Narcissists & The Shadow Self
The Shadow Self, or Shadow is not just a psychological concept but also a spiritual one. In psychological parlance, the Shadow is a Jungian concept dealing with the unconscious/subconscious and everything that exists apart from the conscious mind and outside the Ego. In spiritual terms, the Shadow is known as the Guardian of The Threshold. It is the thing which stands in the way between the Ego and subconscious mind. In both aspects, it is the embodiment of all the things we try to deny about ourselves. It is where all of the things we find unacceptable about ourselves live.
We are taught to judge things as good or bad, evil or holy. We apply these judgments to ourselves as well, and we create a rift within regarding things about ourselves that we deem good or bad. We all have thoughts, feelings or impulses that we would never tell anyone about. Most people have done things they hope nobody ever finds out about. But we must not deny these feelings, thoughts or impulses or our ability to act on them if we wanted to. We must accept these things and take responsibility for them. It is only in this way that we can truly accept ourselves.
In a lot of spiritual philosophies, it is often implied that we need to be unfailingly positive. This is not reality. We are human beings and human beings are complex. The spectrum of normal human behavior is wide, and there is so-called bad or negative behavior on it. For example, it may be surprising but things like murder are on there. As a society, we have a tendency to pathologize negative behavior. This means we have a tendency to say that these behaviors are abnormal or sick. Many people are murderers and they are not all mentally ill. Not by a long shot. This may be hard for some people to accept, but it is the truth and if we deny that, we are ignoring our Shadow Self. We are denying that part of ourselves and in humanity, and in doing so, we make it more powerful. This in turn makes us more vulnerable to it, both in ourselves and in others.
In Shamanism, the Shadow Self is very important. There can be no balance without both sides, dark and light, up and down. It's all about balance. Healthy means balanced. Unhealthy is imbalanced. For example, most of us have things about ourselves that we don't like or don't want to accept. These things often disrupt our lives in some way or another. We may be uncomfortable with them and seek to hide them from others. We may be ashamed of them or angry about them. The more imbalanced the situation is, the more unhealthy a person will be. If someone is so uncomfortable with these things about themselves that they deny or ignore them, they will become more and more unhealthy. They may be paranoid, irritable, unpleasant and generally miserable. In the case of total denial of the Shadow Self, you can end up with the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic we see in pathologically narcissistic people, where two completely different and non-integrated personas are existing in the same body. This is a disastrous situation, both for the person affected and everyone around them.
When we face the Shadow and we accept it, we master it and we can use it for healing. Narcissistic people fear their Shadow Selves. They believe that only when you are perfect are you valuable. To them, perfection means no so-called negativity or bad qualities. But in nature and in spirit, if perfection could be conceived of, it would look like balance. There is spring when everything is beautiful and bursts into life. There is also winter where everything must die. This is not cruelty. It is necessity so that life can revitalize and rebalance. There are seasons in our lives as well, and instead of mourning our winter, we can use it to rebalance and renew. Narcissists seem unable to do this. Their entire life is spent in mourning for a time that can never come because they do not use it as they could.
When you are dealing with a narcissistic person, you will find that many of your deepest wounds will be exposed. Your anger, your fears, your pain, your insecurities, your past. This is extremely painful, but it is an opportunity to face and understand these things so that you can master them and they no longer have control over you. It is an opportunity to help balance things. We are all human. We are all things, which means we are all dark and light. Narcissistic people deal in absolutes. Everything is good or bad, black or white. Things labeled as good and bad cannot exist together in the narcissistic mind. They have demonized their Shadow Self as bad, wrong, evil, horrible... to the point that they cannot accept it - or themselves. Therefore, they cannot be balanced. And of course, as you can see, they are not.
Pathologically narcissistic people are the perfect example of what happens when we deny aspects of ourselves. They are perfect examples of the horrible, painful dysfunction that results when we cannot integrate the different parts of ourselves into a cohesive, whole self. When you deny something, you give it more power and the Shadow Self of the narcissist has been denied to the point that it is an out of control monster. They are afraid that if they have to face it, they could literally die. So they run from it. They ignore it. They deny it. They cover it up and pretend to be something else. They pretend it doesn't exist. We all have things about ourselves that we'd rather conceal from other people, but narcissists are not even primarily hiding it from others. They are hiding it from themselves most of all.
Experience with narcissists is an opportunity to do Shadow work. Don't fear your Shadow and don't deny it. It is an important part of you. Doing Shadow work is painful and scary, but it is necessary for balance. And balance is where we find peace.