Robert Louis Stevenson called it Mr. Hyde; Jung called it the personal unconscious. Psychologists today call it projection. The great sages say we want to own this denied part of ourselves.
GUEST COLUMN: MICK QUINN AND DEBORA PRIETO, 1st of 2 parts — Picture the ecosystem of relationships that hold you in this time and place, from lovers to office politics and friends and family. Ask yourself six questions:
1. Are the ways in which other people act emotionally disturbing to you?
2.Do you sometimes feel that other people don’t seem to care enough?
3. Do you question the insensitive ways of others?
4. Do you feel intimidated by someone else’s power, self-confidence, wisdom or success?
5. Are you of the opinion that another person’s achievements are not well deserved?
A reason you may feel triggered by that survey:
when other people, external events, and even your own thoughts, bring about deep emotional responses in you, you are most likely being shown the hidden aspects of yourself?
So when ‘this’ or ‘that’ frustrates you, when ‘they’ rub you the wrong way, or when ‘it’ seems to settle over you, you are being shown a window into yourself.
Others show you your own shadow
When there is shadow, the Freudian Ego is un-whole. Wholeness of the ego, therefore, creates the first condition for discovering our full potential.
But, before we get to the wholeness part, let’s talk about ego. This is the self-organizing principle of the psyche, also known as the Freudian ‘I’. Its primary role in each of us is the processing and organization of information, memory and defense.
Remember the old adage: ‘It takes one to know one’? It speaks of shadow. If you’ve always wondered what to do with that knowledge, and how to use it to heal your shadow, you need only to acknowledge and then take ownership of these previously hidden aspects of yourself.
This healing process is called re-integration; you are re-integrating previously disowned parts of yourself to yourself so that they no longer drive you crazy!
Making the unconscious conscious is simply a matter of talking to yourself. In this way you can fully resolve your shadow and become emotionally brilliant.
For those on a conscious path of development, the identification and healing of shadow is critical. Why? The power of ‘now’ is only available when all of you is in the now!
April was newly married, she had a stable job, and lived close to her parents and her only sister. As with most of her friends at that time, April was a light drinker and occasionally smoked marijuana. She also suffered from stress, and a debilitating depression would sometimes wash over her.
When this occurred, April was often curt with her friends, becoming openly frustrated, sometimes with the simplest of things. To ease the pain, April liked to eat. As a result, she gained quite a bit of weight.
In time, tired of being overweight and apprehensive, April went to see an acupuncturist. The series of treatments were not without physical discomfort, but April endured them and she lost lots of weight.
Though the emotional and psychological symptoms eased for a time, they did not disappear entirely. With her eating habits now changed, the weight stayed off but April, still a light drinker, found herself being drawn to using more drugs to the point where she was selling cocaine to support her habit.
After an acquaintance committed suicide, April quickly dropped this addiction. But, then she began to drink, moderately at first, and then quite heavily. Whenever she had some free time she would go to her favorite bar alone where she would ponder the darkness that seemed to have permanently descended upon her. Sometimes she would get drunk at home all by herself.
The pain she was feeling was real, but its source eluded her thinking. The only way April knew how to ‘fill the hole’ was by drinking. Her marriage was getting worse, since her husband was addicted to cocaine, and her work was suffering because of her poor attitude and consistent tardiness.
If unintegrated, shadow rules
As we can see from this example, shadow causes us to act on unconscious motives, even if you think that you are consciously choosing how to act. A reaction you have to an object in your awareness, whether that object be a thought, feeling, another person or a life situation, will always be based on a motive that you are simply not aware of.
You will, however be convinced that you know the real reason why you are acting. You will think you know why you are responding in a particular way, but that’s not true. You don’t know it is shadow, therefore, you keep reacting in ways that support those painful situations.
Because of shadow, you respond unconsciously in ways that support unnecessary suffering and therefore create more of the same. Your shadow is exhausting you, making a total mess of your life’s purpose and your relationships without you knowing what’s happening. Internally you may even be screaming to yourself, “Why am I doing this?” or “Why can’t I stop?” And you won’t be able to stop until you figure out that shadow is propelling you. Your shadow not only has control over your present, but is also creating your future.
April did not notice the cycle of unconscious reactions she was in, and responded to the presence of her shadow with some form of ‘medication’ in a doomed attempt to ease her pain. Healing one symptom did not diminish her shadow. April went from over-eating, to drugs, to alcohol, from one medication after the next.
As you can see from this example, trying to get rid of negative inclinations does not work. It is a fine intention, but it is simply insufficient to heal your shadow. Even people who meditate get stuck in similar cycles since that practice does not reach, let alone heal, their shadows.