You’re a gorgeous mystery with a wild heart and a lofty purpose. But like all of us, you also have a dark side — a part of your psyche that snarls and bites, that’s unconscious and irrational, that is motivated by ill will or twisted passions or instinctual fears.
It’s your own personal portion of the world’s sickness: a mess of repressed longings, enervating wounds, ignorant delusions, and unripe powers. You’d prefer to ignore it because it’s unflattering or uncomfortable or very different from what you imagine yourself to be.
If you acknowledge its existence at all (many of us don’t), you might call it the devil, your evil twin, your inner monster, or your personal demon. Psychologist Carl Jung referred to it as the shadow. He regarded it as the lead that the authentic alchemists of the Middle Ages sought to transmute into gold.
Astrologer Steven Forrest has a different name for the shadow: stuff. “Work on your stuff,” he says, “or your stuff will work on you.” He means that it will sabotage you if you’re not aggressive about identifying, negotiating with, and transforming it.
The shadow is not inherently evil. If it is ignored or denied, it may become monstrous to compensate. Only then is it likely to “demonically possess” its owner, leading to compulsive, exaggerated, “evil” behavior.
“The shadow, which is in conflict with the acknowledged values, cannot be accepted as a negative part of one’s own psyche and is therefore projected — that is, it is transferred to the outside world and experienced as an outside object. It is combated, punished, and exterminated as ‘the alien out there’ instead of being dealt with as one’s own inner problem.” — Erich Neumann, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic
The qualities in ourselves that we deny or dislike are often the very qualities that we most bitterly complain about in other people. So for instance, an old friend of mine named Mark had a special disgust for friends who were unavailable to him when he really needed them. But I was witness to him engaging in the same behavior three different times, disappearing from the lives of his friends just when they needed him most.
“Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event,” said Jung. If you disown a part of your personality, it’ll materialize as an unexpected detour.
Everyone who believes in the devil is the devil . . . .
TO READ THE REST OF “SHADOW SCHOOL,” go here: bit.ly/wGN3iM
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