Your Shadow Self and Recovery: What You Should Know


Sober Recovery Expert Author

When it comes to recovery, it’s important to not only put down your addiction but also to dig a bit deeper to discover issues that lie underneath. Think of the possible roots that formed the basis of your addiction. Was it trauma? Depression? Self-loathing? As you continue to move forward in the search for freedom, peace, and inner joy, you must become fully aware of yourself, including the multiple facets of your psyche.

What is the Shadow Self?

According to renowned psychologist Carl Jung, our unconscious minds are structured into multiple “selves” to organize how we experience different things in life. Jung says two major aspects of ourselves are “the persona” and “the shadow self.”

We all have a darker, repressed side referred to as "the shadow self." As we learn more about it and embrace it, we become much more apt to grow in recovery.

Your persona defines who you would like to be and how you wish to be seen by the world. Your shadow—or ego, as some call it—is the darker part of your unconscious mind that you tend to hideaway. It’s the abstract, repressed part of ourselves that we’ve created as we grew up, largely to contend with the parts of life that we didn’t quite understand, such as abuse, trauma, or just plain confusion. Some psychologists also call this “the inner child,” which, if not contended with, tends to come out in our lives as a “wounded child.”

Living Life in the Shadows

Honesty is an important aspect of recovery, so learning the truth about what makes up your shadow self can benefit your journey.

To guide you in the process of uncovering these repressed emotions, let’s set up a scenario: pretend you were a neglected child. Perhaps your mother and father just weren’t available for whatever reason. At the time, you may not have realized it, but you harbored feelings of loneliness and longed for unconditional love to be lavished upon you. As a result of these negative feelings, your shadow self goes into “coping” mode.

Now let’s say you stuffed your feelings down and went for many years pretending everything was all right. Fast forward to adulthood, and you discover that alcohol helps you feel good, numbing those feelings quite well. You abuse alcohol and watch your life spiral until you decide to admit you are an alcoholic who needs to stop drinking and get on the road to recovery.

From there, you enter a relationship or are already in one and experience strong bouts of jealousy. You’re afraid your partner is on the verge of cheating, and you’re ballistic over the thought of your partner possibly abandoning you.

At this point, many people will point fingers toward the partner. Still, if you’re able to venture inwards and understand yourself first, you’ll be able to better address your feelings in more productive, spiritually healing ways. Peel the layers one by one until you uncover that child again—sad, neglected, and craving for its protectors’ love and attention.

Facing the Shadow

Whether or not other people may be at fault, the best place to start looking for why you feel the way you do is within yourself. Think about things that you respond to strongly and then take some time to consider whether those feelings are coming from your shadow self. You’d be surprised at how much you can grow personally when you keep your eyes focused on yourself and your recovery—and much less so on others.

Once you discover your possible root issues, you’ll get a chance to revisit your old wounds and finally process them. Eventually, you’ll be free to experience more positive feelings, such as peace and joy in your newfound journey in recovery.

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