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The Hidden Gifts of the Shadow

Living with greater authenticity

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”  – The Gospel of Thomas

You may have noticed that the word “shadow” has been showing up with great frequency lately in popular culture and in the media. Most of those references do not refer to the literal definition of the word but use the term as a metaphor for what is known as the dark side of one’s personality that includes those aspects or tendencies that are considered unattractive or even destructive by society.

The shadow refers to those aspects that we tend to deny or disown, to both ourselves as well as others, aspects that are deemed unattractive or even destructive by the culture in which we live.  Since being seen by others as possessing socially unacceptable traits diminishes us in the eyes of others, it is natural to wish to conceal what we deem to be any negative qualities that we possess.

Unfortunately, doing so has serious and potentially damaging consequences, many of which show up in our relationships with others as well as with ourselves. In focusing on the concealment of what we deem to be unattractive aspects of ourselves we create a split between our true self and our public or false self. This split results in us feeling incomplete, insufficient, and inauthentic. Disowning our undesired parts also results in feelings of guilt, shame, and inferiority. Since we tend to believe that others don’t share our situation. In fact, they do.

The process we’re describing isn’t unique to certain people or certain groups of people. It’s universal and gets played out in a variety of forms in all cultures since all humans share a common need to feel secure within the context of whatever group of which they are a part. And the members of all groups share common ideas in regard to the qualities, behaviors, and values that have been identify as positive and negative.

Consequently living an authentic life, being genuine and true to yourself and simultaneously honoring and conforming to the values of the groups with which you are identified proves to be far more difficult than most of us believe it should be. Anyone who has ever taken seriously the admonition “To thine own self be true,” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet knows only too well how profoundly challenging that commitment can be.

One of the things people in great relationships have in common is that they have integrated those aspects of themselves that had been relegated to the shadow into their lives in a way that allows them to live with greater authenticity, integrity, and emotional honesty. Unless our relationships embody these qualities, they will not fulfill the deeper needs and longings that we seek to experience in true partnership.

While the process of living a life of “wholeness” may seem like a daunting process, it is possible. There are many examples of people who have done so and people who are currently doing so. And no, you don’t have to be a Gandhi or a Mother Teresa to do so. These folks do, however, share a common intention that unites them in a community in which the highest value is integrity. This community is not defined by adherence to commonly held beliefs but is characterized by an acknowledgment of an inner drive to become a more loving human being who is unencumbered by the burden of concerns about rejection, failure, or other fears that are shared by most of the population. They are what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as “Outliers”.

The process that offers support and tools for the transformative work of creating a life of integrity is often referred to as “shadow work”, and it involves the reclaiming of those parts of ourselves that we have denied and retrieving them from the shadow. If you are intrigued with the possibility of finding out what this journey looks and feels like, we urge you to consider the possibility of becoming truly free to be yourself unconditionally, authentically and effortlessly, and to imagine how doing so could transform the quality of your life and all of your relationships. There are many paths to the realization of one’s true self. What is most important is not which one you choose, but that you choose a path that you can make a wholehearted commitment to. Think about it; then make your choice.

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The Hidden Gifts of the Shadow


Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at:

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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2017). The Hidden Gifts of the Shadow. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jun 2017
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.