How I Learned to Love Shadow

Marissa Abram, PhD
4 min readJan 27, 2021


My shadow friend turned out to be not an enemy, but an ally.

My shadow friend protects me and keeps my peace.

It’s not what you’d expect at first. Shadow used to sulk, block out and conceal. She was quick to twist and turn when emotions were high. But working with Shadow gives me gifts that I wouldn’t have on my own. Shadow gave me autonomy and helped me find my authentic self. She taught me how to respect and value myself and what a journey that was. She taught me how to love and honor others but not at the expense of myself. She taught me if I took care of myself, I could do more to take care of others.

I’ve grappled with shadow countless times. I’ve felt fear, guilt, and anxiety due to her. At the same time I felt her strength, I saw her weakness. She caved easily to emotion, and I knew I had to take action, take control. Without her pushing, I would not have found my courage and my voice. I was lost in undertones of confusion and pain.

Living with shadow caused me to develop the gift of metacognition. She was almost most restless when I was acting in ways that weren’t authentic to myself. I would do anything to calm her down, but the process was never quick and painless. I built awareness and understanding of how I truly think by paying attention to myself, seeking information, reflecting, journaling and evaluating. I had to realize that my thoughts were my perceptions, and my appraisals should be based on my desires, and not how the world wants me to act or be.

I know now, how to keep Shadow under control. I no longer fear negative feelingsI listen to them without judgment and acknowledge them for what they are. I don’t put limits on my expressions of love and gratitude for others. I have learned to embrace all parts of myself. I know that “negative” feelings give me feedback and so I reflect on them and tend to them with care. I don’t feed them and make them bigger. When they feel too big, I reach out for positive input — I call someone who will help me find my peace or give me support instead of someone who will bring me down. I also reflect on things that bring me joy.

I have come to learn that people truly try to do their best so I don’t carry or internalize their pain if they lash out or are toxic. I set healthy boundaries for me. It’s easy to roll with the punches at your expense or go through with things just to not look like the bad guy or to save face, but I create boundaries where I can and set my limits. I ask myself what motivates me in moments like that: “Is it a fear of losing or does this truly matter to me?” I’ve also learned that the best measuring stick I have was me and if I could say that I tried my best at the end of the day that was all that truly mattered. Others opinions of me did not.

Shadow taught me about alignment. There is so much to want and desire in this worldmore money, more status, more youth but under thatwhat is the true desire? Wanting doesn’t stop, so when enough is enough, what am I trying to fill? If my desires for a shiny new toy or status symbol aren’t in alignment with my higher purpose or values, the pleasure will be fleeting anyway.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Keeping shadow at bay isn’t a one-and-done process. It requires consistent, daily practice. Healthy evaluation is key to the consistency. There’s no use in beating myself up for the days feeling like I could have done better, but what’s important is taking the steps to get things done today. Who I thought was my worst enemy turned out to be an ally I now can’t imagine living without.

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Marissa Abram, PhD

Educator, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Addiction Researcher and Founder of Strategic Wellness Management.