Monday, August 06, 2012

Our Shadow Sides

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
Oh Jung! I never knew you. In some ways, I am glad. In other ways, I suppose it was a necessary step that I come to know you. Let me begin at the beginning so as to not lose anyone along the way...

Once upon a time, there was girl. This girl understood a lot about herself. She worked on digging the dirt out of her subconscious "nails" and attempted to figure out what her darkest and least desirable traits were. She stumbled blindly along this path for years...she read books. She saw therapists. She took prescripted drugs. She flippantly jested with friends about her shortcomings and foibles. She was aware of what was lurking there, or that something was lurking there at least.

Then one day, she was reading a book by M. Scott Peck and she read of the Jungian concept of our shadow self: our denied subconcious, our darkness, our struggle.As he put it, those of us who are the most in touch with our shadow selves are the most good and those of us who are the least in touch with our shadow selves, the most evil. This intriqued me, I researched more.

From Wikipedia:
"The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself" and represents "a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well".[17] If and when 'an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in others — such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions — ...[a] painful and lengthy work of self-education".[18]

And from John Elder:

"The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self."

I also was not aware of the fact that Jung was the one I had to thank for the concept of "projection." By projecting those darknesses from our shadow selves onto others (who are displaying similar, if not the same, negative characteristics) we are able to chide and to some extent release a bit of our own dark side. Terrific.

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.

And because we fail to notice

that we fail to notice

there is little we can do
to change

until we notice

how failing to notice

shapes our thoughts and deeds.
-R.D. Laing

This leaves me feeling grim. That I have more muck and mire to wade through before reaching an enlightened state is not news to me, but every time I am reintroduced to this concept, I am disturbed by it. Sigh....Oh Jung...why couldn't you have been a bit more of an optimist?

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