Outdoors, the beautiful spring weather is calling to me. But I’m up in the attic, in the middle of a big cleanup project. I open box after box and decide what I really want to save and what can go. Most of these boxes immediately disappeared into the attic when I moved here twelve years ago. So now, my entire life is scrolling before my eyes. And I am amazed at how easily I can let go of some things but cling on to others.
This is not a fun chore. The attic is full of dark cobwebby corners. Slowly but surely, I clean these out, let in light and space. I’m reminded of the dark corners of the soul, those places we would rather not go, memories we would rather not experience. Like the box of old love-letters, painful memories, that I find and would rather not read. These hidden aspects of our personalities that Carl Jung called the Shadow.
Often this is a character trait that you developed at an early age, to protect you from something you were too vulnerable to bear. It served you then but may no longer serve you now. It may now even be a hindrance to you.
And so, although we would prefer not to go there, as I prefer not to go up into my attic, occasionally it is important to open up those dark corners and explore what is there. By opening the doors and windows of the soul, shedding light on the shadow, you can get rid of what no longer serves you or makes you happy. Make room for the new.
When you feel that it is time to confront something from your shadow-side, imagine him sitting in front of you in a chair. Thank him for how well he has served you in the past. Explain to him that you are now capable of taking care of yourself. Explain exactly how you will take better care of yourself. Thank him again and gently take leave of him… And my old letters? I will read them one more time, looking for the young woman I was then and what I have learned from life since. After that, I will burn the letters, lovingly, one by one.
Would you like to know more about Jung’s Shadow? This interview with Debbie Ford is long (23 minutes) but very clear and thorough.