A concept running throughout my YA novel SONG OF A FIREBIRD is the balance of darkness and light within the psyche of 15-year old protagonist Rose. The traumas of her past–bullying, emotional neglect, and death of her namesake Grandma Jo–have left her with a gaping wound no one can see. A pit of shame and self-loathing centered right at her heart. She struggles to step into the light of confidence and self-love, feeling more comfortable in the shadow of pessimism and self-loathing. While this shadow holds her back in life, it also serves an important function: protecting her from further heartbreak.
There are other unsavory traits lurking in the shadows. Obsessive thinking, anxiety, self-pity and lust for her bully’s boyfriend Zach. That desire to turn Zach’s head is the driving force behind Rose’s dramatic transformation sophomore year. Sometimes our shadows serve an important purpose, and can help us step into the light and become a better version of ourselves. The key is balance.
Have you gotten in touch with your shadow side? The famed psychologist Carl Jung coined the term “shadow self. ” It refers to the parts within us that we may try to hide, deny or repress. Jung believed that by shining a light on our shadows, acknowledging and accepting them, we could improve the relationship with ourselves and others.
Why not try some shadow work of your own by trying one of these techniques below? Of course, a trained psychologist can also be a great resource for healing any unresolved emotional pain and trauma you may uncover. Never be afraid to seek professional help if doing your own shadow work becomes overwhelming.
3 Ways to See Your Shadows:
- Journal about the hidden parts of yourself, the parts you consider your least redeeming qualities. Have these qualities ever helped you in a tough situation?
- Take a photo of your own shadow and visualize shaking hands with it, having a conversation and just generally acknowledging its presence.
- If you’re the artistic type, why not sketch or paint a picture of you facing your shadow?
Why Shadow Work Can Make You a Better Writer
Don’t be too afraid of your shadow side. Everyone has one. Knowing and understanding all the parts of ourselves can put us on the path of healing and self-acceptance. The realization than even your greatest heroes–literary or otherwise–have a shadow side, just keeps it real. I think that exploring the shadow of the characters you create really helps understand motivation, conflicts and stakes. Plus, it just makes for a more interesting story with authentically flawed characters. I love deeply flawed characters on the path to becoming a better version of themselves. Redemption is a winning theme. Try it and tell me what you think!
Love and light,