The Shadow Self

ImageWhat is it that defines me, and who will I become? Richard Rohr’s writings on this have resonated with me (but only recently…this would not have made any sense to me 5 or 10 years ago). He often talks about the two halves of life: the first half which is ego driven; the second half which is more about the search for meaning and the emergence of the real self. Kind of yin and yan-ish. Both are necessary as our spirit evolves; as we learn to become who we were meant to be. But for the second half to emerge, the “container of the first half has to die. You can substitute any word you like for “God” or “religion,” but the essence of his message remains clear I think. Below are his thoughts on the first half.

“Early-stage religion is largely driven by ego needs: the need to be right, the need to feel morally superior, the need to be safe, and the need to project a positive image to others. At that point, religion has little to do with any real search for God; it is almost entirely a search for oneself, which is necessary. But we do this by trying to repress and deny our actual motivations and goals. These are pushed into the unconscious and called the “shadow self.” The shadow is not the bad self, but simply the denied self, which is totally operative but allowed to work in secret—and never called to accountability from that hidden place.

Most people (not just religious people) focus on their shadow self—to keep “feeling good about themselves”—and their ego enjoys a perpetual holiday. It is a massive misplacement of spiritual attention. All your energy goes into denying and covering up your shadow—which then gets projected everywhere else.”

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