It could be eleven o'clock at night here if it is summertime. And while the top of the painting is filled with soft color, the bottom part is characterized by stripes of dark shadow.
In Buddhist cultures monks and nuns are so revered, it is even unthinkable to step on their shadow. Remember the scene in The Acts of the Apostles 5:15 where people bring the sick into the streets and lay them on beds, so that Peter's passing shadow might fall on them to heal. In Psalm 36:7 we read
Yahweh, you support both man and beast;
how precious, God, is your faithful love.
So the children of Adam
take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
In psychology shadow is what I refuse to acknowledge about myself and yet is always appearing one way or another. Shadow is something that doesn't feel right about my personality, that I don't seem to be able to control. And if I don't recognize it and attend to it, then it leaks out, impacting on others and poisoning the atmosphere in which I live.
Addressing one's personal shadow is not the same as "breaking a bad habit" or labeling mortal and venial sins or practicing virtues. We might meet an alcoholic who hasn't "touched a drop" in years but who is resentful, controlling and arrogant. They are sometimes called dry drunks. This is untreated or un-addressed shadow.
We've all got a shadow side. Often our portrayal of the saints is so full of light and without any indication of their having a shadow side, it becomes difficult to identify with them. We wind up admiring them from a distance while feeling poorly about ourselves. "I'm no saint," some Catholics like to say. That's a conversation stopper as they then seldom reflect more deeply about their own dark side. Many people grow old and have done nothing to address their shadowy aspects and so they become unattractive, full of resentment, hatreds, pettiness, selfishness, vanity. We know the movie character, the man or woman who has become a "miserable old thing."
What to do? People who practice The Twelve Steps are successful to the extent they really tell on themselves. "You're only as sick as your secrets," they say. A wise nun addressing the seminarians said to us, "Reveal it: darkness can't stay in the presence of light." And if I can't or won't risk that revelation for fear of this, that or the other thing - find someone to work with who does this professionally. Really getting at it is hard work. But then we're free!