Shadow work: what treasures does your shadow hide?

fairy, beautiful, colorful

Do you remember what your favorite fairy tale used to be? What you just couldn’t get enough of? That you wanted to hear again and again? Where you could completely identify with the main character? Maybe it was Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella or Little Thumb? Rest assured it was no coincidence. And that there are deep life lessons hidden in your favorite fairy tale that apply to you. The story then becomes a mirror that you may not have even been aware of.Many of these collective stories are full of images and symbolism that resonate with our unconscious, with our soul. They are imbued with archetypal wisdom. Universal life themes and lessons that we encounter on our path of self-awareness and self-realization.

Initiation into the female intuition

In these mythical tales and fairy tales (not to mention the happy-ending Disney versions), the main character, our hero, sets off. Often our hero is forced to step out of his comfort zone because of a violent event that like a lightning strike disrupts his safe, secure environment. A disaster that ultimately turns out to be the necessary stimulus for personal growth.

I myself am fascinated by the fairy tale by Vasalisa the Wise  from the book The indomitable woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes . A Russian fairy tale that is intentionally reminiscent of the story of Cinderella. But really, it’s a story about the passing of the female intuitive ability from one generation to the next. It has a beautiful symbolism that reflects the initiation process that women have to go through to reconnect with their feminine instinctual intuition. The initiation process consists of completing certain tasks. Learning the customs of the old wild mother.

Development towards a self-confident, powerful woman

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In this fairy tale, for example, the safe and secure family situation of Vasalisa comes to a cruel end when her mother dies and her father remarries a widow with two daughters. After the father is away from home for a long time, they turn out to be the well-known mean, jealous step-relatives who ruin the life of our heroine.

Despite (or perhaps because) Vasalisa docilely endures the bullying, and acts almost slavishly towards her vile stepfamily, she is sent off to meet the wild witch, Baba Yaga. So our heroine is forced to go down an unknown, dark path. To meet the wild witch and return as a strong, confident woman.

Instinctive Life Force

Another important detail in the story is the doll, which Vasalisa received from her mother, just before her death. This doll symbolizes the small instinctive life force that is hidden deep within us. That power we can always call on. This doll leads Vasalisa through the dark forest, tells her when to turn left or right, warns when danger is imminent and helps her complete the impossible tasks of the witch, Baba Yaga.

The outer world is a mirror of your inner world

mirror, confident

The psychological power of these kinds of stories lies in the different characters who all symbolize different parts of our personalities. In this way, they are a mirror of our own psyche. Especially the parts that are in your shadow and that you do not recognize or recognize as parts of yourself, hide treasures of talents and untapped potential. In short: plenty of opportunities for personal growth.

To confront someone with his shadow is to show him his own light. – Carl Jung

Projection Mechanism

Learning to function in society also means that you learn to adapt as a child. Certain, unaccepted traits of yourself disappear into your shadow and become split off parts of yourself. These qualities of yourself then seem to have disappeared from the scene. Nothing is less true. They slumber in our unconscious and can suddenly break through with all their intensity due to certain images and events.

Often this manifests as exaggerated, unpolished behavior. Then the projection mechanism kicks in. The qualities we have relegated to darkness our unconscious projects onto others or onto archetypal images from mythical stories.

Transformation through integration

transform, happy

Back to our fairy tale: the jealous, mean stepmother and sisters, but also the witch, Baba Yaga, mirror the shadow parts of Vasalisa herself. We see the conscious self in this story as Vasalisa’s sweet part comes out. A very helpful, nice, gullible girl. Leaving your sweet part at the wheel for too long and too one-sided calls for a counter-movement. In this, the step-family mirrors Vasalisa’s oppressed part.

The part that only thinks of itself manipulates and does not grant the other anything. The trick is to see what qualities are hidden beneath the distorted, inappropriate behaviors of this part. And how integrating these qualities into your consciousness can serve your personal growth. We see Vasalisa change from a naive, innocent girl into a self-conscious woman who trusts her inner wisdom.

Such personal growth requires that we have the courage to experience and acknowledge our shadow nature. And then use the potential that lies underneath. And so to follow our path to self-realization. So embrace the evil stepmother or witch in you, get to know her as a part of you. Then you will be surprised by the talents that are waiting for you there.


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