The Shadow Knows...

What is causing the pain and darkness in so many peoples' lives today?  As part of my ongoing studies at Goddard College, I recently read a Compilation of Essays on the Shadow Archetype- Here are notes on 2 essays (Creating the False Self and The Cure of the Shadow) that spoke deeply to me, especially considering the recent political upheaval in the U.S…  The Shadow has much to teach us!Questions to ponder... Could President Elect Trump be the manifestation of our Shadow selves which have been repressed for too long?  Is the upheaval afterwards further resistance against acceptance of our darker side?  Might the chronic pain and anxiety that we feel physically, be something that could be healed by looking at our Shadows?  Only by seeing it (our shadow), accepting it and healing the pain can we move on… fully whole once again.  However, instead of seeing the darkness which has been repressed and realizing that we need to change for the better, our citizens are fighting and placing blame- not very productive! ☺  

Creating the False Self by Harville Hendrix

  • Where did the Shadow self originate?  
      • Our parents influence us in their teachings (what is right and wrong, acceptable and not acceptable, etc) and most deeply, by example.  The “do what I say, not what I do” mantra is NOT very effective or healthy.  Kids are sponges regarding their parents’ behaviors. “Whether children accept their parents’ model or rebel against it, this early socialization plays a significant role in mate as well.”  (p. 50)
      • When kids have a forbidden thought, or indulge in “unacceptable” behavior, he/ she gets a “self-administered jolt of anxiety.  This is so unpleasant that the child puts to sleep some of those forbidden parts of himself… the ultimate price of his obedience is a loss of wholeness.” (p. 50).  Raising children to be healthy is SO difficult, especially with all this great information today.  
      • Three fractured parts from whole psyche: (p. 51)
        • Lost Self- Parts repressed because of demands of society- typically outside of our awareness.
        • False Self- Façade created to fill void created by repression and lack of adequate nurturing.  Protects self from further injury.  
        • Disowned Self- Negative parts of False Self that were disapproved of and therefore have been denied as being part of self.  Typically deny actively or project onto others. 

          I find it amazing that any of us has survived childhood, intact in any way.  Once our psyche is fractured as a child, we spend the rest of our lives trying to put the pieces back together (once we realize there is a problem).  If we don’t consciously realize it, I am confident that is also a source of chronic ailments and pain in our lives today as adults...

  • The Cure of the Shadow by James Hillman

      • Hillman tells us that the cure of the shadow is a two-fold problem to heal…
        • A moral problem and a problem of love.
        • Moral side requires “recognition of what we have repressed, how we perform our repressions, how we rationalize and deceive ourselves, what sorts of goals we have and what we have hurt, even maimed, in the name of these goals.” (p. 424).  

          I believe that this side can be very harsh and judgmental to be sure- yet it is critical to the cure.  We cannot cure/ heal until we are aware of the problem, either physically, emotionally or spiritually…  I feel that this is a big part of why we are having such upheaval after the election- we are finally having to face those parts of ourselves that we do not like- the Shadow side.  Will we be strong enough to accept and love these parts as we heal?  

      • Love’s role requires asking these questions, “How far can our love extend to the broken and ruined parts of ourselves, the disgusting and perverse?  How much charity and compassion have we for our own weakness and sickness?  How far can we build an inner society on the principle of love, allowing a place for everyone?” (p. 424)
      • “Cure is a paradox requiring two incommensurables: the moral recognition that these parts of me are burdensome and intolerable and must change, and the loving laughing acceptance which takes them just as they are, joyfully, forever… Western moralism and Eastern abandon: each holds only one side of the truth.” (p. 243)

What’s next?  

          Returning to wholeness (as individuals and as a society) requires us to be able to lovingly embrace the darkness (our repressed Shadow selves & uncomfortable parts of national history).   Seeing it is the FIRST step- Enter President Elect Trump!  Then, and only then, we can strive to overcome our dualistic  way of thinking- “us vs them, male vs female, or light vs dark”- healing our painful moral problems by using love & acceptance.   In so doing, I suggest that we will finally be able to heal the Shadow and the chasms in society today. We are all ONE, after all- The United States of America!  Time to pull together once again as we embrace and heal our Shadow selves...Zweig, C. and Abrams, J, ed. (1991). Meeting the Shadow: The hidden power of the dark side of Human Nature. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.