My favorite description of the experience of the Shadow is the one depicted in the poem “Ego,” by Dilys Laing (1906-1969):
Vague, submarine, my giant twin
swims under me, a girl of shade
who mimics me. She’s caught within
a chickenwire of light that’s laid
by netted waves on floor of sand.
I dare not look. I squeeze my lids
against that apparition and
her company of surrounding squids,
her company of nounless fright.
She is the unknown thing I am
and do not wish to see. In flight
I swim the way my comrades swam
and hide among them. Let me keep
their safety’s circle for a charm
against that sister in the deep
who, huge and mocking, plans me harm.
As an incest survivor myself, I am inclined to believe that Dilys was also abused as a child. Then I came across the following by her and suspect even more strongly:
Forgive me for neglecting to show you that the world is evil.
I had hoped your innocence
would find it good
and teach me what I know to be untrue.
Incidentally, though not strictly on topic for this page, I came across a scholarly book at the O.U. library that discussed the sexual abuse of Emily Dickinson as a child.
From The Meaning in Dreams and Dreaming, p. 108-109, 1985, by Maria F. Mahoney:
The author quotes Carl Jung to the effect that, “The Shadow is a moral problem which challenges the whole ego personality; no one is able to realize the Shadow without a considerable expenditure of moral resolution. To confront it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as actually present and morally binding. Such confrontation is the essential condition of any kind of self-recognition,”
There is a Shadow, the dark side of every man. Your portion of your darkness will show up in the Shadow figure in your dreams….Be prepared for the worst; dreams spare you not at all….
1. We can suspect our own Shadow by pinpointing what makes us angry in other people. There may be a truth about us something we don’t want to see because we hate that part of ourselves….
2. We can suspect our own Shadow by the amount of satisfaction we feel at other people’s weaknesses or failings.
3. Our shadows can often be detected by the reaction of other people to us.
4. We may experience paralyzing inertia to the matter of living good qualities positively…because they do not want the responsbility….
Highly informative and broad in its scope is Meeting the Shadow, edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams and containing work from dozens of leaders in the field.
P.S. Sometimes we reject the strong positive aspect of ourselves, in which case the shadow is far from evil.
Reading the book Strangers to Ourselves:Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious brought to mind once more Jung’s concept of the Shadow. Jung said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” On this page I am trying to figure out if the Shadow is evil (some stress that it is not). A positive healthy Shadow has been postulated, in which the individual fails to own his/her strengths. I am also going to be looking into the possibility that we can have more than one shadow self. Multiple shadow personalities? On the home front, the night I seriously began reading a collection of articles on the Shadow I had the first long, scary nightmare in years. That was a week ago, and that was ….
In the introduction to their book, the editors state that “The Shadow goes by many familiar names: the disowned self, the lower self, the dark twin or brother in bible and myth, the double, repressed self, alter ego, id. When we come face to face with our darker side, we use metaphors to describe these shadowy encounters: meeting our demons, wrestling with the devil, descent to the underworld, dark night of the soul, midlife crisis.(ibid., 3).
It has been stated by Marie-Louise Von Franz (ibid., 35) that in dreams and myths, “the shadow appears as the same sex as that of the dreamer.” I’ll have to check that out. Unsure.
From An Outline of Analytical Psychology by Edward F. Edinger c.1968 by Jung Foundation:
The shadow is a composite of personal characteristics and potentialities of which the individual is unaware. Usually the shadow, as indicated by the word, contains inferior characteristics and weaknesses which the ego’s self-esteem will not permit it to recognize… .The evil and dangeros aspect of the shadow is often due more to its circumstances than to its essence. Just as animal which have become vicious by starvation and brutal treatment can be changed into loyal companions by loving care, so the shadow loses much of its negative aspect when given conscious acceptance and attention…
First experiment to see if I can make a (slight) change. I have a habit of remembering something unfortunate I have done–even ignorant of it at the time–then saying to myself, sometimes aloud, “I’m sorry, –.” It seems like most of my transgressions are failures to do something, by being unaware (unconscious of the situation). I’m going to try and “own” any negative feedback or remembered travesty, and I’ll get back to you in a week on whether or not I followed through.No EUREKA’s yet. LATER: It’s sobering, but I have accepted and “own” the fact that many instances of “blindness” of not giving or not reimbursing for something is my sneaky, selfish shadow side. I suspect I dissociate a tad at times, and that could be in the service of Shadow.
THINKING SPACE — is the Shadow just a metaphor? David Barash (1979) writes in The Whisperings Within, a thorough somewhat gruelling exploration of the topic of sociobiology, that states flatly that “Real, honest-to-God altruism simply doesn’t occur in nature.” (p 135). Evolution has made us “self-centered, rather than other-centered.” (168). A stronger drive than survival is survival of our genes, played out in kin selection (maybe better explained by “kin preference.)
NOTE, however, that blogger Shiradest writes that “I’ve read the likes of David Barash, when I was trying to fold Kantian Altruism into my thesis. I prefer to believe that our capacity for self-sacrifice (thanks Babylon5 !!) is proof that Barash is wrong.”
2 December, 12015 HE
What else is evolution up to? While ensuring that one’s own kinship survival takes precedence over all else, evolution seems to be working against itself in some small way. Take the newly appreciated human mirror neurons, which appear to be important for empathy, self-awareness, and language. As Marco Iacoboni (2009) reports in depth, they help us “determine how to reduce violent behavior, increase empathy, and open ourselves to other cultures without forgetting our own. We have evolved to connect deeply with other human beings”…(Mirroring People, 272). This relates to “imitative learning,” and need we mention the impact of violence portrayed on tv, language, games, etc.? Iacoboni tells us that autistic children have a deficit in mirror neurons, and can be helped by imitative exercises. Of course a little wrinkle here is who we are mirroring. Those whom we might model (mirror) ourselves after are increasingly revealed to have feet of clay.
DUH–I used to wonder why the strongest apparent drive in humans is for self-survival. Then (much later) I suddenly realized that those without it died off.
So why this evolution focus? I guess it’s because what we start out with seems important in order to get in touch with our dark side. I personally don’t believe in original sin–although hold on, Is kin preference and self-preservation not close to original sin? We apparently are born with a preference for ourselves and our kin, and it’s been postulated (see above) that we lack true altruism. Barash (ibid, p 135-36) relates the following story about J.B.S. Haldane, the great biologist, who was asked one day in a pub if he would give up his life for his brother. “No, said Haldane, he wouldn’t do that, but he would sacrifice himself for three brothers or, failing that, nine cousins…. Each of us is likely to have more copies of our own genes in the bodies of three siblings or nine cousins than we have within ourselves.” Of course, the story may be apochryphal and if true he may have been presenting a “teaching” example.
SO–I’M WONDERING IF WE should be working to assume responsibility for all of us and what would Jung have done with that if he knew evolution?
ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA, “The unconscious mind (or the unconscious) consists of the processes in the mind that occur automatically and are not available to introspection, and include thought processes, memory, affect, and motivation.”
Then there’s culture’s influence as demonstrated by the Milgrim Experiment (1961) , which spotlighted man’s vulnerability to the power of obedience to unethical instructions from authority figures. The Stanford Experiment (1971), by Philip Zimbardo revealed the extent to which power corrupts (staged experiment involving “prisoners” and “prison staff”.) The experiment got out of hand, and even Zimbardo was swept up in it. It had to be cancelled because after a week another researcher visited from outside and saw how much the relationships had deteriorated.
And too, there’s the bystander effect, as illustrated by the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, while 38 people looked on without even phoning the police during a half-hour period of carnage. Someone called, after she was dead. Kind of the reverse of mob hysteria, or mob rule. I will add a P.S. to Kitty Genovese later.
So, where does that leave us in dealing with our unethical urges that we should “own,” but not act on? Both animal and human nature, in the long run, seem more inclined to fortify aggression than acquiescence.
In order apparently for life to even survive, something like “mother love” had to evolve in a number of species, so that offspring would be cared for (as in, not kill their young?) Labeled “Kindchenschema,” the tender appeal of classic infant features has been traced back as far as the dinosaur Sciurumimus. The effects of “babyfacedness” was first reported in the observations of Konrad Lorenz (1943), who wrote that the Kindchenschema works as a trigger for instinctive berhavior such as taking a child into one’s arms.
I had a special interest in this finding because I had earlier wondered why the inside of my arms were almost itching to hold a baby I saw. (We can observe and experience it in our own warm response to infants and even as seen on U tube in videos of cross-species friendship. (www.polosone.org, March 2013, Vol. 8, 3). Once through the cute stage, however, it appears to be “each man” for himself and his genes, unless they’re related, of course. It will be enlightening (and possibly depressing) for someone to be able to observe, hopefully, over the next hundreds of years how evolution manages to respond to the new environmental and spiritual challenges. (I tried to check out a book on post-humanism and computers but it was out). I think that’s a different subject, anyway.
Sorry, I got carried away just a tad.
The awareness that human existence is both joy and woe is prerequisite for accepting responsibility for the effect of one’s intentions. My intentions will sometimes be evil…but I ought to do my best to accept them as parts of myself rather than to project them on you. (254-255 Rollo May, Power and Innocence).
BTW: I just ordered Sam Keen’s book on “Facing Our Enemies” It’s on its way. (Perhaps you can guess who the enemy is). JUST RECEIVED Keen’s book. Quotes at random:
“when we want to become conscious, we must be willing to become real rather than good.” P 94-95
OH OH — Keen seems to believe in a true human instinct for universal compassion: “Duty can be nothing less than the refusal to allow a national consensus of communal narcissism to displace the ‘trans-moral conscience’ that is the true human instinct for universal compassion.” P 97
And Gazzaniga 2009 p 146 says of altruistic behavior, “which is appearing to be innate in humans, is influenced by social experience and cultural transmission…..”
Does the side of us opposite to the Shadow have a name? It seems we need one. [morality?] One part of the Shadow is kept from consciousness due to denial, repression and projection. That part of ourselves that rejects the contents of our Shadow is fueled by shame (how other people would or do see us), defense mechanisms (primarily to protect a cherished self-image) and by a wish to craft a positive life story, from beginning to end. The “storymaking” function ideally balances between a good story or a bad story. The statement that there’s no good and no bad, there just is, is a lot easier to say than to incorporate. I doubt that fear of hell is a strong inhibiting factor. Too many people damn behaviors which, when in similar circumstances, they embrace with no memory or recognition of their own former strongly-held opinions.
I guess I just came across one answer to this, in Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) lurking in all of us by David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo (p 49}. “What we feel, not only what we think… guides our moral actions…given that our feelings can and do change quickly and seemingly unpredictably, our moral judgments and therefore our character, are quite flexible. The mechanisms of the mind aren’t perfect. Though they serve us well most of the time, they can be tripped up by context. Potentially more troubling still is that such changes in context aren’t always random; they are readily susceptible to intentional manipulation.”
There’s one part of the unconscious that cannot be forced into consciousness. In other words, a separate part of the Shadow can motivate us and affect our feelings without our ever experiencing it. It is truly “unknown,” and can never be directly experienced. The reason is that we have two different information processing systems–one fast with not too much information which never reaches the cortex but which can affect our behavior, and the other a slower one which makes its way by a serparate route to the cortex. Does the front line of the conscious versus the unconscious have a place in the Shadow?
That brings us to the edge of the free will debate. An individual may have a strong antagonistic and irrational attitude toward another individual as the result of early experiences that never reached consciousness, but left its mark , nevertheless.
FROM Timothy D. Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves:
P 11 Implications of nonconscious processing for prejudice. One of the most interesting properties of the adaptive unconscious is that it uses stereotypes to categorize and evaluate other people. William Carpentier more than a century ago noted that people develop habitual “tendencies of thought” that are unconscious and that these thought patterns can lead to unconscious prejudice which we thus form, [that] are often stronger than the conscious; and they are more dangerous, because we cannot knowingly guard against them.
P15 “much of what we want to see is unseeable.”
P 16 It is difficult to know ourselves because there is no direct access to the adaptive unconscious , no matter how hard we try. It is often better to deduce the nature of our hidden minds by looking outward at our behavior , and how others react to us. And coming up with a good narrative.
P 22 A simple definition of the unconscious is anything that is in your mind that you are not consciously aware of at a particular point in time.
P 23 A better working definition of the unconscious is the mental process that is inaccessible to consciousness but that influences judgments, feelings, or behavior.
P 23 Nonconscious thinking is an evolutionay adaptation. To initiate behavior quickly and unconsciously confers a survival advantage.
P 26 Implicit learning is one of the most important functions of the adaptive unconscious.
p.38 People are often guided by the desire to view the world in the way that gives them the most pleasure.
People go to great lengths to view the world in a way that maintains a sense of well-being in the . “Psychological immune system” Daniel Gilbert and Tim have coined the phrase.
p.39 The conflict between the need to be accurate and the desire to feel good about ourselves is one of the major battlegrounds of the self, and how this battle is waged and how it is won are central determinants of who we are and how we feel about ourselves.
A dose of self-deception can be helpful as well, enabling us to maintain a positive view of ourselves and an optimistic view of the future.
Gazzaniga, Michael. Who’s in Charge? p 147 – (More kindling for the argument:) “As a species, we don’t like to kill, cheat, steal, and be abusive.” …Robin Dunbar found that the typical group size for humans is about 150 individuals. [Behavioral & Brain Science, 16(4), 1998.
Hasson, Uri (2010) measured the brain activity of a pair of conversing subjects with fMRI and found that the listener’s brain activity mirrored the speakers’. (The behavior of one person can affect another person’s behavior.). Gazzaniga, 147. (This should probably be under Secrets)
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, in an effort to include what is common to all moral systems, not just western thought, has come up with this definition: “Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible.” (Gazzaniga p 166).
How would that translate to Jung’s understanding of the Shadow and how we must accept it but not act on it? It requires a little more fermentation.
SEE paragraphs no. 21-23 under “Secrets” for additional unconscious influences on behavior.
“Whether it’s because of the battle between our own mental mechanisms or changes in our external environments, we don’t always act as morally as we’d like….Understanding how the system truly works is the first step toward being able to handle it better.” DeSteno and Valdesolo p 54.
“When faced with a moral decision, take a few seconds to pause and listen to your inner voices. Is there a hint of guilt, a hint of shame, a gut feeling of unease? If so, don’t ignore it…. Feel it!…” ibid pp 55-56
Sorry. didn’t mean to get waylaid away from the topic of Our Shadow Selves. That topic involves denying we have negative traits, and not “owning” them as part of ourselves, and using defense mechanisms to hide them from ourselves. As Whitmont observed, “Somehow, almost everyone has the feeling that a quality once acknowledged will of necessity have to be acted out, for the one state which we find more painful than facing the Shadow is that of resisting our own feeling urge, of bearing the pressure of a drive, suffering the frustration or pain of not satisfying an urge. Hence in order to avoid having to resist our own feeling urges when we recognize them, we prefer not to see them at all, to convince ourselves that they are not there. Repression appears less painful than discipline….discipline rests on the ability to act in a manner that is contrary to our feelings when necessary.”
I would recommend Out of Character: Surprising Truths About The Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us by David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo, not so much for elucidating the Shadow but for revealing how emotions, external situations and others can exert unconscious effects on our behavior, irrespective of the Shadow.
FROM NOTES FOUND WHILE CLEANING OUT…
Hatred of evil affects the one who hates. It makes him or her a hateful person, a person who also has absented his self or her self from the light. If you strike without compassion against the darkness, you yourself enter the darkness.
If your emotional body is in pain, then it is calling to you for attention. Ekart Tolle calls this the Pain Body. He teaches us to observe the pain body and accept its presence, when it appears. Seeing the Pain Body as an entity in itself, which is also part of us as a whole, can help to deal with it.
He teaches that we resist our pain body due to some kind of resistance to ourselves. Self judgement, shame and guilt can cause us to hold onto pain. We sometimes feel that we deserve the pain. This may have been programmed into us. But in order to get out of depression, we have to let go of self judgement. Visit Gentlekindness on wordpress for full article.
Stephen Levine in Who Dies (Doubleday, New York, 1982, p. 11, 12) writes that “Life becomes confusing when we eliminate the truth….We wonder, how can I keep my heart open when what I am experiencing isn’t pleasant, when I see my self-interest, my fear, guilt, my doubt? When the predominant state of mind is confusion, can I still stay open to the moment? Or do I have to escape elsewhere?….We seldom let go of our judgment and make room in our heart for ourselves….We wish to rush away to the safety of a false reality.”
Above: From Carl Jung’s Journal, The Red Book
tomparkegallery.blogspot.com/2007/12/depression.html symbolizing his struggle with OCD and Depression.
I was reminded the other day, when depressed, that our Shadow is capable of engulfing us, forcing us not to act on hurtful urges, but to live awhile in our Shadow’s shoes. For me, I can feel acceptance of the shadow part of me but when followed by one after another memory of shadow things I have done–whether consciously or unconsciously–over a lifetime, I just feel rotten shadow to the core. That may be a danger of the shadow: slurping up our better parts and regurgitating again and again. Praying doesn’t work for me. I surface over time and sleep. I don’t think I would be writing this paragraph if I weren’t still a little depressed, however.
Reprinted from “Secrets,” this site:
Our left brains create structures that can act as barriers to alternative solutions and perspectives and sorta goes along with Powell’s 2009 statement that the right hemisphere is the more aggressive or violent hemisphere. “Controlling the more aggressive right brain might be one reason the left brain dominates over the right and can keep the right brain’s intentions unconscious,” (ibid., 254) Working with “split brain” patients, one patient grabbed his wife and shook her violently with his left hand while his right hand tried to intervene.(Ibid., 254, citing Roger Sperry, 1973).
Haiku from dream…
Water’s dark – brackish
brown and thick with mind’s serpents
still, I decide – swim.
A demon in me that lies await,
For me to crash into an awful state,
At that point it wakes and crawls,
To get to my conscious through the walls.
A hideous creature that’s full of rage,
Ready to self-destruct at any stage,
It just waits there deep inside,
Until it can no longer be controlled or hide.
For when I crash I begin to boil,
My control is gone, it’s no longer loyal,
Instead the locked box comes alive,
With so many memories ready to revive.
Finding the key to close it shut,
Is one of a kind that can’t be cut,
It has a maze in its secret location,
To keep it open to feed my frustration.
A haul of questions I can not answer,
It’s more aggressive than any cancer,
It crawls under skin and gets in your head,
Loving the destruction that keeps it fed.
When the key is found, life can restart,
A mask is fixed like a flawless art,
It’s not all false but it’s neither true,
Who I am, do I have a clue?
Is it an illusion that I have created?
To dismiss all the things I have hated,
With a childhood like mine life is a dream,
With no escape and a horror-like theme.
THE SHADOW AND POETS
There’s a chapter called “The Shadow” in The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux (1997). They write, “The problem is that while the shadow is necessary to the formation of who we are, we end up denying its existence, or at best fearing it.”(p 56)….”Poets can’t afford to be ‘nice’ if they’re to explore the more troubling realms of human experience.” (p57)
How can you gain access to the shadow and mine it for poetry? “Give yourself permission to explore wherever the writing takes you.” Read the original chapter for more on mining the shadow.
From Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate:
The Utopian vision that human nature might radically change in some imagined society of the remote future is, of course, literally unfalsifiable, but I think that many of the discoveries recounted in preceding chapters make it unlikely. Among them I would include the following:
The primacy of family ties in all human societies and the consequent appeal of nepotism and inheritance.
The limited scope of communal sharing in human groups, the more common ethos of reciprocity, and the resulting phenomena of social loafing and the collapse of contributions to public goods when reciprocity cannot be implemented.
The universality of dominance and violence across human societies (including supposedly peaceable hunter-gatherers) and the existence of genetic and neurological mechanisms that underlie it.
The universality of ethnocentrism and other forms of of group-against-group hostility across societies, and the ease with which such hostility can be aroused in people within our own society.
The partial heritability of intelligence, conscientiousness, and anti-social tendencies, implying that some degree of inequality will arise even in perfectly fair economic systems, and that we therefore face an inherent trade-off between equality and freedom.
The prevalence of defense mechanisms, self-serving biases, and cognitive dissonance reduction, by which people deceive themselves about their autonomy, wisdom, and integrity.
The biases of the human moral sense, including a preference for kin and friends, a susceptibility to a taboo mentality, and a tendency to confuse morality with conformity, rank, cleanliness, and beauty. (p. 294)