courage means looking squarely at the truth and taking heartfelt action despite the presence of fear. Remember, harnessing the courage to accept, integrate, and face our shadows is a vital component of the path to fulfilment and freedom—true freedom...
Moreover, all of the emotions, feelings, and aspects of ourselves that we don’t like, they are nothing but energy, energy that, once catalyzed, becomes the fuel for our elevation and callings in life. Rather than projecting onto others your shadow and your own unrecognized desires and fears, we keep that fuel, that energy, that power for the magnificent manifestations you want to see in the world.
Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.