The shadow self is a psychological concept of what happens to a child due to social pressure and social control by parents and others to deny and repress their “socially” unacceptable emotions and thoughts, like anger, guilt, shame. Our concept of self gets built up bit by bit through this process.
Our concept of self that we cannot accept becomes the shadow self. These disowned parts of ourselves, though now a part of our unconscious, are still powerful and energetic in our lives. They effect our life choices, our interactions and communications with others, our body language, and our body’s energy that we communicate to others.
Abuse teaches us to blame ourselves; to repudiate our smallness and vulnerabilities, our needs and our need for love and protection. Abuse teaches us to think little of ourselves, causes us to believe in the lies abusers tell us about ourselves, and puts the guilt and shame of the abuser and their own unresolved and denied shadow selves onto their victims.
I believe that survivors retain such a harsh opinion of self because they are not so divided from their shadow self. Though not accepting of it either. It is a lot to accept and is very much overwhelming, like a tsunami.
We can end up judging others harshly for the same traits or characterists we have been made to disown and repress about ourselves.
I remember when a therapist first taught me about this. It was difficult at first to learn to notice those parts of myself that I was forced to disown and deny just in order to survive. With the abuse it was a huge amount of self that had to live under the surface, invisible, unaccepted, and unloved.
It was a lot like the process I went through to learn my multiple system, to accept and love them, though a lot easier, probably because I had already done so much harder work when working on accepting and healing our system.
Learning how to slowly pay attention to what I had been forced to deny and repress and to instead accept repressed thoughts and emotions was a healing, powerful, and tranformative process. Just acceptance was a hugely healing act.
Today I am reminding myself that all of my feelings and thoughts are acceptable and that I am truly connected to all of them. I am reminding myself that I accept and am connected to my conscious and unconscious mind.