You may have seen the term “shadow” tossed around in astrology articles, e.g., phrases like “the shadow expression” of an aspect or sign. Or, someone acting out their shadow. But you may not know what this term means, or if it even applies to you. What exactly is a shadow, and how do you deal with it?
Defining your Shadow
Each sign has a shadow expression, as does every planet. It is the unhealthy or less evolved side. We all manifest it as behavior that we retreat to when afraid, angry or unaware. Shadow behavior can be completely unconscious, but not always. Some people are aware of their shadow, and act it out anyway. But it doesn’t matter how kind, humble or self-aware you are: you have a shadow. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be human. The opposite of the shadow is the evolved or higher expression of a sign/planet.
Recognizing Your Shadow
The easiest place to begin is with the shadows of the signs. You’ve seen them as clichés: Leos are egomaniacs, Scorpios are stalkers, Libras are superficial. But there’s a grain of truth in these simplistic descriptions. Any unpleasant characteristic of a sign is a description of its shadow. Let’s look more closely at Leo. On a good day, this sign can be proud, generous, creative and romantic. But Leo can’t be shiny all the time. The shadow side of pride is runaway ego. The flow of generosity and romance can be choked off and curdle into childish self-entitlement. Uninhibited creativity can mushroom into attention-seeking drama. The shadow is an exaggeration or distortion of the good things a sign expresses. Each sign has a key that triggers the fear or anger that brings on the shadow. In Leo’s case: being ignored or repressed. This is the sign of creative self-expression, and if that is denied, distorted versions of its energy can emerge.
Things get more complicated when we throw planets into the mix. Planets describe what you do, and signs describe how/why you do it. Each “what” has a shadow expression as well, based on the planet, and modified by the sign it’s in … which is further modified by aspects the planet makes to other planets. Mars describes action, anger, and sexual energy. At the most basic level, having a healthy natal Mars means owning your anger and sexual desire, expressing it appropriately, and taking action in a way that works for you. Shadow Mars would be projected/repressed anger and sexuality, and ineffective actions. For example, you abuse your partner. Or, you “never” get angry at your partner, but inside you’re seething. You don’t stand up for yourself, or you constantly dominate your partner. You deny your sexual desires, or express them in ways that hurt others.