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The Shadow


Stephen Kenny

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Ones does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by
making the darkness conscious

C.G. Jung


My Parents
And finally
My shadow

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Shadow in History

Carl Jung once met a distinguished man, a Quaker, who could not imagine that

he had ever done anything wrong in his life. And do you know what happened to his

children? Jung asked. The son became a thief, and the daughter a prostitute.

Because the father would not take on his shadow, his share in the imperfection of

human nature, his children were compelled to live out the dark side which he had

ignored (Zweig (1991, p.48). Therefore, through his refusal to participate in the share

of human imperfection the Quaker passed his darkness onto his children. However,

the Quakers children were not the first to pay for the fathers sins (dark side).

Throughout history sin has being passed down from one generation to the next.

Incredibly we are still atoning for the sins of Adam and Eve. We are still struggling

with our moral duality.

No more is this struggle evident but in the Christian tradition. In his book

What the Shadow Knows, Miller (1990) states, in the bible the differences between

good and evil are sharply drawn: theres God, who is good, and the Devil, who is evil.

God desires human beings to be good, and evil is punished (p.1). Therefore, the

Christian tradition requires people to be good and not to identify with evil. For

example, Miller (1990) states, if you were raised a Christian with the ego ideal of

being loving, morally upright, kind, and generous, then you would have to repress any

qualities you found in yourself that were antithetical to the ideal: anger, selfishness,

crazy sexual fantasies, and so on; all these qualities that you split off would become

the secondary personality called the shadow (p.2). Hence, unable to repress these

negative qualities could substantially lead ones soul to corruption. Thus, anything

antithetical to the ego-ideal needs to be rejected. However, this form of repression

generates a psychological struggle within the psyche, and can lead, in extreme cases,

to the formation of a split personality. No more is this split evident but in the stories

of Jekyll and Hyde (1886), Adam and Eve (date unknown), and Faust and Mephisto


The story of Faust consists of a man who has over developed and overpowered

his intellectual mind. He believes that the answer to his problems is more

knowledge, but this only leads him to additional intense neurotic thinking. As

of a result, he has made a compact with the devil to liberate his neurotic

thinking, because repressed energy demands attention. Therefore, the shadow

(dark side) is released but it ends up possessing Faust, because he does not

have the ability for self-analysis, to hold dialogues with the figures arising

from the unconscious. In the end, like Dr. Jekyll, another over developed

intellectual man, they both become demonically possessed because they lack

the understanding of their brokenness, their duality, and their inner split

(Stevens, 1983, p.127).

Therefore, the stories of Faust and Dr. Jekyll represent the splitting of the psyche.

Both men have denied their full humanity, resulting in one-sided ego development.

Consequently this creates tension and fear towards the denied aspects of their

personality. They believe the way out is to strengthen the ego further, but this only

pushes the denied aspects further underground (shadow). However, the suppressed

energy emerges and possesses both men. What they feared the most engulfed them.

And in the words of Zweig (1991) the, fear of the fall into iniquity has been

expressed throughout the history of Christendom as terror of being possessed by the

powers of darkness (p.27). Consequently, the fear of possession and lack of

understanding has driven the shadow further underground. But initially the Christian

tradition accepted the duality of personality and the need to integrate opposites.

However, Miller (1991) states, later in history, that in-depth perspective was lost and

people simply felt compelled to identify with good, or at least the pretence of being

good; doing that, you will quickly lose contact with the shadow (p.2). Hence, this

loss of contact with the shadow is no less evident but in the minds of the German

people in World War I and II.

Through the industrial revolution people were propelled from the rural to the

urban. And this created dependence on a wage market system, which was regulated

by capitalist intentions. Consequently, it created an individual with less autonomy and

self-governance, but in short an individual who was unbalanced, impressionable, and

suggestible. And it is through this unbalance and disempowerment did the German

people became victims. In his book Aion, Jung (1959) states, defeat and social

disaster had increased the herd instinct in Germany, so that it became more and more

probable that Germany would be the first victim among the western nations - victims

of a mass movement brought about by an upheaval of forces lying dormant in the

unconscious, ready to break through all moral barriers (p.219). Thus, by not taking

responsibility for the forces within the unconscious the German people projected their

insecurities. They believed that strengthening the ego (social identity) would solve

their social insecurities; however, denying these insecurities caused the German

people to carry out horrific acts of evil.

Another group of people who denied their shadow were the Puritans. They

arrived on the shores of North America seeking purity of worship and a just society.

However, this just society did not include the Native Americans who the Puritans

feared their dark skin. They rejected the Native Americans, which represented the

unresolved issues brought from Europe. Therefore, they made the decision to cut

themselves off from darkness. And Bly (1988) states, the hatred of the shadow, at the

start gave New England [the Puritans] a fierce energy; but three hundred years later,

the same hatred drains people and leads to some sort of spiritual death (p.23).

1.2 What is the shadow?

The term shadow was first popularized by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) a

Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology. In his book Aion (1959)

he refers to the shadow as the dark, unlit, and repressed side of the ego complex (p.8).

In addition, Jungs theory of personality consists of the ego, the personal unconscious,

and the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious and collective unconscious

represent the shadow. In addition, Jung suggests that the shadow consists of two

layers. The top layer consists of personal experience, which can be made conscious.

The bottom layer represents untouched psychic activity and the collective

unconscious, which is independent of the top layer and may be impenetrable.

Therefore, the shadow has a dual role to play within the psyche. The top layer of the

shadow symbolizes the disowned part of us, and the bottom layer symbolizes our

psychic inheritance. And in the words of Miller (1990), the shadow is everything

that has been rejected during the development of the personality because it did not fit

into the ego ideal (p.21). Therefore, the contents of the shadow represent the

suppressed and repressed elements of the ego.

1.3 Shadow Making

In his book Meeting the Shadow Zweig (1991) states, each of us has a

psychological heritage that is no less real than our biological one. This inheritance

includes a shadow legacy that is transmitted to us and absorbed by us in the psychic

soup of our family environment (p.47). Therefore, through the interaction of family

and environment we inherit the shadow. In addition, to deny this psychological

heritage is to deny the shadow legacy within ourselves. Thus the shaping of this

legacy occurs dominantly within the home and is the responsibility of our parents.

The inability of our parents to deal with their own heritage is passed onto us in the

form of dysfunctional coping patterns. Hence, our parents deficient programming and

acculturation suffocates our growth. For instance, parents can project unresolved

issues onto their children, which contaminates the interaction of play between them.

And in the words of Zweig (1991), parents want the child to disown the feelings

and actions that they have disowned, so the child can fit a mature adults ideal of

appropriate play (p.48).

Therefore, certain feelings and actions are punished by parents depending

upon their emotional maturity and intelligence. One example of immature parenting,

at times, is Christian based. For example, in his book The Disowned Self, Branden

(1978) states, parents who accept the teachings of religion are very likely to infect

their children with the disastrous notion that there are such things as evil thoughts or

evil emotions and thus fill the child with moral terror of his inner life (p.57).

Consequently, this creates a spilt within the childs mind, because he learns to cover

up his forbidden thoughts and feelings. In doing so he hopes to look good for the

approval of his parents. And following on from Branden (1978) he states, the process

of self-alienation has begun, in denying his feelings, in nullifying his own judgments

and evaluations; in repudiating his own experience, and the child has learned to

disown parts of his personality (p.81). In addition, the process of acculturation

shapes children as to what characteristics to conform to or deny within society. This

process is important, because it holds people and society together. However, culture is

an artificially imposed configuration, which varies around the world. And depending

on the county you are from certain characteristics are either expressed or suppressed.

And, in the words of Johnson (1986), we all are born whole but somehow the culture

demands that we live out only part of our nature and refuse other parts of our

inheritance. We divide the self into an ego and a shadow because our culture insists

that we behave in a particular manner (p.5).

Therefore, culture can either hamper or facilitate childhood programming.

Some cultures have better expression of emotions and of individuality than others.

But what every culture has in common is the denial of certain thoughts and feelings at

certain levels. Therefore, this is the making of the shadow, the repressed and denied

characteristics of our humanity. And finally, in the words of Zweig (1991), because

of the one-sided nature of ego development, the neglected, rejected, and unacceptable

qualities in us accumulate in the unconscious psyche and take form as an inferior

personality - the personal shadow (p.47).

1.4 Shadow Life

According to Branden (1978), to diminish ones capacity to experience

pain is to diminish also ones capacity to experience pleasure (p.104). Thus, to

alleviate this limitation one needs to embrace their shadow. However, the shadow life

represents one of emotional upheaval and turmoil and not everybody is willing to take

this journey. Thus, people end up denying certain aspects of their personality. For

example, Miller (1990) found this to be true when he was growing up around

religious fundamentalists, and quotes, I noticed a kind of up tightness about them -

as if they were literally trying not to have certain things enter their mind, much less be

expressed openly (p.20). Therefore, denial can be rampant, and one example of

denial is when people experience negative feelings, but do not seek the causation of

their emotions. As a consequence, Branden (1978) states that, feelings which are not

permitted to be experienced, expressed and thus discharged, are frozen into his body,

barricaded behind walls of muscular and physiological tension, and a pattern of

reaction is inaugurated that will tend to recur again and again when he is threatened

by a feeling he/she does not wish to experience (p.282). Therefore, the physiological

entrapment of emotion can possess an individual, unable to regulate their emotions,

one becomes a passive victim of their affects. This is evident within the stories of

Jekyll and Hyde, Adam and Eve, and Faust and Mephisto.

This split of personality creates the shadow within people and losing contact

with it is most dangerous. According to Johnson (1986), it often has an energy

potential nearly as great as that of our ego. If it accumulates more energy than our

ego, it erupts as an overpowering rage or some indiscretion that slips past us; or we

have a depression or an accident that seems to have its own purpose. The shadow

gone autonomous is a terrible monster in our psychic house (p.5). Hence, this can be

observed by the actions of the German people in World War I & II. The loss of

contact with the shadow can be detrimental. And in his essay Meeting Darkness on

the Path, Eichman (1990) states, every one of us, from the most perfectly civilized to

the imprisoned criminal, harbours an inner, festering, neurotic sore, a private shadow

of anger, terror, lust, and pain. This shadow, this dark side is a miniature copy of the

greater darkness of society which manifests in war, oppression, and starvation


However, most people prefer to put on an innocent face when it comes to evil,

they hope by ignoring it, it will disappear. Nevertheless, this creates a fatalistic

approach to life. By not owning our own emotions and personality qualities, we

project them out into the world, in which they are manipulated and used by people

and society. And according to Jung (1959), it is often tragic to see how blatantly a

man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of

seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually

feeds it and keeps it going (p.10). Therefore, it is a lot easier to find a scapegoat than

to face ones insecurities. This was witnessed during World War II, when the German

people blamed the Jews for their economic problems. And, in the words of Miller

(1990), that which tends to support our egocentric defence system is what we deem

to be good; that which is antithetical to it, we deem to be evil (p.23). Thus,

antithetical to the German ego ideal the Jews were labelled as evil. This pattern can be

found throughout history, especially when we fear the unknown, we automatically

label it as evil.

However, evil is only a feeling that we have blocked something out of our

awareness, because we have not integrated those experiences into our consciousness.

This was observed throughout the history of Christianity with the fear of being

possessed by the powers of darkness. By labelling our emotions as evil we do not take

responsibility for their causation, we end up being possessed by them. Therefore, to

overcome the shadow we must own it, not fight it; in doing so humankind will be able

to move on from ignorance and superstition.

1.5 Shadow Liberation

Zweig (1991) states, no one likes to admit his own darkness (p.48). And as

human beings we have developed elaborate mechanisms of defence to hide our

unacceptable character traits from others and ourselves. Using this form of denial in

repressing significant character traits, feelings, longings, and needs a person

obliterates elements of his personality. Therefore, through the acceptance of our

darkness can we liberate the shadow and all aspects of our personality. And according

to Johnson (1986), until we have undertaken the task of accepting and honouring the

shadow within us, we cannot be balanced or whole (p.8). For wholeness does not

come from strengthening the ego, but illuminating the shadow. This can be observed

in the book Dantes Inferno, in which Dante descends into the pits of hell to purify

his soul. In reaching the very centre of hell and having faced every sin can Dante now

hope to purify his soul. As only through bringing our sin from the darkness into the

light can we liberate the shadow. Hence, sin symbolizes darkness that needs to be

transformed. Therefore, nothing about ourselves can change until it is brought into

awareness and accepted, because the road towards liberation passes through the gates

of hell. There in the very centre of hell do we find the anti-Christ who represents the

prodigious personification of all human inferiorities, our shadow. Hence, the devil

needs to be integrated into our awareness as he represents our second Christ, if

disintegrated he will represent our neurotic suffering.

Therefore, like the prodigal son coming home to the father, the shadow needs

to come home to the ego. For too long has the shadow been in the wilderness. To

bring the shadow back into awareness the ego, according to Zweig (1991), needs to

enter into a gentlemans agreement with the shadow - a development which is

diametrically opposed to the old ethics of absolutism and perfection (p.240). It is this

absolutism and perfection which has corrupted the ego as it serves the goals and

desires of society, and not our own. And in his book Insearch: Psychology and

Religion, Hillman (1962) exclaims, if we approach ourselves to cure ourselves,

putting me in the centre, it too often degenerates into the aim of curing the ego -

getting stronger, better, growing in accord with the egos goals, which are often

mechanical copies of societys goals (p.18).

Therefore, the ego needs to learn to cooperate with the shadow and not just

societys goals. It means confronting and absorbing the shadow contents into a larger

self-concept. However, this integration of the unconscious into the conscious demands

considerable energy and effort, and provides considerable resistance due to our

conditioning. In the words of Jung (1964), we still labour under the unwholesome

delusion that we should be at peace within ourselvesif everybody could see his own

shadow and begin the only struggle that is really worth while pursuing (p.224). To

begin this struggle one needs to regress, to undo the negative learning of a lifetime,

which allows integration and assimilation of the shadow. One form of regression is

psychotherapy. And in the words of Zweig (1991), therapy requires us to take up

what we have rejected previously in the service of our ego-ideal, and to establish a

new personal order that accounts for our destructive side (p.239). However, this

process is met with considerable resistance from our ego defences. When these

defences drop, according to Miller (1990), it can result in temporary depression, or

clouding of consciousness. Jung compared the process of integration - which is called

individuation - to the process of alchemy. One stage of alchemy is the melanosis,

where everything turns black inside the vessel containing the alchemical elements.

But that black stage is absolutely essential. Jung said it represents the first contact

with the unconscious, which is always the contact with the shadow. The ego takes that

as kind of defeat (p.23).

As a result, the ego is reoriented to a closer relationship with the real self and

not the ideal self. Thus, the shadow is permitted to remerge from its exile into the

awareness of consciousness. There it can be assimilated and integrated. However,

releasing the shadow without the necessary psychological tools can paralyze an

individual. And in the words of Eichman (1990), the ability to deal with these

emerging dark impulses is a basic skill which must be mastered by every individual

(p.134). Hence, these skills can be mastered through various rituals, practices, and

techniques. For example, in the Balinese culture they bring up their shadow elements

through art, dance, and theatre. Therefore, whatever form of shadow expression one

exercises the truth remains that the energy of the shadow needs to be released and

expressed. We can not be light without honouring the dark.


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