By Adam J. Pearson
Adulthood (noun): The period during which you come face to face with all of the personality faults, mental hang-ups, bad habits, wrong actions, and psychological problems that have built up in you since you were a child and have to come to terms with them.
As to what happens next, you have two choices. One possibility is that you avoid facing all of these inner shadows and stagnate in an immature state of escapism and inauthenticity until you finally die without ever having reached your potential for inner growth. Another possibility is that you face your inner shadows, own and integrate them, accept and make peace with them, and grow. This is maturity.
Adults talk about growing up as if we’ve all done it. The fact of the matter is that in the sense of true maturation, many people never grow up. They die somewhere along the way between being a lost child and a hopeless adult who has given up on ever knowing or fully being themselves.
The sad truth is that the wholeness that the lost ones always sought was never far away, never out there in a better job, richer possessions, more money, or a different spouse. It was always right here, in the shadows within them. Our shadows hold the keys to our growth. They are not our enemies; they are the innocent relics and remnants of our first stumbles through a confusing world. They are our friends. And if we take responsibility for them, accept and own them, and make peace with them, they can give us the serenity and fulfillment we so badly seek. They can fill the inner hole or void that nothing else can fill.
Only embracing your shadows can take you to into the light.
Update: After reading this article, a friend of mine commented that adulthood in general and the process of facing our shadows in particular can be “uncomfortable, even downright painful, at times.” My own experience echoes hers on this point. On the positive side of things, however, the process of facing and integrating our shadows instead of pushing away, denying, avoiding, or resisting them is absolutely worthwhile, liberating, and empowering.
You can tell those who are weighed down by and resistant to their shadows from those who have included them into their light. The latter shine brighter. They are radiant. I think there’s a reason we resonate with or respond to these light and darkness metaphors. They speak to us on a deep level; they are archetypes and mythical symbols that have been with human beings since we first noticed the difference between night and day, dark space and bright stars, cold caverns and burning fire.
In my reality tunnel or view of the world, this process of inner growth and maturity isn’t something we do once and for all or even in several few sessions. It’s an ongoing lifetime process and it happens by degrees. I believe that our capacity for inner growth is, in actual fact, infinite. At first, we integrate and bring unit to the very obvious chasms within us, we make peace with the biggest shadows that stand out, loud and clear. Over time, the integrations get subtler and subtler. The deeper you go, the more minute the shadows and inner rifts you find.
As this progress proceeds, the light of consciousness gets deeper into the cracks of your unconscious, the realm of the repressed, the rejected, the terrifying, the painful, and the depressing. It can be painful to explore this vast inner landscape, but exciting and deeply fulfilling too. You meet aspects of yourself you never could have even imagined and bring healing to wounds that have long laid buried within you. And in the end, that’s a tremendously positive and uplifting process, however painful it may sometimes be.
People sometimes talk about self-discovery as if it’s this fluffy and joyful process. In fact, it’s often extremely painful and uncomfortable. It hurts. And that’s what’s so great about it. The more willing we are to feel our way through the pain and face the aspects of ourselves that hurt, the more healing and inner unity we achieve. Facing your inner wounds, shadows, and voids, making the unconscious conscious without resisting it, this process is inherently healing. Anyone who has gone through it can tell you this. When you make the journey for yourself, you can verify it.