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The Shadow According to Carl Jung: How the Aspect of the Unconscious Functions in Children under 16

By Céline Baron, Certified Sophrologist and Coach specializing in limiting belief removal and negotiation (Brentwood College, England). Céline runs her own practice in sophrology and psychopractice in Vichy, France. She is also an author of personal development books and an art therapist. She holds a deep interest in the work of the unconscious and is receptive to the subtle and the unseen.

Carl Jung, a renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, introduced the concept of the “shadow” as an integral part of the human psyche. The shadow represents those aspects of our personality that are hidden from our conscious awareness, often harboring traits and emotions we’d rather not acknowledge. This article will delve into the intricacies of Jung’s shadow theory and explore how it operates in children under 16 from a scientific and psychological perspective.

Carl Jung’s theory of the shadow posits that the human psyche contains both conscious and unconscious elements. The shadow, being part of the unconscious, is comprised of qualities, desires, and emotions that have been repressed or disowned. These aspects often stem from societal conditioning, parental influences, and personal experiences.

The Nature of the Shadow

The shadow is not inherently negative but rather holds qualities that don’t conform to our ideal self-image. It embodies our fears, insecurities, aggressive impulses, and other traits that we may view as undesirable. In children under 16, these traits can manifest differently, often due to their developmental stage and the influence of their environment.

Developmental Factors

  1. Childhood Influences: A child’s interaction with their parents, caregivers, and peers significantly shapes their shadow. The shadow can be nurtured or repressed based on the child’s early experiences and relationships.
  2. Age and Cognitive Development: Younger children may have a less complex and less differentiated shadow. As they grow and develop cognitively, their understanding of societal norms and personal identity expands, allowing for a more defined shadow.

Integration of the Shadow in Children

For children under 16, the integration of the shadow occurs gradually. As they mature, they begin to recognize their shadow qualities, consciously or unconsciously, and this self-awareness evolves over time.

Manifestations of the Shadow in Children

  1. Behavioral Patterns: Children may display behaviors that are contrary to societal expectations or their self-image, such as aggression, defiance, or rebellion.
  2. Dreams and Fantasies: The shadow often emerges in the dreams and fantasies of children, providing a window into their unconscious thoughts and desires.
  3. Projection: Like adults, children may project their shadow onto others. They might label peers or authority figures as “bad” or “mean” when they are, in fact, projecting their own repressed emotions.

The Role of Education and Therapy

Awareness of the shadow is essential in fostering emotional intelligence and personal growth in children. By incorporating Jungian principles into education and therapy, children can better understand and manage their shadow, leading to healthier emotional development.

Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow offers profound insights into the functioning of the human psyche, even in children under 16. Understanding how the shadow operates in young individuals can help us guide them towards self-discovery, self-acceptance, and emotional maturity. It is a fundamental step in nurturing well-rounded, psychologically healthy individuals who can better navigate the complexities of their inner world and the world around them.

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