The shadow usually refers to painful emotional experiences in our past (often in our childhood) that are repressed into our unconscious part of the mind, because the pain was too much to be remembered. This repression is caused by the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones “shrink” the hippocampus, the seat of our autobiographical memory, and disconnect it from the amygdala where emotions are processed. When we later experience a similar situation, for example when somebody we care about or depend on ignores us, the same emotional reaction will flood our conscious mind/awareness in the present, as the amygdala itself has no sense of time. When we meditate, there are usually no outside emotional triggers. In addition we practice to disidentify from thoughts about the past and future. Thus meditation does not get to the shadow. However, meditation can help us to stay present when we get triggered, to fully feel into the pain and own it without projecting it onto others, and thus enter into a psychological healing process.


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