Monday, April 30, 2012

Shadow Side Part II

We carry our past with us, to wit, the primitive and inferior man with his desires and emotions, and it is only with an enormous effort that we can detach ourselves from this burden. If it comes to a neurosis, we invariably have to deal with a considerably intensified shadow. And if such a person wants to be cured it is necessary to find a way in which his conscious personality and his shadow can live together.
- Carl Jung "Answer to Job" (1952)

It's a rainy day after a stormy weekend, figuratively speaking. In other words, I was pretty angry this weekend and I realized I had been pretty angry for a while.

I had a good conversation today about this with a friend and I've continued to think about it all day, between trying to get work done and managing mountains of laundry.

One website I found suggested a person consider the five qualities they hope others would see in them, consider their opposites and find ways to accept such qualities in themselves. As I did this exercise, I did feel resistance about being those shadow qualities -- except for one that I just shrugged about.

I said to my friend this morning: How does a person do it? My question is really how does a person do this civilly and politely, in a way that integrates both shadow and light?

This afternoon I started wondering whether every aspect of ourselves has a shadow side to it, and how we ever function in an integrated, authentic way. The Jung quotation above -- Jung is the author of the concept of shadow -- helps me see that this work is necessary when unacknowledged shadows turn to neuroses, to dis-ease.

I talked with another friend this afternoon -- the laundry was not engaging and the clients had not called back -- about the idea of how to put forward an integrated self, how not to only show the acceptable parts. We decided that the essential work is done internally and that life flows out of that. It's not that we can work hard to show our true selves, warts and all, but just that we be where we are in the world, and work to be more at peace with both shadow and light.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with someone who knows more about this than I do. I'm planning to ask her about this as we talk. I'll report back. It feels unsettling but in a good way.


  1. Well, shoot. I just spent an hour in response to your post and then it vanished to where ever it vanishes.

    But, in short, I've given up on the belief of darker and primitive selves and have opted for biology. The neuroscientists (and admittedly, I'm in over my head)have found that our emotions are our primary motivators; they precede feelings which precede the onset of thought let alone reason. They say that thought and experience can modify behavior but that to numb emotions is counter productive. All of this makes me feel saner and justified in my unflinching hatred of cognitive therapy. Two of the best sources for me of late (after Rabbi Kushner's discussion of Job in Why Bad Things Happen to Good People which I found much richer than its title indicates)have been "In Search of Spinoza" by Antonio Damazio who taught at U of Iowa and now does research at U of California on the functions of the brain. The second is Brene Brown. I posted her two TED lectures on my Facebook page and am waiting for her book about shame. I think she has taught me as much about the human condition as anyone including Jung whom I also love. her first lecture is about the two sides of vulnerability which is what I think you may be questioning.

    I'm working on body metaphors as a way to listen to my self. Just by paying very close attention to my physiological responses, I get much closer to my psychological responses. Grieving for Wendy has taught me the truth of: gut-wrenching, bone crushing, heart ache, break, etc. but there are so many other examples: Chew the fat, bite your lip, eat your words, heart attack, head exploding, mind blowing, cold feet, etc. I've been looking for an exhaustive list without luck. I believe there is fundamental truth in the the way we use language to describe the indescribable-poetry.

    Thanks for sharing your questions and for a chance to respond.


  2. Pain in the ass. How could I forget pain in the ass!