Notes to Transformation - Chapter 10 - THE
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The hidden contents in Bluebeards cellar live in every one
of us. Who can say they dont have skeletons in their cupboards?
Ours are full of everything we have repressed, our unworthy desires
and unwanted feelings. Some may be anti-social, such as anger and
violence; others may be beautiful, such as self-love and creativity.
All this suppressed material is called the shadow. It walks with
us in life, whether we will it or not. If there were no others in
the world there would be no shadow, for it is created by our needs
The shadow begins in babyhood when our essence is not met. Basic
energies that are part of our inheritance are gradually submerged
and are overlaid by new imprints. This primal shadow forms the foundation
for our personal unconscious. Onto it is laid whatever we shove
out of sight in later years. It grows when we decide "Mummy
does not like tantrums. Id better not do that!" Then
anger gets locked in the cellar. Curiosity about the kitchen cupboards,
playfulness late at night, and a million natural actions get judged
and pushed away. Over the years the shadow grows into the hugest,
most mysterious and deeply hidden cellar of forgotten goods. Be
they black, white or gray, they remain unacknowledged.
Miriam discovered she could get out of trouble with a laugh and
a toss of her golden locks. To have to admit error or to learn from
her mistakes was definitely not on this little girls agenda.
So any curiosity she might have had about herself was lost in the
shadow. Miriam seemed a joyful girl, but was totally unaware of
the freedom she could have had.
There is another way we create shadow that is less well understood.
When we become attached to something an equal and opposite quality
is formed, and that too joins the shadow. Jane may have decided
to be a hard worker so that everyone would see she was a useful
person. This created its opposite in the shadow that had not been
part of her original makeup, a lazy slob. The slob became stronger
and stronger as she continued to support the workaholic and deny
any relaxed being side. Not surprisingly, she strongly resented
the people she called layabouts and bludgers.
If we want to find what has been hidden away, we only have to look
at the sort of people we judge or disparage. If a pickpocket meets
a saint, he sees only his pockets. Jane would find part of her shadow
in the uncomfortable feelings she had for people lying in the sun.
If we dislike our neighbour for swearing, where is our desire to
curse too? If we hate immigrants, how deeply do we fear being outsiders
Our shadow is not a neutral force. It is highly active and will
inexorably draw towards us people who have not hidden that quality.
A man who is trying not to be selfish will attract selfish people
to him. This deepens the suppression of that shadow. As in arthritis,
the body locks the joints against any movement that causes pain
only to inflict more pain as it does so. The shadow deepens in a
misguided attempt to avoid further suffering.
Another way of describing this process is that our shadow is projected
onto others, so that what we cannot see in ourselves is inducted
into those around us. We do not have to manipulate the other to
carry our projection. It is an automatic process. Dorothy always
had a good word to say for others. Those around her were bitchy
about their friends, her boss was a malicious tease, and her husband
spiteful. In a sense, she held them in thrall, giving these qualities
in them a boost they may not have otherwise had. Her husband was
trapped because, married to her, Dorothys shadow ensured he
would be more spiteful than otherwise. When she asked what it was
in her that was creating these dramas in others she discovered her
shadow. When she owned her natural maliciousness an amazing transformation
happened - the malice softened into a natural strength that could
protect her in many situations. This is the great promise in shadow
work: own the frog and watch the princess emerge.
We do not see the shadow directly. If we did it would no longer
be shadow. Instead, we get symptoms of misery, guilt or anxiety.
Seeing only the symptoms, we struggle against them instead of the
shadow. For example: you have just met a bearded man. Beards unsettle
you because you fear they may hide a sneer. You feel he must be
untrustworthy. He feels your attack, needs more space (which is
why he has a beard) and judges you as pushy which is his shadow
projection. Now you feel pushed while he feels untrusted. Instead
of friendship two shadows spar with one another.
As there is so much stuff in our cellar we relate mainly through
projections. Shadow projections are most clearly seen when put onto
the same sex. This does not mean that a mans shadow cannot
be projected onto a woman, but that the essence of his shadow will
usually have a more masculine quality to it. In contrast, the essence
of projections from the anima and the soul will be against people
of the opposite sex. In bed or at work, we will be projecting simultaneously
onto one another in endless reflections. The dance of relationship
is structured and predictable: it may be exciting at first but readily
becomes deadly after a while. Close relationships pose exquisite
opportunities for working on the shadow, as does anyone who provokes
you or is hard to get on with.
There is a compelling danger: the personal shadow hooks onto other
disowned and instinctual material which adds their power onto the
projection. Maliciousness may be in shadow. An occasion comes up
when we cannot help a friend and, instead of simply stating the
truth and showing care about his predicament, we burst into anger,
blame him for even asking and throw the pot at him. Malice has climbed
out of the shadow accompanied by a bodyguard of apocalyptic forces
that turn a simple no into a firestorm.
Jung wrote, "a man may recognize the relative evil of his
nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience to gaze into
the face of absolute evil". It is very scary when a shadow
dredges up instinctual absolutes. We will remember what we have
done and said, but we are left guilty that we had no control over
ourselves. Mob rule, pub brawls, fire bombing are all jungle energies
let loose when the shadow opens the door.
"That we can destroy the world, shows how much divine power
has come into mans hands. The human being who is drawing his
shadow off others is doing the most significant political work.
The problem is not the hydrogen bomb, but the psyche of man that
manifested it." Laurens van der Post
It is not comfortable to take personal responsibility for the actions
of the military. You may have opposed the bomb for years, yet can
there be something inside you that yearned for it? Do we share a
tribal shadow from the Christian denial of evil, expressed in the
porn industry, in films where Clint Eastwood comes as avenging messiah
and so on? We all carry societys shadows and, whether we like
it or not, will induct its energies into others. The best we can
each do is to bring our share out of the dark. Violence will not
stop until a significant proportion of us have done so. As my grandfather
wrote in our family bible, quoting William Shakespeare, "This
above all - to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the
night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man".
There is no choice, neither personally nor for humanity as a whole:
the shadow has to be faced. If we do not it will confront us outside
as projection. It is a huge and terrifying monster, for what we
hide creates the world around us - both personally and nationally.
As Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote: "You cant become Mother
Theresa if you do not have the courage to look at your Hitler and
get rid of him. After that, you can become the person that God created.
You will then have anything you need, not what you want - thank
God". When we are able to own all the good and all the bad
in us in every moment we can be true and authentic.
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