5 Ways Major Life Transitions Can Bring Up Shadow
Major life transitions are events that reach deeply inside of us, and they can often bring out our shadow, that portion of the psyche of which we are unaware, and which we resist.
Here are 5 ways in which the Shadow often shows up amidst the stresses and strains of major life transitions.
1. Persona (Social Mask) Gets Thin.
Very significant emotion and distress can accompany major life transitions.
As we experience such things, aspects of our personality may become apparent that are different from the ways that others think about us, and the ways we normally think about ourselves. We may also experience reactions that are different from those that we conventionally expect.
At such times, social masks or personae often become so thin that aspects of ourselves that aren’t regularly seen show through. This may be a time to learn important things about ourselves.
2. Complexes Get Activated.
A complex is an inter-related cluster of unconscious contents that is part of the shadow. As Jung reminds us, they are strongly accentuated emotionally and incompatible with the habitual attitude of consciousness. When a complex is activated, we often powerfully re-live something from the past.
3. We May Tend to Split Off Difficult / Painful Contents.
Because major life transitions are times of strong affect, we may not remember as accurately, nor think as clearly, as usual.
We may find that many memories will not come to mind at all. We may also be surprised, later on, when others tell us how we have acted, and what we have said, during such times of trial, transition or crisis.
So, we need to exercise great care when dealing with major life transitions.
4. We May be More Receptive to the Unconscious.
On the other hand, during major life transitions, we may be more receptive to the unconscious aspects of ourselves, and what shadow might be bringing to us.
At one point, a client experienced this powerfully. He was at a point in my career when he was feeling pressure and striving very hard to present a “tough guy” image to meet the challenges of the business world. He was never more surprised than when the realization came up from the unconscious that, actually, the last thing he really wanted to be was that kind of guy, and that he really wanted to be compassionate, affirming and open. In the words of James Hollis, “Whodathunkit”!
What might be waiting for you in shadow, the unknown parts of yourself?
5. We May Be Open to New Possibilities…
Major life transitions may actually open up possibilities in our awareness and our lives. We may find that we become less reliant on conventional ways of seeing things in our lives, and on conventional pat answers, and more open to something new.
Individual therapy may contribute dramatically to the discovery and opening up of new possibilities within ourselves, and in our outer lives. When therapy is creative, receptive and deep, it can make a real difference.