Our Deepest Fear is Our Greatness

According to psychoanalyst Carl Jung, it is easier to get someone’s skeletons out of the closet than it is to get the “gold out of the shadow.” At first glance this may seem counterintuitive. However in digging deeper into the book “Owning Your Own Shadow,” Robert Johnson gives the analogy of the ego (the persona: the parts of ourselves we choose to show others) as wearing clothing. To unveil our shadow, or the parts we wish to hide, would involve being naked and vulnerable. The shadow we try to mask hides society’s outliers on both ends of the spectrum: the gold and the darkness.

This quote by Marianne Williamson might help to illuminate the reasons and issues behind masking our greatness:

โ€œOur deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.โ€

The Birth of Duality & The Shadow

We play small when we fear our greatness because to accept the vastness that we are means that we must stand out. To fit into society as school-aged children we learned to suppress the yearnings of our soul. In this process, we divided our lives into what we could show and what we needed to keep hidden. Duality was born out of meeting the needs of society. For if we all acted out every whim, society would quickly become non-existent.

Shadow Accumulation 

The challenge with this superimposed duality is that due to society’s influence    “the light” is honored and “the dark” is suppressed within each one of us. The shadows then accumulate and can erupt if not given an outlet. 

To refuse the dark side of One’s nature is to store up or accumulate the darkness; this is later expressed as a black mood, psychosomatic illness, or … accidents… War, economic chaos and racial intolerance are the fall out of worshipping the light while refusing the dark. 

~Robert Johnson 

Counter-balance through Creative Expression

All systems seek balance. It is the conscious counterbalance of our ego that keeps us from erupting on others and from self-destructing. The arts help us to connect to that inner development through acts of quiet creation. 

The only alternative to torture is art. ~Bernard Shaw

Meditation, dream analysis, active imagination, and creative expression through: martial arts, dance, and fine arts all help us to connect to our shadows, the parts of us which we so vehemently deny: our inner gold and our shame. 

Shadow Projection

When we fail to take responsibility for our own shadows, we project those aspects onto others. This is true for both our greatness and our darkness. Just as mentioned in Romantic Love’s Faulty Mirror, we can project our Divinity or Greatness onto others just as we project our darkness. Outside of relationship, we often project our greatness onto our heroes, which is another way in which we fail to recognize ourselves. When we push our own greatness onto others, there is then no reason to own them ourselves. In this way, we fail to accept ourselves as whole beings. 

The Shadow is more genuine than the Ego

At some point the ego seems to take on a life of its own, believing it is the individual. As such the ego begins to act in its own defense. This defense is often fear-based. To keep us in fear, the Ego presides over the kingdom. How better to remain in control than to have the individual fear One’s greatness?

Synthesis through Compromise

When we hold the shadow in opposition to the ego we can become paralyzed or betray part of ourselves. Johnson suggests that when we feel these opposing forces pull on us that if we can take a moment and sit with both aspects that we can come to a synthesis that may be better than A) the ego or B) the shadow. 

Our Greatness is Our Fitness

When we hide the best parts of ourselves in fear of success, everyone loses. It is allowing our greatness to express itself that gives others permission to do the same. So truly, what is holding you back? 


Further Reading by Robert A. Johnson

  • Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche
  • Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

This is part of the Owning Your Own Shadow Series, based on the book by the same name by Robert Johnson. This series is an investigation into seeing and integrating all aspects within to recover inner peace. Only with loving ourselves can we be the change we wish to see in this world.

TED Talk “The Art of Being Yourself” by Caroline McHugh




15 thoughts on “Our Deepest Fear is Our Greatness

  1. This is a wonderful exploration, Tiffany! I haven’t read this book but I have several of his books purchased and downloaded…and reading one now. At a high level, I think my exploration (all in the context of my relationship with women) is aligned with this. One difference, is that I did let my light out in the world in what felt like a big way to me. However, I distinctly recall feeling like it was an out-of-body experience. It was as if I was an actor playing a role and watching myself in a somewhat amused way. I played with light and needed to own that light and the stage. Meanwhile “the Bat” was behind the curtain working the show. Actually, that is what the stage reference in my video is about with the image of Batman working some controllers fading in and out. Yet, the question you pose here for me to consider is when does the Shadow walk into the light? That my sexy and cerebral friend, I believe is the heroic journey. We complete our unification and return to teach, tend to our garden, and help others. As with all of your exploration, I am always eager to see the personal side of your experience….not exactly “looking forward” to your Shadow post because I know it is painful. However, every person should have one of these. It is an anchor post and theme that you will return to again and again as you work through your past and into the future.๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿ’–

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know me too well, sexy Michael. I’ve already written most of the shadow post and just need to do the finishing touches.
      Thank you for sharing the extra insights into your video. I have an understanding at a higher level now that i didn’t fully grasp.
      So I’m realizing it was about a year ago that you found my blog…I’m grateful that you did. While some lessons I’ve learned have been painful, I have advanced far beyond where I was one year ago and you played a good bit of a role in that, even without my ever seeing your face nor hearing your voice. It truly has been an adventure and I’m grateful for the light (and shadow) you’ve helped me to see within and understand; directly and indirectly. Yes, you encouraged me to take that first big leap…and I’m eternally grateful that I did & that you were there to cheer me on. Since then, this connection we share has pushed me into looking in places I never knew existed…on all levels.
      Namaste, Michael. It’s been really nice to know you in this way. Tho I don’t believe I’m the one that’s going to let you loose from your cage, I always enjoy the sexy banter! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜˜

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are far too generous with your comment but I genuinely appreciate it. I just try to offer a nudge here and there when I see an opportunity. You have certainly given me a lot to think about as well and cause me to challenge my conclusions or look at them from different angles to get more out of them. I am grateful to you๐Ÿ’– The symbolism of the cage ๐Ÿ”and being free, I believe, is something worked from the inside out in a way that perhaps matches the title and aspirations of your blog…Tiffany Being Free๐Ÿ”“ I so enjoy your company in this world and do hope we will meet in person one day. It would be quite the experience to be sitting across the table or beside you enjoying some coffee or wineโค๏ธ

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael, that would be lovely to be able to thank you in person as I do appreciate your inspiration as well as support. What you consider nudges I consider inspiration. Not sure when you’ll be in the south next (or mid Atlantic). If you give me enough of a heads up I might be able to swing a rendezvous. My clients are scheduled out a month or two, so that can be a limitation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • โ˜บ๏ธ I hope I can live up to your expectations. I’m willing to travel, so let me know what and when you’re thinking it could work… ๐Ÿ˜˜

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  2. Really nice–and cool–Tiffany. Robert Johnson happens to be one of my all-time favorite authors. And, side not: I stalked him and met him about 5 years ago in San Diego. We met at his house and had a wonderful conversation. I’ll always treasure that experience.

    This was a timely reminder for me, and it totally fits in well with where I am and where I’m headed–so I really appreciate you bringing it to my attention. (i.e., thanks for being the Universe’s “muse” in my life)

    I am on the path of “owning my own shadow,” and it definitely has taken some courage! I’m about to take another powerful step in that direction by OWNING exactly what I want in my future relationship, as much as I fear that it’s too “fringy” for most women in the world.

    Life is too short, too precious but go after exactly the kind of life you want.

    So, thanks again! Lovely piece.

    ~Alex

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex,
      That’s just amazing re meeting Johnson, talking w him and going to his house! I can imagine that was a powerful experience. Wow!
      Glad you liked the piece. And in sending it to you, I must have been “paying it forward” without realizing it… today of all days I needed to be reminded that I must believe in and ask for what I want. I’m also having some experiences with dating… it can be a challenge at times to trust and have faith that what I want can and does exist…instead of questioning myself ๐Ÿ™‚ so thank you!
      ๐ŸŒ™Tiffany

      Liked by 1 person

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