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Perspective: Walking with our shadow

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By Ricardo Márquez

When we walk on a sunny day at the park, we notice that a dark figure accompanies us, our shadow that moves with us.

We are beings of light. Today, advanced 3-D technology allows us to see the flash of light that occurs in the moment when a human sperm cell makes contact with an egg. It’s the equivalent of the “Big Bang” at the origin of our life.

Our existence begins with an encounter that ignites a spark of light. However, in the course of our life’s journey, we become aware that shadows accompany our light, dark dimensions that make us uncomfortable, that hurt us and can even hurt others.

Light and shadow appear inseparable, and it would seem a lifelong task of human and spiritual growth to recognize them, accept them, and even embrace them to live in harmony with oneself and with those around us.

In the world of psychology, Karl Gustav Jung has tried to understand this complicated aspect of our personality.

How do we recognize or begin to explore the reality of our shadows? We can ask ourselves in our honest conscience: What part of me would be an embarrassment if others knew about it? The answer could give us a clue about our shadows, the dimensions that we keep hidden, that we repress or don’t accept.

To illustrate this: If a man acts as a mediator or peacemaker, and others appreciate this conduct, it’s like his luminous being is in action. But how would fellow community members feel if they knew about his violent dimension at home?

We should not be afraid of these realizations, even though they can be painful to acknowledge and even provoke a crisis. Crises give us the opportunity to grow, they humanize us, help put our feet on the ground and open us up to heaven through faith in our origin and our destiny.

“ Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate,” Jung wrote.

That is to say, what remains repressed or hidden, gains such a psychic force that it drags our lives and conduct toward where we do not want to go, precisely toward what we have decided to hide.

All you have to do is attend an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting to witness what happens when a brother acknowledges that he is an alcoholic, that he needs help from God and from his fellow brothers and sisters to overcome his addiction.

Alcoholics feel liberated because they let in the light of acceptance and recognition of their shadow; feel relief of not having to pretend to be what they are not; feel the vulnerability in their tears that lets themselves be helped.

What St. Paul experienced in his own life (Romans 5:20) could be expressed this way: “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

Generally speaking, this process of recognizing our lights and shadows takes time, though it sometimes unfolds in a moment of crisis, accident or illness. In the spiritual realm, it supposes asking for grace and an openness, compassion and love of oneself.

And the possible results? A greater harmony with oneself, since internal struggles diminish; an increase in interior peace, as less energy is required to maintain an image of what we’re not; and humility that gives us authority and strengthens the connections in our relationships.

We should not be afraid! We are a mysterious project of God fully under construction.

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