Friday, May 1, 2015

Again, The Shadow

I recently discovered two authors who write about Jung's shadow archetype.  Paul Levy,  "Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil" and Debbie Ford, "The Secret of the Shadow."  Both have other published work and are well known, though new to me. I haven't read either book yet, but heard them speak on YouTube and am reading some of their work online - fascinating stuff, the shadow.

I keep coming back to the shadow in my posts here, too.  Jung believed that anyone who wants to find balance and wholeness, to individuate, as he put it, must work consciously to shine a light on the shadow.  But it’s a Catch-22 because we seem to have a built-in denial mechanism when it comes to seeing our own shadow.  "Shadow, what shadow? You’re the one with the shadow." 

That would be what Jung called the ego talking. The shadow is every aspect of me which my ego, (that which I accept as myself) rejects, the "not me".  The quicker we are to say not me, the more that denial bears looking into. Here’s a good example from a recent experience I wrote about in my previous post, “Portrait of a Younger Self.” 

I said I would embrace all the wonderful characteristics I rediscovered about my 11-13 yr. old self in an old autograph book I found, but reading what others wrote about me shines a bit of light on my 13 year old shadow, as well.  I noted  how I skimmed over one particular entry when I first read the book. On reading it again, I had to admit to myself that I tried to ignore it because of the way it made me feel.  It was from a boy on whom I had a huge crush; he happened to sit in front of me in one of my classes.  It reads:

"Adelita.  It's been fun sitting in front of you during Cit. Ed., even if you did get my pants dirty."  

Argh!  How embarrassing.  I acted like a SILLY infatuated girl. If there's anything I'm not, it's SILLY.   I did not do dumb groupie stuff at concerts! (Well, I did hoot and holler for my favorite bands.) I love learning and thinking, not being a simpering teeny-bopper.  Ah, you see?  The Shadow.  I should high-five my 13-year old self for her boldness and claim some of that boldness, still.   I want to laugh and embrace my budding sexuality in the aspect of my 13-year old self and let it translate into embracing the mature sexuality of my Crone years.   In Jung’s view, integrating the shadow, accepting rejected parts of the self, leads to a release of creative energy that adds zing to a person’s life.  I think that's true.

I like Debbie Ford's example that resisting the revelation of the shadow, trying to keep from admitting something to ourselves, let alone others, is like trying to continuously hold a large beach ball under water.  That's why, once we join with the beloved cartoon character, Pogo, in admitting, "We have met the enemy and he is us.",  new vitality, hope and possibility becomes available to us.

Since dreaming is a direct path to attaining self-awareness, tracking our dreams and pondering their message in our waking lives can help us meet and integrate our shadow aspects. As Jung saw it,  the shadow can often be found in same sex characters in dreams, although any character can represent a shadow/rejected aspect in ourselves.  A clue to a possible shadow element is a strong, knee-jerk reaction or negative emotional response we may have to that dream element.

Our personal shadow aspects manifest in waking life, sometimes wreaking havoc in our lives, other times projecting havoc onto others.  Projection of shadow fears in the form of “not me, it’s you” is at the root of so much of the evil of our time.  On a personal level, it leads us to create our own messes; on a collective level, it plunges us into wars and other mass disasters.

That’s why acknowledging and somehow coming to a healthy balance with one’s own shadow is part of a dreaming practice.  The good news is that quite often these humbling lessons are delivered in dreams in the funniest ways.  As I was writing this post, I saw this clip of President Obama’s speech at the Annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.  It’s typical for the presidential speech to be full of jokes about the relationship between the press and prez, but in this sketch, President Obama illustrates a very good use of the personal shadow. Kudos to him and Keegan-Michael Key