Parenting With the Shadow in Mind

Posted by on Jan 15, 2014 in Essential Development | 2 comments

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individuals conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”

C. G. Jung


One of the many gifts of parenthood is that some of our shadow is brought to light. The shadow is a collection of unconscious parts of our being that go against our egoic ideals of who and what we should be. They are the disowned parts of our psyche.

“Angry person? No, not me?”

“Jealous of my kids? Why that is just silly!”

When little things set us off to cartoonish proportions, we should be suspicious that some aspect of our shadow has been activated. If you find yourself getting righteous and moral when your toddler is clingy, consider that you may have disdain for your own clingy-toddler self. You may “know” that this is a normal developmental phase for a toddler, but your behavior is pointing toward your growth-edge; not your toddlers.

There is nothing wrong with having shadow material. It is normal and natural. But it is our developmental task as parents to get curious about our “triggers”—the things that set us off disproportionately signifying unconscious wounds that need to be explored. Buried in the wounds lies our healing and our gifts. This is why Jung once said, “I would rather be whole than good.”

My take is that we can be both. We can be clear about what kind of parent we would like to be, and do our best to embody that image. But simultaneously we should allow ourselves to be messy and learn from the rugged, adventuresome nature of our soul.  The beautiful and the profound cannot be orchestrated by the ego.

The keys here are

  1. Awareness that your shadow has been triggered
  2. Acceptance of the totality of who you are: the good, the bad, and the ugly
  3. Understanding of how these energies came to be and the gifts that they have to offer

When you commit yourself to seeing and feeling the dark corners of your being, you spontaneously begin moving toward being the wholeness that you are. No more internal divisions. No more struggling day and night against the world which is mirroring your darkness. You settle into a more simple and direct experience of your children and reality.

As Edward C. Whitmont writes, “…we can refuse to accept responsibility for it and let have its way; or we can “suffer” it in a constructive manner, as part of our personality which can lead us to a salutary humility and humaneness and eventually to new insights and expanded life horizons.”

Join me at on 1/30/14 for a FREE hour-long discussion on Parenting With the Shadow in Mind


  1. Yes. I think of my shadow self as my “evil twin.” Maybe if I made friends with her then I could learn from her. We are each a work in process.

  2. I agree. That shadow of us really affects us. It’s up to us if we accept it negatively or positively.

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