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February 7, 2023

Daily Wisdom: Ken Wilber on Shadow and Shadow Symptoms

by Bill Longshaw,

Bird And Shadow Longshaw,

from No Boundary by Ken Wilber

It should be apparent by now that shadow projection not only distorts our view of reality “out there,” it also greatly changes our feeling of self “in here.” When I project some emotion or trait as shadow, I still continue to perceive it but only in a distorted and illusory fashion—it appears as an “object out there.” Likewise, I still continue to feel the shadow, but only in a distorted and disguised fashion—once the shadow is projected, I feel it only as a symptom.

Thus, as we have just seen, if I project my own hostility toward peo­ple, I will imagine that people are harboring hostile feelings for me, and thus I will begin to feel a creeping fear of people in general. My original hostility has become my projected shadow. So I “see” it only in other people and I feel it in myself only as the symptom of fear. My shadow has become my symptom.

So when I try to cast out my shadow, I do not become free of it. I am not left with a vacancy, a gap, or a blank space in my personality. I am left with a symptom, a painful reminder that I’m unaware of some facet of myself. Further, once my shadow has become my symptom, I will then fight my symptom as I once fought my shadow. When I try to deny any of my own tendencies (shadow), these tendencies show up as symptoms, and I then dislike the symptoms with the same force I once disliked the shadow. I will probably even try to hide my symptoms (of trembling, inferiority, depression, anxiety, etc.) from other people, just as I once tried to hide my shadow from myself.

So each symptom—a depression, anxiety, boredom, or fear—contains some facet of the shadow, some projected emotion or trait or characteristic. It is important to understand that our symptoms, as uncomfortable as they may be, must not be resisted, despised, or avoided, because they contain the key to their own dissolution. To fight a symptom is merely to fight the shadow contained in the symptom, and this is precisely what caused the problem in the first place.

Ken WilberKen Wilber is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages, and is the first philosopher-psychologist to have his Collected Works published while still alive. Wilber is an internationally acknowledged leader and the preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development, which continues to gather momentum around the world.


About Kerstin Zohar Tuschik

Kerstin Zohar Tuschik works for CIW as Executive Director, Scholar and Author, and by representing the Center in the German-speaking countries. Besides studying Human Resources Development, Integral Theory, Project Management, Dance, and Physics, she has been on a conscious path of spiritual and personal growth for more than 20 years. She is a student of Unique Self, World Spirituality, and Conscious Eros, and a Senior Teacher of the Unique Self method in Europe.

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