Shadow Work In Digital Age
In the world of psychology (and now, in the world of spirituality), the shadow is known to be the culmination of the unconscious (and usually, dark) side of oneself. We may engage in self-destructive behaviors, addictions, phases of anxiety and depression, and because to the core of these things is a source of motivation we haven’t been able to pinpoint, we turn them into cycles that self-perpetuate and eventually take a toll on the quality of our existence.
While Freud understood the unconscious as a more benign underbelly of our projected selves, Jung took this a bit further, elaborating on the ways in which our shadow aspects emerge and cause us to be self-destructive while we remain blind to them. The solution to combating the shadow, however, is not to fight back with it, as that only enlarges the inner conflicts we experience on a daily basis (and to varying degrees). The solution is to integrate the shadow into the conscious mind so that it may be understood, tamed, and eventually utilized in such a way that betters us and leads to self-actualization.
In the information age, where we have access to infinite knowledge and updates on what everyone else is currently doing around us, engaging in the process of shadow work is, to some degree, a necessity to remain mentally stable. We are constantly exposed to salient material, some of which we enjoy and some of which triggers the shadow aspects of ourselves and causes emotional turmoil if we do not take it upon ourselves to be attentive while we are alive at this point in human history.
Shadow Work Is Both Easier And More Difficult Because Of The Way That Social Media Bombards Us With Our Insecurities
Social media has allowed us to stay connected and updated on the lives of our friends and family, which is ultimately a net-positive. But with our constant over-stimulation comes a reality that we are constantly being bombarded with our own insecurities as we see them projected onto us while we scroll. On one hand, this makes the process of shadow work easier. It is easier for us to see what exactly we need to work on within ourselves to feel better about who we are, what we look like, and where we are in our lives. It is easier to identify the specific aspects of ourselves, both physical and emotional, that we have yet to come to terms with or improve upon. On the other hand, it is more difficult to engage in shadow work because the degree to which we are being bombarded with triggering content is incalculable. Because of just how over-stimulated we’ve become, it is a rarity that we take the opportunity to step back and see it all from an aerial viewpoint.
That is not to suggest that we ought to just feel triggered, feel insecure, feel the need to respond in ways that eventually become self-destructive when we do feel triggered by things we see online. It is to say that the digital era provides for us an opportunity to see just what it is we need to integrate, that is, if we are willing enough to face our insecurities as they present themselves. There is an element of personal responsibility in shadow work, and this is especially true in this time.
It is not good enough to brand the content we consume in the digital era as “offensive” or “triggering”. We must be willing to dissect our own reactions to the insecurities that reveal themselves to us while we navigate social media and other amenities of the information age. If we are to truly harvest the goods that are being offered, we will take into account that there is an entire network of thought and belief systems within us that cause us to feel insecure, to feel like we are not in the right place in life compared to those who we follow online, to feel triggered by opinions that we believe are suggesting that we are inferior in some way.
Integration of the shadow, and ultimately self-actualization, is a process that can occur at an exponentially faster rate than before thanks to the fact that we are overstimulated by the internet. It is a counterintuitive approach to understanding what is happening at this point in our history, but it is an approach that touts the personal responsibility we have to come to terms with who we are so that we can better ourselves. We will have, if we allow ourselves to step back and see before we respond to what we are offended by, an opportunity in the digital era to self-actualize and love ourselves that is unprecedented.