The Shadow archetype is how fear manifests within our collected unconscious. C.G. Jung wrote that “The Shadow is one example of an “unconscious personality” which possesses a certain measure of autonomy. The shadow might be said to be responsible for… mistakes which reveal feelings and motives which the conscious self-disowns… The shadow is the first archetype encountered during analysis… making conscious these repressed tendencies and confessing the less desirable aspects of personality which the shadow portrays does not rid us of them.” (CW 7, par, 103n)
Throughout our lives fear is a central to how we develop our sense of identity, during youth we utilize what we fear to build paternal connections with adults to establish a sense of security with the world. As we experience fear through parental relations we gain our ability to trust ourselves as we learn to experiment with the environment around us. Fear of social rejection fuels us to determine what is socially acceptable and what isn’t. As we grow and begin to define ourselves; we jump from social group to social group to experiment with different aspects of who we are. This yearning to define our sense of self is not only motivated by a desire for acceptance but out of fear of rejection.
We begin to define our self not by what we think about ourselves but by what we perceive others to think about us. From this fear we disregard these dark aspects of our self and begin to construct an in complete identity based on a distorted subjective reality. We ignore our shadow and pretend it doesn’t exist and this idealized self is the mask we wear to keep us safe from the aspects of ourselves we do not want to realize. The mask is our safety net that keeps us fragmented from our whole self because we do not want to realize the emotional crisis that dwells within us. This mask we wear takes all of those negative qualities such as fear, doubt, and guilt personified as the shadow archetype. Jung writes “The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fitting enough a kind of mask, designed on one hand to make a definite impression on others, and on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.” (CW 7, pars, 305)