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Developing Creativity – Our Shadow Side

“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” C.G. Jung

Carl Jung and many others have pointed out that we have hidden, unconscious or half-conscious depths of our psyches, with thoughts, feelings and impulses we think are “bad” or “unacceptable” – that we may be offended by and actively ignore, deny or try to cover up.

Making good use of all this isn’t a matter of freely acting on our urges or fantasies, of course. There are jails for people who do.

But this inner landscape can be a source of personal growth and creative expression.

In her article The Shadow Muse — Gifts of Your Dark Side, Jill Badonsky, M.Ed. notes we may use a lot of energy to “suppress what we perceive to be our undesirable traits — our negativity, judgmental nature, and our other secret peculiarities and struggles. In this exercise we not only deny our humanity but we also disable a potent creativity feature — sublimation.”

She explains the emotions of our shadow side provide “an incredible amount of creative energy. Anger, jealousy, revenge, frustration, sadness, rejection have been conduits for so many triumphant works of writing, art, music and performance.”

In his chapter “Redeeming Our Devils and Demons” in the book Meeting the Shadow, Stephen A. Diamond, PhD says that when we bravely give voice to our inner “demons” — “symbolizing those tendencies in us that we most fear, flee from, and hence, are obsessed or haunted by — we transmute them into helpful allies, in the form of newly liberated, life-giving psychic energy, for use in constructive activity.

“During this process, we come to discover the paradox that many artists perceive: That which we had previously run from and rejected turns out to be the redemptive source of vitality, creativity, and authentic spirituality.”

One of my favorite entertainment creators is writer/producer/director Joss Whedon, known for multiple TV series including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse.

He has said about his work: “With everything that I do, I hope that they see people struggling to live decent, moral lives in a completely chaotic world. They see how hard it is, how often they fail, and how they get up and keep trying. That, to me, is the most important message I’m ever going to tell.”

He adds, “I believe the best way to examine anything is to go to a dark place. You can’t be a storyteller and a speechwriter at the same time.”

In her Psych Central post Are You Afraid to Befriend Your Shadow?, Susan K. Perry, PhD writes: “In my own workshops and classes, I’ve found that being a ‘bad’ person, or dread of being thought one by others, is indeed a major hindrance to many who would like to open their creative selves more fully.”

She refers to the book by psychotherapist Susan O’Doherty, Ph.D., Getting Unstuck without Coming Unglued: A Woman’s Guide to Unblocking Creativity, and says “O’Doherty’s practical advice and strategies get to the heart of what many of us have to struggle against in order to find and be ourselves, and to enter flow.”

See more quotes, books and other material on The shadow Self (page 1 of 5).

Developing Creativity – Our Shadow Side

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2010). Developing Creativity – Our Shadow Side. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 14, 2018, from


Last updated: 28 Jul 2010
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Jul 2010
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