Are you and your shadow strolling down the avenue as the lyric to the song proclaims? It seems to me that the shadow or perhaps shadows in the world today is growing to lengths we haven’t seen for many years – perhaps since the rise in Naziism pre–World War 2. But then again perhaps it is just that the shadow is more visible today because of social media and the instant news (real or not) available on every corner of the internet.
First, let’s be clear about what I am talking about when I speak of the shadow. I am using the concept developed by Carl Jung. Jung identified that everyone has parts of themselves which they are not aware of. These can be aspect or characteristics which are unacceptable to them, that is the dark shadow and also aspects which as positive, but we do not recognize in ourselves, that is the bright shadow. Here is one succinct description of the shadow which you may find helpful:
Carl Jung, a renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, called this the “shadow self.” According to Jung, the shadow is the dark, unconscious side of our personality that we often repress or deny. Jung believed that the shadow self is not inherently negative or evil but a natural and necessary part of human nature.
The shadow can manifest itself in people’s lives when you have a reaction to someone or something which is instant and highly energized. A person’s shadow is projected on someone what has the characteristics that we don’t recognize in ourselves. This is for better and often for ill. Have you ever taken an instant dislike to someone who pushes your buttons and causes you to react negatively which is out of proportion to their behaviour. Of course, that can work in the other direction, and you may look up to someone as having all the characteristics you admire. This is the shadow at work. Carl Jung explains:
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness’s of other people. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
The shadow will appear in our dreams, often, but not always, as a dark figure of the same sex as the dreamer. By paying attention to our dreams and particularly the shadow figures in them we can be conscious of them and be aware of how the shadow in ourselves is working in our lives.
The shadow can also operate collectively in groups of people. This is where the danger to society is greatest. I will speak more about that next time.
May you be blessed to befriend your shadow on your journey as you stroll down the avenue together.