Only The Shadow Knows

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1 comments

The Shadows That Lay Within Us

Most all of us want to be good people, and to act with wisdom, dignity and integrity…three qualities, I know that, I strive for. Along with honesty, but then, I believe, that is a quality that is only a portion of the other three. But humans, as a whole, are less good than we want to be, or even imagine ourselves to be. I have written several times before about the different selves that make up our whole.

I can not argue with Dr. Carl Jung who believed that we have a “shadow” side. We all have one, albeit some of us show that side of ourselves more than others. According to Carl Jung, the “shadow” is the part of ourselves that a person has no wish to be, and is a part of our subconscious (as I always refer to it) and/or unconscious…anything we once were, but then pushed away, which can also be positive things.

“All that is unacceptable is, as they say, "in Shadow" to the degree that is us, or was us, and we deny it.”

Human’s are capable of the most horrendous of atrocities, but we humans have a tendency to turn a blind-eye to the shadow side of human nature, even though there is a part of us, that is painfully aware, that there is that side of us lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right opportunity to reveal itself. Take a look at my article “When Good Men Turn Evil, The Stanford Experiment”, for a good example, and the “Milgram Experiment”.

We know that the wildest and most moving dramas are played not in the theatre but in the hearts of ordinary men and women who pass by without exciting attention, and who betray to the world nothing of the conflicts that rage within them except possibly by a nervous breakdown. What is so difficult for the layman to grasp is the fact that in most cases the patients themselves have no suspicion whatever of the internecine war raging in their unconscious. If we remember that there are many people who understand nothing at all about themselves, we shall be less surprised at the realization that there are also people who are utterly unaware of their actual conflicts. "New Paths in Psychology" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.425
There is a vast difference between who we are, and who we portray ourselves to be, and also who we are individually, and who we are within the collective whole of the human race, and our surrounding connections. Every person and every experience within our lives has formed some sort of belief, value, and perception connected to it, and continues to form how we scrutinize ourselves, and our surroundings.

Just like the dark figure that mimics our every move in the light, our shadow self follows us wherever we go. Many psychologists, philosophers, and the like, as well as myself, believe that until we confront the shadow part of ourselves it will continue to follow us, for it is reflected back to us in our interactions with others. If there is something that we like about someone, it is a part of ourselves that we like, and on the other side, if there is something we dislike about someone, it is a part of us that we dislike, all of which are mirrored back at us. We will continue to draw in the same situations and the same people, with different faces, that we have experienced in the past, until we meet, and come to grips with, those shadow parts of ourselves. Many times, we would rather die, than to say that we are like them.

Again, it does seem plausible to suggest that when we take our anger out on others, it can be difficult to admit the fact that we have, and difficult to admit that how we see ‘them’ is shaped more by us than ‘them’. And “No matter how obvious it may be to the neutral observer… [that this is such a case], there is little hope the subject will perceive this themselves.” ibid., p. 146.

When you come across someone in your life that irritates you for some reason, sometimes you can't even put your finger on why, but observe them, and try to see what it is about them that is bothering you. What is it that they do that you dislike so much? Then look within yourself, because according to scientists, this is an undeveloped, un-confronted, unresolved, aspect of yourself being mirrored back at you, that has been tucked neatly away in your subconscious, as you attempt to hide from it.

A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour.
"The Philosophical Tree" (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335
Dr. Carl Jung believed that our shadow self will slither its way into our dreams. Many times as an unknown, but same sex person, although this does not mean that every same sex person in our dreams, is our shadow trying to tell us something. Jung believed that you should not reject, accept, or try to become this person, but to try to relate to this person. He believed that your dreams not only reflected the problem, but also holds the solution.

Ann Wiseman, an author, artist and teacher for more than 50 years, has a method that she has used when working with children, where she would have the children draw a portion of a dream that they found to be threatening in some way, and once they did that, they were told to draw something in the picture, other than weapons, that would render the threat harmless. For example, putting bars in front of the threat. Then they were to talk to, and confront the threat, and listen to its response. Interact with it, to find out its true purpose.

Many times throughout my life, I have had a dream where I was urgently attempting to run from something, and would continually fall down, get back up and run a few steps, and fall once again. Another variation of that dream is one where I frantically try to scream in utter terror, and nothing will come out. In both instances, I was filled with sheer desperation. However, I never would know what I was running from, or why I was attempting to scream, other than the need for someone to help me, or to escape. I have learned now, that I need to turn around and confront my demon. Why is it chasing me, and what am I so very afraid of?

Only the shadow knows.
“The more projections are thrust between a subject and the environment, the harder it is for the ego to see through its illusions.” Jung, Carl, “Aion”, p. 147.
What an interesting, and challenging journey lays ahead, as I discover, meet, and become familiar "shadow".
"On a broader scale, recent history continues to show how it is easier to send thousands of ‘our’ troops to die at the hands of a ‘shadowy’ enemy, leaving a trail of death and destruction in our wake, than to introspectively ask hard questions of ourselves, and our society." Andrew S. "Amishtrasher".
Indeed, to Jung, such large scale cases of hatred were, in a sense, extensions of the personal level shadow projection. Quoting Jung, “Just as the addition of however many zeros will never make a unit, so the value of community depends on the spiritual and moral stature of the individuals composing it.” Jung, Carl, “The Undiscovered Self”, in Storr, Anthony (ed.), “The Essential Jung: Selected Writings”, 1983, London, Fontana Paperbacks, p. 363. Whole reactionary social movements, and many political careers have been essentially built people’s unwillingness to turn their gaze inward. The social pressure of either a movement, attitude or creed can be a large obstacle to overcome in shadow integration; especially where challenging such movements, attitudes or creeds may be an invitation to other people to project their shadows on to you.
These quotes are coming from an article about our "shadow", which is also integrated within the "collective shadow" of society.

Just as, for day there must be night, for good there must be evil, and we must observe both in order to appreciate the other.

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