Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Befriending the Shadow

R. and I have been so busy--we both realized that three weeks have passed since our last time together. We talk regularly on the phone and on chat, but its not the same, and after a while we miss that energy flow between us. So, needing that ki-fix, we had a contemplative, conversational dinner at Papa Hayden's. We both have a fondness for everything from mythology and archetypes to phenomenology and existentialism to fin de siecle French art and literature, so we rarely run out of things to speak of.

A philosophy major, he is also well-informed on schools of psychology, particularly Jungian. We talked a bit of my therapy, how it was going and my general ambivalence, about my consideration of transitioning to a "life-coach" instead of a Jungian analyst. As we conversed, he asked if he could say something, and I said, "Of course."
He said, "You need to befriend your shadow."
I grinned at him, and I joked, "Jung's shadow, as I recall, was a brown, leathery dwarf. What is mine, a salamander?"

And so we launched into a discussion of what Jung discovered or theorized about the "shadow". Jung believed that what people fail to integrate into their conscious "waking" selves tends to collect into increasingly complex and autonomous mini-personalities. R. reminded me that these are comprised of the "unowned" or "disowned" aspects of ourselves and most commonly manifest in dreams and fantasies. The most prominent of these is the "shadow", the depository of most of what we consider negative, ugly, inferior, unpleasant, and flawed about ourselves. In our dreams, this shadow is always the gender of the dreamer and usually manifests as a figure that is strange, alien, threatening, or abhorrent. It insists on approaching us in our dreams, seeming to pursue us, no matter how hard we try to escape. These things "chasing" us in our dreams are the things we do not like about ourselves -- they are our insecurities, our fears, our rage, our sublimated drives -- and the shadow embodies it, and in refusing to be abolished, strives to fulfill the drive of the self to become whole. The shadow is only a terrifying creature because we fear it, but for those who learn to embrace it, the shadow becomes a benevolent figure who simply returns to us those aspects of ourselves which we discarded and which it has held in safe-keeping.

R. surmised that I am trying to heal while still encapsulating my shadow, while still retaining some of my locked-and-barred compartments. He said that therapy and self-examination are for pulling things out of the bag, airing them out, and then putting them away again, repeating the process again and again, until we understand that what is in the bag is a part of us, and not so awful a part after all. He said I need to befriend my shadow, because until I do, I will not be whole.

After some consideration, I think he is right.

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Blogger kujmous said...

I think my shadow is a politician.

2:06 PM, October 29, 2006  

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