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Ego, Shadow, Self – Which Is In Control?

Ego Shadow And Self

Most of our actions are unconscious. We simply react in real-time.

Modern neuroscience tells us we are consciously aware of about 5% of our thoughts. Most of our behaviors and emotions are reactions to the 95 percent of brain activity that occurs beneath our awareness.

At the root of our automatic, knee-jerk reactions to life is a lack of self-knowledge. Modern wisdom says you should just be yourself: very appealing because no effort is required. Older wisdom says you should cultivate the self because a consciously directed life is much more likely to satisfy and bring meaning.

According to Eastern and Western psychology, we have an ego/persona, a shadow, and a self. The simplest way to understand them is:

Ego is your identity, while the persona is the mask you wear to survive and thrive – your social personality.

Shadow is the aspect you hide so that you can integrate and find acceptance.

Self is your true inner nature, who you are, and who you always will be. It actually includes the ego and the shadow.

In many cases, identity and relationship issues, and mental health problems stem from these three parts of ourselves working independently (often in opposition) rather than in harmony with each other.

Psychological education and inner-reflection methods such as meditation create healthy, harmonious selves.

Where to begin?

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Why Your Shadow Makes You Say And Do Things That Are Not ‘You’

We all do it.

Things are humming along nicely, then — from out of the blue — something triggers us.

We lose our filter. Honest feelings rise and pop.

We say or do something that surprises or shocks us, and everyone within earshot.

Someone gets hurt, and we feel lousy.

When this happens to you, you probably spend the rest of the day scrambling to fix the mess. “I’m sorry.” “I wasn’t thinking.” “I’m under a lot of pressure.” “I just wasn’t myself.”

You beat yourself up, vow to get a handle on yourself and never to let loose again. You don’t want to be like that, ever.

The fallout of your sudden outburst can be a hiccup or a hurricane.

A sarcastic comment, a disgruntled rant, and a punch in the face will each elicit a different response. As will a teary outburst, a jealous accusation, and a racial slur.

Those caught in your line of fire may easily forgive you, never speak to you again, or see you in court.

If you weren’t yourself, who were you at that moment?

Where did the other you come from?

That other you is another part of you. It’s the unwanted you — the part you keep hidden, most of the time.

You keep this part of yourself hidden because you find it unattractive, unacceptable, or abhorrent. It’s not how you want your family, friends, and co-workers to see you.

The unwanted you corrupts your self-image and is a blight on your ego.

The psychological term for the unwanted you is the shadow.

Your shadow is the refuge for all the traits, behaviors, feelings and impulses that your ego rejects.

How Your Shadow Is Created

“Everything that is, casts a shadow.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

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