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Strong emotions - shadow activity from the unconscious mind

Emotions as a sign of shadow activity

By on 24 March 2020

Activity of the unconscious

Strong emotions and the unconscious

Strong emotions are always an indication of activity of the unconscious and thus of the shadow. They manifest themselves through physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing or racing heart.

Emotions and feelings - difference

Strong emotions are related to the unconscious. They are to be distinguished from ordinary feelings, which the personality has in the light of consciousness and under control. If this is the case, she can decide for herself whether to express her feelings through words or deeds, or whether she prefers to keep them to herself.

Emotions, on the other hand, occur violently and involuntarily and move the body directly. They are perceptible, often uncontrolled, and can be felt and measured. They express themselves, for example, through heavy breathing, a different pitch of voice, sweating, blushing, racing heart, trembling or paralysis.

The body as part of the unconscious

Automatic functions

The body is part of the unconscious. It functions autonomously, i.e. independently of a control by the human will. It regulates pulse, blood pressure, movements etc. without the human being having to give it a single thought. But sometimes this leads to problems, namely when unconscious personality parts take over the direction - independent of the will of the human being, even against his will.

[S. The conscious and the unconscious; The human consciousness, Consciousness and the human brain.]

A stirring of the unconscious

The unconscious, to which the body with its automatic functions belongs, has the ability to set the body directly in motion, even before the conscious mind can intervene (see Consciousness and the Human Brain).
This also corresponds to the meaning of the word emotion. It comes from Latin ex = out of and motio = movement: Movement out of ... Yes, out of what? From what one thinks is not there, because one does not perceive it consciously or even represses it: precisely from the unconscious. And because one is not aware of the underlying cause of one's reaction, it seems to occur spontaneously and without any reason, even without explanation.

Indication of activity of the unconscious

This leads to the conclusion: The more difficult emotions are to understand or influence, the more clearly they are an indication of activity of the unconscious and thus of shadow activity. To find out the hidden cause behind it, one has to get to the bottom of the matter, which can mean some work.

Strong emotions - the unconscious speaks up!

Stress activation

Most often, the activity of the unconscious begins when a person gets into a stressful situation or even loses control. Then what lies hidden in the unconscious can emerge, like a prisoner escaping from his dungeon in the cellar, because the guards were needed elsewhere and therefore were withdrawn.

The empty dungeon as an example of the integration of shadows

Loss of control when threatened

So when the internal control authority, the internal "house police," is running on fumes due to strain and stress with "foreign" affairs, then the the shadows use the opportunity to escape from their underground prison and push into the light.

[S. The escaped prisoner as an illustrative example.]

Participate in the light of life

The reason for this is that the disagreeable characteristics also want to participate in life. Perhaps it goes even further, perhaps one has called the shadows even unconsciously, for example, because one realizes that one does not get further at this point with adapted behavior.
However, these characteristics are only really helpful if we succeed in integrating them.

[S. The Integration of the Shadow.]

Negative feelings and uncontrolled behavior


Because at first the shadows flood the person with negative feelings, aggressiveness and uncontrolled behavior. Their negative energy is rooted in shame and rejection, and in the fact that they have been repressed until now. In this way, the person himself has occupied them with negativity, namely with the unconscious conviction: "This does not belong! / This does not belong to me!" Or: "But I am not likethat and I never want to be like that! - Only the others are that bad!


So it also happens that the personality parts, which were locked away in the cellar of the life house, hardly had the opportunity to develop. That's why they act in a correspondingly immature, childish-egoistic and uncivilized way. They are (still) defiant, frightened, befuddled, paralyzed or angry, violent and uncouth.

Impulsive justification and emotional rationalisation

Once they emerge from the shadows, they often make short work of them. They cause turmoil and chaos, and the person himself, as well as his environment, does not know what is happening to him.
However, the incomprehensible and impulsive behavior is often justified, rationalized and even vehemently defended afterwards.

... and back to prison!

Because the whole thing was nevertheless quite unpleasant, one understandably wants to return to the "old order" as quickly as possible. The result is that the unloved personality parts are now locked away even more vehemently - until the next crisis, in which they emerge anew with increased energy ...

Anima as a goddess (watch advertisement)

Positive emotions, infatuation and magic

But strong positive emotions are also an indication of shadow activity. If, for example, an established man and family father falls in love with a young woman, then the unconscious is also at play. It is a projection of his female (not yet really mature) personality parts onto a more or less suitable "projection surface". In the process, feelings run high and suddenly everything feels new and alive, as if a piece of heaven has broken into the gray everyday life.

Awareness and mindfulness - listen carefully!

The message of the unconscious here is: "Look closely! Gentle femininity can be so attractive! Awaken these qualities in you (for they are still missing to you for wholeness)! Search and find your own love and your soul and with it eternal life!"

[S. The Projection of the Shadow.]

Attention. The magic in the rush of emotions

But instead of perceiving this message, one hears in the intoxication of emotions: "... so attractive ...!". With the longing for wholeness therefore instead the desire awakens (see magic and the power of the unconscious). And so the first impulse is to possess this attractive counterpart, who has these wonderful qualities, for oneself and thus to incorporate it. This, although probably much is at stake, the happy relationship, the family, the career ..., simply everything for which one has worked hard until now. And to make matters worse, you miss out on the goal, which is to activate these qualities in yourself and thus expand your personality.

New reality

Strong emotions as an impulse for growth

Integration of the unconscious

From shadows to resources, from negative to positive

Personal qualities always have two sides: a strong, positive, profitable side and a negative side, the shadow side. If this comes to the light of consciousness, it is initially afflicted with negative energy as described. But if the qualities are integrated through love, then they are available in their positive aspect. Thus, for example, fear becomes mindfulness, aggression becomes assertiveness; dominance gives way to decisiveness; over-adaptation becomes flexibility and in the place of scheming behavior one finds ways of reconciliation.

The integration of the shadow

The characteristics are integrated by perceiving and accepting them. Their strong energy can be felt and also marveled at. It is important that one does not let oneself be carried away by negative emotions, words or deeds. It is therefore important to maintain calm and inner distance while observing the surging movement attentively and, if necessary, even saying with a wink: "Ah! Here you are again. Wow! You are strong!" And, "Yes! You belong to me, too. But still: At the moment I'd rather keep quiet and see what could be helpful here.".

[S. How do I integrate my shadows concretely?]


Strong emotions and body feelings are an indication of the activity of the unconscious, which wants to stimulate the expansion of the personality. By integrating hitherto repressed qualities, they become available as new resources.

Shadow Man Woman

Examples of strong emotions as indications of shadows

Strong emotions in lore and art



... and many more.

Emotions in couple dynamics

1. frustration and anger of a woman

A woman finds that being kind and charming in a particular situation does not get her what she wants. She becomes frustrated or angry. Unconsciously, she also realizes that other skills are now needed, such as authority and assertiveness. This is now the opportunity for her inner man to come out of the shadows to step onto the stage of her life. However, he initially appears quite abruptly out of nowhere and floods the woman with aggression and immature macho masculinity.

Here it is necessary to learn to deal with these energies wisely and to use them constructively (see The Integration of the Animus).

2. paralysis of the man

On the other hand, a man who is with a woman who attacks him in the grip of her masculine-aggressive macho energy can, in turn, fall prey to negative femininity. It causes him to become paralyzed, sensitive or even scheming. This is because he is in a quandary: unconsciously and reflexively, on a physical-intuitive level, he locates the woman as an "enemy" and a "danger." Therefore, his first impulse would be to fight her and strike back with the same aggression. But because he has learned that this is not proper, he is condemned to inactivity. Thus he in turn falls prey to his passive-negative inner woman (ANIMA): As if paralyzed by the bite of a snake, he therefore can no longer stand his ground, but perhaps resorts to devious behavior instead (cunning, see The Fall of Man account and the mystery of the snake and negative couple dynamics).

The integration of the feminine parts of the man happens mostly through an experience of weakness (see The Sacred Wound / Wound of the King.) In this way he gains father-love, which is expressed through warm-heartedness and understanding (see The Integration of the Anima).

Other examples of activity of the unconscious 

When the unconscious is at work, you often don't know "what's happening to you". Moreover, one is anyway in a situation where self-control is impaired by feelings of powerlessness, anger or intoxication ...

Shadow activity and possible explanation

  • Someone is unduly annoyed by the behavior of a person. - He/she thereby denounces what he/she represses in himself/herself (see The projection of the shadow).
  • A normally calm and well-adjusted person is suddenly flooded with strong anger: repressed active energy comes forward.
  • An energetic, go-getter person is suddenly paralyzed by fear and blocked or even depressed. He is in the grip of his negative anima. 
  • A happily married professor suddenly falls head over heels in love with a female student: his unconscious projects his feminine parts onto a young woman who corresponds more to his still tender soul(anima) than the mature woman who waits frustratedly for him at home.


Although - or even because - the shadows come to light with negativity, they also have something good. For they unmistakably show man that and where something is in trouble and what is still missing for wholeness. Moreover, they force him in a richly drastic way to deal with them.

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