great topic craig!
i just finished reading a great book on the shadow by robert a. johnson called owning your own shadow. i was led to it through my interest in the enneagram [of which i am mostly a 5]. the enneagram is a personality type study that offers a manner in which to contemplate holistically both sides of the coin of the human person: the good qualities and the 'bad' enlightening one to recognize the tools needed to strive toward striking a balance between the two polarities.
prior to my recovery and early on into it i attempted to use several 'drugs' to deny the 'shadow side' which largely had evolved as a result of the confusion that stemmed from my experience of having been abused. the drugs were;
drugs (pot, speed, lsd, coke)
career development and work ethic
the intimacy dance
you name it, if i thought it would make me more acceptable in the eyes of everyone else, then i would pursue it. today, i am sure that there were no eyes checking me out, but i do know that rather than being able to allow my darkness to manifest, i denied it at all costs. sure i did let it out in increments, but never in such a way as to find resolution from the tensions that brewed within.
before i made a conscious effort to allow my shadow to come out of the shadows recently, i had had my game face pretty well set. but now, i'm giving a bit more rein or reign to the other part of me, in the hopes that i will be better able to synthesize the two.
like mike says in his book, i organized my life around my wound, and that meant hiding my shadow, and everything i did in life was an attempt to get out of the sun so the darned thing could not be detected.
all i know is this: that i am no longer so afraid of tattoos as i used to be, because they represented an expression of shadow, and i was afraid to be around people who blatantly literally wore their shadow on their sleeve.
for me this is progress .... i guess you could say that's my denomination in a nutshell: less judgement and greater compassion for myself and others.