Your shadow is that part of your psyche that contains unconscious, unexpressed aspects of your personality that you either strongly dislike (negative shadow) or don't know you possess (positive shadow). Shadows grow in intensity inversely proportional to your knowledge of it — the less you know the denser it becomes. If you have a weak or ineffective ego, the shadow may muscle its way into prominence. People often project their shadow material onto someone else — viewing your husband as controlling when in fact you are the controlling partner; or viewing your husband as brilliant when in fact you are brilliant but almost completely unaware of it. A large part of unveiling your essence, or true self, involves claiming your negative and your positive shadow and all of its projections. You have to first claim your shadow to change it. Oddly enough, particularly if you came from a dysfunctional, destructive family, you may have greater difficulty owning your positive shadow.
How does projection work?
Projection occurs when rather than acknowledge or accept negative traits or positive virtues, your ego projects these traits onto other people. Falling in love occurs when you project your hidden, positive qualities onto another person. And when you vehemently dislike someone, whatever it is that drives you crazy about another person is likely to be a quality you possess. Projection offers you opportunities to recognize messages from your unconscious about who you really are.
Shadows are generally seen as the dark side of your personality that your ego goes to great lengths to keep under control and safely hidden. The positive shadow harbors qualities of your idealized, or self-actualized, self that you have yet to discover and that you usually project onto loved objects. One must face the negative shadow and reclaim the positive shadow to find a healthy balance based on consciousness rather than repression. Repressing your negative shadow often leads to neurosis or psychosis, while failing to acknowledge your positive shadow dilutes full expression of your true self. Claiming and learning to live with your shadow is both empowering and crucial to progression toward the self. When you are in the grips of a shadow trait or behavior, you may say, “I am not feeling like myself,” or “It was so unlike me to do such and such.”