Shadow Archetype

Learn all about the shadow archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Creator archetype.

What is the Shadow Archetype?

According to psychoanalyst Carl Jung, the shadow archetype represents the dark side of a person’s personality and psyche.

Jung also referred to the shadow archetype as the ‘Id’ and believed that it represented an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself, or otherwise was the the entirety of the individual’s unconscious (in other words, everything of which they are not fully conscious).

In short, the shadow is the unknown and dark side of an individual’s personality.

The shadow archetype therefore consists of the most selfish, repressed and turbulent instincts and capabilities of the individual, ones which they themselves are not even conscious that they possess.

The archetype also represents the person’s weaknesses, their desires, failings, repressed ideas, shame and instincts.

Often the archetype is closely associated with the repressed sexuality and criminality of an individual. The person’s mind rejects these parts, fearing the darker aspects of the psyche, hence meaning that they lack awareness of these aspects of their nature.

Shadow Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The shadow archetype is also often associated with wildness, chaos, mystery and the unknown.
  • It can appear to an individual in a number of forms, including in visions or through their dreams.
  • Jung in particular felt that the dreams of a person were an important window into this part of their psyche.
  • The shadow archetype may also take on a human or animal form and has been associated with creature such as the snake, a dragon, a monster or a demon.

Shadow Archetype Examples

An example of the exploration of the shadow archetype in literature is in ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. Dr Jekyll is a kind, well-respected scientist but he chooses to explore the darker side of science to bring out his ‘second’ nature.

In doing so he transforms into his evil alter ego Mr Hyde. Hyde doesn’t repent or accept responsibility for crimes and misdeeds. Despite Jekyll’s best efforts to control Hyde, for a while successful, eventually Hyde takes over and the consequences lead to their deaths.

An example in recent television series of the shadow archetype is the character of Walter White in Breaking Bad. An ordinary family man at the start of the series, the darker aspects of his personality gradually take over until he becomes Heisenberg, a man prepared to commit the ultimate crime in order to achieve his own ends.

Further Reading

Further reading on the shadow archetype includes:

  • Walking Shadows: Archetype and Psyche in Crisis and Growth – by Tim Read
  • Jung: An Introduction Into the World of Carl Jung: The Shadow, The Archetypes and the Symbols (Psychology and the Mind) – by Meredith Moonchild
  • Meeting the Shadow: Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature (New Consciousness Reader) – by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams
  • The Problem of the Archetype of the Shadow in the Psychology of C. G. Jung – by Maria Dias
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